George Herbert - Works

Works

In 1633 (see 1633 in poetry), all of Herbert's poems were published in The Temple: Sacred poems and private ejaculations, edited by Nicholas Ferrar. The book went through eight editions by 1690.

Barnabas Oley edited in 1652 Herbert's Remains, or sundry pieces of that Sweet Singer, Mr. George Herbert, containing A Priest to the Temple, or the countrey parson, Jacula Prudentum, &c. Prefixed was an unsigned preface by Oley. The second edition appeared in 1671 as A Priest to the Temple or the Country Parson, with a new preface, signed Barnabas Oley. These pieces were reprinted in later editions of Herbert's Works. The manuscript of The Country Parson was the property of Herbert's friend, Arthur Wodenoth, who gave it to Oley; the prefaces were a source for Izaak Walton's memoir of Herbert.

All of Herbert's English surviving poems are religious, and some have been used as hymns, William Cowper said of them I found in them a strain of piety which I could not but admire. They are characterised by directness of expression and some conceits which can appear quaint. Many of the poems have intricate rhyme schemes, and variations of lines within stanzas described as 'a cascade of form floats through the temple'.

An example of Herbert’s religious poetry is “The Altar.” A "pattern poem in which the words of the poem itself form a shape suggesting an altar, and this altar becomes his conceit for how one should offer himself as a sacrifice to the Lord. He also makes allusions to scripture, such as Psalm 51:17, where it states that the Lord requires the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Herbert also wrote A Priest to the Temple (or The Country Parson) offering practical advice to clergy. In it, he advises that "things of ordinary use" such as ploughs, leaven, or dances, could be made to "serve for lights even of Heavenly Truths".

His Jacula Prudentium (sometimes seen as Jacula Prudentum), a collection of pithy proverbs published in 1651, included many sayings still repeated today, for example "His bark is worse than his bite" and "Living well is the best revenge." Similarly oft quoted is his Outlandish Proverbs published in 1640.

Richard Baxter said, "Herbert speaks to God like one that really believeth a God, and whose business in the world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books". Dame Helen Gardner adds "head-work" because of his "intellectual vivacity".

Herbert also wrote poems in Greek and in Latin. The latter mainly concern ceremonial controversy with the Puritans, but include a response to Pope Urban VIII's treatment of the ROMA AMOR anagram. He was also a collector of "Outlandish proverbs", some of which are used in his poem The Sacrifice. and he wrote in many poetic forms, appropriate to their theme,and invented, as it were, to embody them

Herbert influenced his fellow metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan who, in turn, influenced William Wordsworth.

Herbert's poetry has been set to music by several composers, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Lennox Berkeley, Benjamin Britten, Judith Weir, Randall Thompson, William Walton and Patrick Larley.

Read more about this topic:  George Herbert

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