How does George Herbert's "The Collar" depict the desire for freedom from constraint?

"The Collar" depicts the desire for freedom from constraint the speaker feels as a priest subject to the laws of the Church of England. He would like to be free to do what he wants and pursue his own pleasure. In the end, though, he experiences a renewal of God's calling, and the implication is that he will continue to voluntarily submit himself to servitude in God's name.

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Most of the poem "The Collar" by George Herbert is a rant by the narrator, and the final few lines provide the resolution. To discern how this poem is an outcry for freedom, it is important to understand the meaning of the title. Some readers might suppose that...

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Most of the poem "The Collar" by George Herbert is a rant by the narrator, and the final few lines provide the resolution. To discern how this poem is an outcry for freedom, it is important to understand the meaning of the title. Some readers might suppose that the title refers to the type of collar that might bind an animal such as a dog into submission, and this is possibly a secondary meaning. However, the title mainly refers to the collar that a priest wears as an indication of the vows to God he has taken. Herbert was in fact a priest, and he was renowned for faithfully serving his parishioners and tending to their needs.

The constraints that the narrator desires to be free from are the commandments of the church and his own conscience. He is obviously feeling frustrated and confined by his submission to service. He longs to be free to travel, drink, and enjoy himself. To make up for his abstinence, he wants "double pleasures." He is fed up at having to be bound with the "cage," "rope," and "cable" of strictures about "what is fit and not." We realize that this is the outcry of someone who has pledged his life to service and regrets not being free to enjoy life as he sees fit.

In the end, though, it is the narrator's faith that brings him out of this rant. God speaks to him, and he is reminded that his service is done in the name of his Lord. He has voluntarily restricted his own freedom so that he can better serve others. The implication at the end of the poem is that the speaker, having completed his outburst of emotion, will continue to submit to servitude in the name of his God.

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