George Herbert‘s (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) ‘The Collar‘ describes a speaker’s desire to escape his religious life and return to greater freedom. In this poem, the poet gives up his worldly ambition and the pleasures of a secular life in order to become a priest. But after serving as a priest he begins to regret his decision to take up a religious life and renounce all worldly pleasures.
More Notes: George Herbert
Revolt against God
The poet feels a strong urge to rebel against God and leave this life of servitude to enjoy unlimited freedom. He does not want to be under an obligation to serve as a priest of God. He feels that his work is thankless and instead of reward he is getting only agony. That means, the onerous duty of a priest deprives him of all personal freedom.
Desires to enjoy worldly pleasure
Accordin to the poet, his life seems to have been blown up and wasted. He feels sure that both wine and corn are available but for his sighs, and cries, they are not available to him now. He feels even more vexed at the thought that there are no laurel-leaves to crown his life, and no flowers and wreaths for him. The idea is that the life of self-sacrifice that a priest has to lead does not allow him to enjoy any worldly pleasures. Wine and corn here symbolize earthly joys, while sighs and tears indicate the bitter despair that a priest feels when deprived of those earthly joys.
Now, it can be said that, The poem reveals the conflict of the poet’s mind between the worldly life and the religious life. And at the end, The poet feels depressed because of the loss of joy in life due to the church and the servitude to God.