Herbert as a religious poet

Question: Discuss Herbert as a religious poet.

Or, Comment on the themes of Herbert’s poetry. What do you think is the relevance of his poetry in our times?


George Herbert (1593-1633) is classified as one of the most acclaimed metaphysical poets. This school of poets discussed abstract ideas such as love, belief, religion, God, etc. As a metaphysical poet clergy, Herbert is alone a brand of devotion and religion. He has written several religious poems from philosophical and reflective perspectives.

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Only a writer of theological verse

Herbert was a clergyman and had a deep passion for Christian theology that led him to write wholly religious poems. Almost all his poems contain religious meditation and express an authentic poetic manner. Whatever he has written depicts rich religious passions and feelings. The most illustrious religious collection of Herbert is “The Temple” published in 1633. This contains poems like “The Collar, Easter Wings, The Pearl, Love” etc. Even the poem entitled “Love” discusses religion.

Poetry based on Christian doctrine

Some Christian doctrines occupy a prominent position in Herbert’s poetry. He was passionately a believer in the doctrines of the Incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the Trinity, Baptism, and so on. Easter Wings is a poem by George Herbert which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The poems in the collection called “The Temple” reveal the spirit of the Anglican church and the influence of the Bible. However, the central theme of his poems is the psychology of his religious experience.

Religious authenticity and conflict

Because of his religious preoccupation, Herbert has been called a pastor of the metaphysical group. He wrote poems mainly in the service of the Lord and to express spiritual beliefs, feelings, emotions, doubts, and conflicts. “Easter Wings” is a poem in which Herbert humbly presents his authentic religious beliefs and feelings.

“Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,

Though foolishly he lost the same,

Decaying more and more,

Till he became

Most poore:”

On the other hand, “The Collar” depicts a man who is losing his faith and feels anger for his commitment to God. He also feels that his efforts in the service of God have been fruitless. He begins to express his life for himself without religious parameters or restrictions. He denounces his commitments and proclaims freedom.

Settlement of religious conflict

There are some poems in which Herbert expresses his spiritual doubts and contradictions. “The Collar” is such a poem where he has revealed his utmost anger. He says that he has lost a lot. That is why he announces that his life will be as “free as the road” and as “loose as the wind”, meaning that he plans to live without religious restrictions.

“On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute

Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,

Thy rope of sands,

Which petty thoughts have made,”

Thus, He claims that he must lead a complete materialistic life and come out of his cage or limitation that was built upon petty thoughts. But suddenly he hears a voice call, “child!” And the man immediately calms himself down, answering the voice with simple recognition: “My Lord”. So, Herbert is a poet of consolation who teaches to avoid the conflict between secular life and religious life.

Religious meditation

Although Herbert’s poems are blended with emotions and intellectual reasonings, they are extremely melodious. While reading his poems, it seems that they are psalms that encourage religious concentration. Easter Wings, Life, Discipline, and Denial are remarkable for their lyrical quality.

Universal relevance

Whenever an age of Skepticism, mistrust, and lack of faith will prevail in the world, the poetry of Herbert will act as a catalyst. Human beings can find relief and solace in their sad moments by reading his poems. The poems like “The Collar” and “Prayer” teach us not to get completely lost in worldly interests. “Easter Wings” instructs us so that we can properly evaluate our worldly distresses to show respect to our Lord. Therefore, our modern age that is so chaotic needs Herbert’s poetry.

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In a nutshell, Herbert has attempted to preach that commitment to religion is never fruitless. But rather it guides human beings to lead a peaceful materialistic life and to feel secure in the life hereafter. So, he is a copy of the Bible poetically.

S Ridoy Kumar
S Ridoy Kumar
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