Read The Works of George Herbert by George Herbert Free Online
Book Title: The Works of George Herbert|
The author of the book: George Herbert
ISBN 13: 9781853264214
Edition: NTC/Contemporary Publishing Company
Date of issue: December 1st 1999
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 460 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.4
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I discovered the poetry of George Herbert in a university British literature class, and it was a delightful discovery. George Herbert (1593-1633) was an Anglican clergyman who wrote metaphysical poetry – poems that address the mind and stimulate the imagination. Herbert’s poems, often written in first person, focus on his devotion to and relationship with God and are very personal and reflective in nature. It is as if Herbert is baring his soul, revealing his spiritual thoughts and emotions, even struggles, about God and his relationship with Him. I found many of the poems I read to be moving, uplifting, and thought-provoking. (You can view several of George Herbert’s poems here.) Herbert explores the deep subjects of love, death, sin, grief, and worship artistically yet simply. Herbert’s poems could prove to be challenging to the non-religious reader, but to a Christian, they speak to the heart and draw the mind toward God and His attributes. Reading Herbert’s poems is almost like reading some of the Psalms; they generate thoughts of humble repentance and submission, praise, and worship toward God.
Herbert was a religious man who was also a talented poet, and it seems he took both roles seriously – why not merge the two? Herbert believed that his talent for poetry was a gift from God, and he wanted his work to give honor to God without bringing praise to himself. In “Providence,” he states that it is man’s duty to praise God and to tell of His deeds. He says that God’s other creatures would willingly speak or write of God’s greatness, if they could, but Man is the only one to whom God gave the ability to do so.
Of all the creatures both in sea and land
Only to Man thou has made known thy ways,
And put the pen alone into his hand,
And made him secretary of thy praise.
He goes on to explain that when anyone fails to praise God, it is a great sin because he is “robbing a thousand” who would willingly praise Him if they knew Him.
Although Herbert’s poetry deals with profound theological and philosophical topics, he addresses them with simple confidence rather than doubt, as a man who is fully convinced and comfortable with his beliefs. His poetry reflects a Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty and man’s depravity, a relationship in which God is always the initiator and man is the recipient. This view of God is not troublesome to Herbert; he holds a high view of God and rightly understands man’s sinful condition and his weakness and dependence on God for everything. Some recurring themes in Herbert’s poems are: repentance and pleas for mercy; God’s work of love and grace in the heart of a sinner by which He grants them faith and salvation; willing worship of and service to God; and the ongoing struggle to mortify self and submit to God’s will. In a number of poems, Herbert speaks of the temporary nature of life, and the eternal state that the believer has to look forward to.
Herbert’s poetry uses a great deal of imagery and metaphor. He speaks of life as a journey; of man as a window, a flower in a garden, or a building; of a heart as an altar. One that I really like is the sonnet entitled “Prayer 1,” which is a list of metaphorical phrases that describe what prayer is and what it means. “Redemption” is also metaphorical, being an allegory that depicts Christ’s death for his people. I suggest that as you read Herbert’s poems, look for his use of symbols and metaphors. They are very effective in making an idea stick in your mind.
I highly recommend the poetry of George Herbert to the Christian reader for its beauty and its content. Outside of the Psalms and hymns, it is unusual to read theological themes expressed poetically. His poems are fairly easy to understand (for poetry, that is!), they are interesting, memorable and beautifully crafted, and they express both deep spiritual emotion and true Biblical concepts.
I also discovered a hymn written by Herbert in our church hymnal; here’s the first verse of it:
Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in anything ,
To do it as for thee.
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Read information about the authorGeorge Herbert was a Welsh-born English poet and orator. Herbert's poetry is associated with the writings of the metaphysical poets, and he is recognized as "a pivotal figure: enormously popular, deeply and broadly influential, and arguably the most skillful and important British devotional lyricist."
Born into an artistic and wealthy family, Herbert received a good education that led to his admission in 1609 as a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, Herbert excelled in languages, rhetoric and music. He went to university with the intention of becoming a priest, but when eventually he became the University's Public Orator he attracted the attention of King James I and may well have seen himself as a future Secretary of State. In 1624 and briefly in 1625 he served in Parliament. Never a healthy man, he died of consumption at the early age of 39.
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