Discuss George Herbert as a metaphysical religious poet.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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George Herbert chose at Cambridge to devote his poetry to God and seemed to adjust easily to a religious life after leaving a court life. His poetry expresses the notion that one feels God's presence or one doesn't, propounding the theologically arguable concept that one cannot reason with God. His poetry is an extension of his sermons and seeks to instruct by example rather than by precept. He writes about his personal struggles in order that others may follow his example and thus overcome their struggles. His struggles are not on the same order of Donne's, his fellow religious poet, however, being less desperate and less personal.

Herbert's approach to poetry writing is a more commonplace approach than an intellectual one. He uses common everyday domestic metaphors and imagery along with conceits (elaborate, intellectually original metaphors, short or extended), which are important in his poetry. The questions that Herbert explores, which constitute an extension to his sermons, are often resolved with a device he innovated: two quiet lines that convey a resolution founded in emotion and that may or may not answer the question(s) raised in the poem. The function of extending his sermons determines the his poetic style, in large part.

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