George Herbert – 1

[George Herbert  (1593-1633) – painted by Robert White]

George Herbert – and some biographical background might explain where he’s at. From the Oxford Book of English Poetry …let me see. Well, he went to Trinity College, he was an undergraduate at Cambridge, and he began to write religious verse in college, then, 1619 (he was born in 1593) 1619 he was made Public Orator of the University and that was like sort of an appointed role which he thought would bring him into contact with royalty and he would get ahead in the State, but apparently he didn’t make out, it wasn’t a big advancement for him in the long run and he resigned in ten years and in 1630, he got to be the Rector of a little church Bemerton near Salisbury (on the Salisbury plains, I guess. Probably not far from Stonehenge) and he married in 1629. So 1593 to 1629, so he was thirty-seven, or thirty-six . Music was his favorite recreation. He had a “very good hand on the lute” and set to music many of his own lyrics and sacred poems. In his last illness, he entrusted the manuscript of his poems to his friend, Nicholas Ferrar desiring “that if you can think it might turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul, let it be made public. If not, let him burn it”

So his book, his collection, The Temple, was published in 1633. And there’s a little bit more – “He was the youngest son of a large family. He lost his father early. His mother, devout, tender, imperious, woman decided, partly out of piety and partly out of distrust of his power, to make his own way in the world, that he should be provided for in the Church. When he was twenty-six he was appointed Public Orator at Cambridge and hoped to make this position a stepping-stone for employment at the court. After eight years, his patrons and mother were dead..” – (it’s suggested that he got stuck there at Cambridge, he was sort of orating away, and his mother died, and all the people that put him in the position died, and there was nobody to talk for him at Court. So he was a great failure, who might have.. ) (And so) “made up down his mind to settle down with a wife on the living of Bemerton, where he died after  a short but memorable incumbency of three years.”

The flower of his poetry seems to belong to the two years of acute crisis which preceded his installation at Bemerton” – (that is to say after he left the job at Cambridge and he decided to just settle down and be a country priest) – “..he imagined that his failure as a courtier was a prelude to success in the higher character of a country parson. “

“The well-known poem on “Sunday” which he sang to his lute so near the end” – it says here (in other words, his when he was in Bemerton, he played the lute a lot) . So a lot of these poems, then.. So his ear has developed as a musician

And in the Norton Anthology, if we get to page two eighty-seven…

I’m not going to go over all of his poems here but I’ve made a compilation of the poems in here and some poems from other anthologies that are also very good pieces of music. So what we’ll do with this, we’ll dispatch some of the poems from this book (We’ve already worked on “Easter Wings“)   

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the beginning of the tape and concluding approximately four-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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