George Herbert

George Herbert

English poet
Date of Birth: 03.04.1593
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of George Herbert
  2. The Temple

Biography of George Herbert

George Herbert was an English poet and one of the representatives of the so-called "metaphysical poetic school." He was a younger contemporary of William Shakespeare and a contemporary and friend of John Donne. Unlike Donne, Herbert's life seemed to have been calm: he finished school at Westminster and then attended Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1612, he obtained a bachelor's degree, followed by a master's degree and diaconate in 1616. In 1630, he became a priest and served near Salisbury. John Donne, considered the founder of the "metaphysical school," was a friend of the Herbert family. Donne dedicated his religious sonnet cycle, "La Corona," to Herbert's mother, Magdalene, and Herbert himself treasured Donne's gift - a ring with an anchor, a symbol of hope. Unlike Donne, there is no evidence of religious turmoil between Catholicism and Protestantism in Herbert's biography. He was always a priest of the Anglican Church and was referred to by his parishioners as "Saint Mister Herbert." In addition to his pastoral work, Herbert was also passionate about music and enjoyed playing the lute. This musicality is evident in his poetry. Before his death, Herbert instructed that his few poems be published "if they would benefit any wayward soul; if not, let [the executor] burn them."

The Temple

The collection "The Temple" was published shortly after Herbert's death and astonished his contemporaries with its poetic "effort of faith." The poem consists of various poems that are diverse in form and subject matter, seemingly unrelated except for their common religious and moral themes. These poems are framed by two larger poems - the introductory "The Church Porch" and the concluding "The Church Militant." In this poem, Herbert experiments with meter, rhyme, and semantics, transforming each poem into an elaborate metaphor (such as "The Church Floor"). In some cases, Herbert even employs graphic techniques, creating "figurative poems" such as "The Altar" and "Easter Wings." In addition to "The Temple," Herbert also wrote individual poems. His early poems, dating from 1610 to 1621, are dedications: two sonnets from 1610 are addressed to his mother, and the Latin poems from 1612 were written upon the death of Prince Henry.

Besides his poetic works, Herbert also wrote a prose piece called "A Priest to the Temple, or The Country Parson." In this work, Herbert, as both a poet and a priest, collects and shares his experience of pastoral care and his thoughts on what makes a "true pastor" in different life situations. In literary studies, there have been numerous articles and dissertations dedicated to Herbert's works, where his poetry is typically analyzed within the context of English religious poetry of the 17th century.