George Herbert: Shaped Poems

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George Herbert: Shaped Poems

By | June 2013
Page 1 of 4
Zahia Mustafa
Professor Miller
Sec. 2
Paper #2
Due: April 29, 2013

Exploring George Herbert’s religious poetry.

George Herbert’s style in his collection of religious poetry, The Temple, is very short, clear, concise, and gets to the point. Different from John Donne, Herbert structures his poetry around biblical metaphors and his struggle to define his relationship with God. Herbert places himself in church through many poems that are styled in an architectural form, however his emphasis is always on the soul’s inner construction. Rather than voice his fears about being saved by God or sinning as Donne had, Herbert faces his fearful behavior by focusing on his relationship with Christ. In order to do this, Herbert focuses on architectural motifs and how one’s soul is constructed to become a better person. Since Herbert is a metaphysical and religious poet, his poetry always ends with a metaphysical conceit. A metaphysical conceit is an extended metaphor that structures the entire poem. Usually, these metaphors deal with spirituality, intellectual ideas, and are supposed to teach one to be a good, or better Christian (Miller). The metaphysical conceit is one way in which a poem is structured, formed, or as Herbert writes, is used as an architectural form. In each of his poems, Herbert has a conceit that sums up the poetry. In other words, it serves a moral and we, the readers are taught a lesson. Another way architectural structure takes place in poetry is by the use of figurative language. For example, Herbert’s poetry is written with metaphors, similes, and his poetry is usually wrapped around the AABB and ABAB rhyme scheme. We see the use of these rhyme schemes in The Altar and Easter Wings. Architectural imagery takes place in a number of Herbert’s poetry. In The Temple, the opening poem is titled The Altar and the very shape of the poem suggests an altar of worship. The poems structure is in an AABB rhyme scheme and has...

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