In George Herbert's poem, "Virtue," the first two stanzas are devoted to "Sweet day" and "Sweet rose." Specifically, how are these aspects of the natural world treated in the first two and last two lines in stanzas one and two?
In George Herbert's poem, "Virtue," the images that begin the first and second stanza are considered sensuous in nature (appealing to the senses), rather than that which appeals to the intellect.
Herbert's overall themes in his poetry generally center around religion, especially in light of rebellion and obedience, but it is not seen as clearly in "Virtue." Herbert does draw attention to the connection between "intellect and emotion." These two "forces" struggle with each other in the first three stanzas of the poem.
In the first stanza, the "Sweet day" appeals to the emotional force with its attributes that point to...
...cool, calm, bright, [and] the marriage of earth and
However, there is an end, a death (recognized by the intellect), as with all things. It is presented in the first stanza with...
The dew shall weep...
The second stanza deals with the emotional response to the "Sweet rose" and its beauty, seen with its red color that inspires recognition of anger and bravery; the intellectual response, presented with an awareness of death is found in the plant's roots:
...Thy root is ever in its grave
And thou must die.
So the images of the day and the rose appeal to the emotional (the human condition) and are found and described in the first two lines of each stanza. The opposing force (recognized by the intellect) is found in the last two lines of each stanza, which points out the eventual end of all things: these last two lines describe the "death" of the day and the rose.