George Herbert - 1593-1633


He is known for emblematic poetry. Used vivid images.
Emblems were wood-cuts in books.  Usually poems were under them.


Typology searches for similarities between the Old Testament and the New.  (Old Testament - New Testament is a typological distinction.)  Christ is often the focus of these typologies.  He's the new Moses, the new Adam, the new high priest, the new sacrifice, etc.

Typology can also go one further step & find correspondences between the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the believer.


"The Collar"

He's trying to escape God's will but can't.  The "collar" is not the modern collar worn by Catholic and Anglican priests, but rather the figure of speech "to slip the collar" - "to escape from restraint; to draw back from a task or undertaking."    It comes from dogs & other animals getting loose from their collars.

He protests against the restraint because he wants to be free.  But ultimately, true freedom is found in wearing God's collar.  It's another oxymoron.

an oxymoron joins two terms that seem to contradict each other and don't seem to belong together.  "Jumbo shrimp" & "burning cold" are examples.  The oxymoron was popular during this time, especially in sonnets.

7-10  thorn, bloud, cordiall fruit, wine, & corn (bread) all show his interest in the Eucharist.  He had that before he slipped the collar.

30-36  God's grace has been working in the speaker even when he was unaware of it.  God has co-opted his voice throughout.

"Child" &"My Lord"  re-establish their relationship.

 "Easter Wings"-

Shape of a butterfly. Shape becomes more narrow~"most poor" and "most thin" and thinnest lines. The poem is an emblem even without the woodcut.

1-10 This stanza follows the fall of humanity in Adam & Eve.  Every thinning line (1-5) show matters getting worse & worse, then (5-10) things get better and better.

11-20 follows the same pattern.  His personal fall from grace started him on the same downward path that humanity in general suffered from.  He has a typological link to Adam.  He'll "imp" his wing - falcons with broken feathers could have feathers from another bird put in until their own feather grew back.  Somewhat like the hair club for men.

This touches on the tradition of the felix culpa, the fortunate fall.  The fall of Adam & Eve lead to the coming of Jesus Christ, making the fall in the long run a fortunate one - no fall, no need for Christ.

"Jordan (1)"

uses wit and convoluted structure. He claims he is talking plainly, but he is not.

1-2  Why should all poems be about fictions & wigs?  Is a winding staircase the only one worthy of poetry - what about the straight staircase?

beauty, truth, & goodness should all be one, according to ancient philosophy.

painted chair either a chair in a painting or a chair that has been painted.  Either way, it lacks the reality of the IDEA of a chair.  For PLATO, the ultimate reality is in the world of ideas.  The chair you sit in will not be here in 100 years, but the idea of chairs is eternal.

The chair in your room is one step removed from reality.  A chair in a painting is 2 steps removed.  Why not make poems about the reality itself?

10 "catching the sense at two removes."  Why can't poetry make sense?  Why is it so removed from reality?

11  "Shepherds" is ironic - those making pastoral poetry weren't really shepherds but courtiers masquerading as shepherds

13-15.  He uses wit once again.  He claims that he can't keep his rhyme, but he does so.  "sing," "spring," and "King" all rhyme.

 Love III-

Typology~Adam's fall compared to his own sin.

Here he is approaching the altar & the Eucharist.  Love is there inviting him in, but he feels unworthy.  But this is grace drawing him.

15 Jesus "bore the blame"

18 "sit and eat" the Eucharist.