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About this poet

George Herbert was born on April 3, 1593, the fifth son of an eminent Welsh family. His mother, Magdalen Newport, held great patronage to distinguished literary figures such as John Donne, who dedicated his Holy Sonnets to her. Herbert's father died when he was three, leaving his mother with ten children, all of whom she was determined to educate and raise as loyal Anglicans. Herbert left for Westminster School at age ten, and went on to become one of three to win scholarships to Trinity College, Cambridge.

Herbert received two degrees (a B.A. in 1613 and an M.A. in 1616) and was elected a major fellow of Trinity. Two years after his college graduation, he was appointed reader in Rhetoric at Cambridge, and in 1620 he was elected public orator—a post wherein Herbert was called upon to represent Cambridge at public occasions and that he described as "the finest place in the university." In 1624 and 1625 Herbert was elected as a representative to Parliament. He resigned as orator in 1627, married Jane Danvers in 1629, and took holy orders in the Church of England in 1630. Herbert spent the rest of his life as rector in Bemerton near Salisbury. While there, he preached, wrote poetry, and helped rebuild the church out of his own funds.

Herbert's practical manual to country parsons, A Priest to the Temple (1652), exhibits the intelligent devotion he showed to his parishoners. On his deathbed, he sent the manuscript of The Temple to his close friend, Nicholas Ferrar, asking him to publish the poems only if he thought they might do good to "any dejected poor soul." He died of consumption in 1633 at the age of forty and the book was published in the same year. The Temple met with enormous popular acclaim—it had been reprinted twenty times by 1680.

Herbert's poems have been characterized by a deep religious devotion, linguistic precision, metrical agility, and ingenious use of conceit. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote of Herbert's diction that "Nothing can be more pure, manly, or unaffected," and he is ranked with Donne as one of the great Metaphysical poets.

The Collar

George Herbert, 1593 - 1633
I struck the board, and cry'd, No more.
                 I will abroad.
     What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the rode,
     Loose as the winde, as large as store.
        Shall I be still in suit?
     Have I no harvest but a thorn
     To let me bloud, and not restore
     What I have lost with cordiall fruit?
                  Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did drie it: there was corn
        Before my tears did drown it.
     Is the yeare onely lost to me?
        Have I no bayes to crown it?
No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted?
                  All wasted?
     Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,
                  And thou hast hands.
     Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,
                  Thy rope of sands,
Which pettie thoughts have made, and made to thee
     Good cable, to enforce and draw,
                  And be thy law,
     While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
                  Away; take heed:
                  I will abroad.
Call in thy deaths head there: tie up thy fears.
                  He that forbears
        To suit and serve his need,
                  Deserves his load.
But as I rav'd and grew more fierce and wilde
                  At every word,
Me thoughts I heard one calling, Child!
                  And I reply'd, My Lord.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

George Herbert

George Herbert

George Herbert was born on April 3, 1593, the fifth son of

by this poet

poem
Love built a stately house, where Fortune came,
And spinning fancies, she was heard to say
That her fine cobwebs did support the frame,
Whereas they were supported by the same;
But Wisdom quickly swept them all away.

The Pleasure came, who, liking not the fashion,
Began to make balconies, terraces,
Till she had
poem
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
	Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
	From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
	If I lacked anything.

"A guest," I answered, "worthy to be here":
	Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah,
poem
   When God at first made man, 
Having a glass of blessings standing by, 
   "Let us," said he, "pour on him all we can. 
Let the world's riches, which disperséd lie, 
   Contract into a span."

   So strength first made a way; 
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honor, pleasure. 
   When almost all was out, God