In "The Altar," how can a reader demonstrate that there is a relationship between the form of the poem and the content of the poem?
Here is the poem :
A broken ALTAR, Lord thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with teares:
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workmans tool hath touch'd the same
A HEART alone
Is such a stone,
As nothing but
Thy pow'r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy Name.
That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctifie this ALTAR to be thine.
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George Herbert is renowned for his poems that are set in a particular shape, and therefore known as "shape poems." What is important to realise is that this allows Herbert to make the structure and form of the poem echo the content. In this poem then, the poem is laid out in such a way as to mimic the "broken altar" that Herbert wishes his life to be and offers before God. Notice how the first and last lines refer to this "altar," reinforcing the way that Herbert sanctifies and consecrates this to God as an act of service and homage to his Lord. The altar metaphor that he uses therefore gives us as readers an insight into his personal relationship with God and his own personal hopes for what he would like his life, offered to God, to be.
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