Poetic Devices In The Pulley By George Herbert

Looking for synecdoche and paradox in George Herbert's "The Pulley."

As I understand it, paradox is a statement that at first seems contradictory but then it starts to make sense.  Given that definition, the only line that seems to be paradoxical is "Let him be rich and weary, that at least."

Synecdoche is a really tough concept for me.  It's defined as the use of part of a thing to stand for the whole (she lent a hand).  Honestly, I can't find a single line that seems to apply.  I suppose the line "Let us (said he) pour on him all we can" would be my guess.

Any help is appreciated.

lit24 | Student

George Herbert (1593-1633) the Anglican priest poet who belongs to the Metaphysical School of poetry published in 1633 "The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations." This poem "The Pulley" is one of the popularly anthologized poems from that collection. The synecdoches in this poem are:

1. The pulley as we all know is a simple machine which is useful for lifting heavy loads. It is a device which enables a person to pull and control  the rope at the end of which is the load to be lifted. The pulley represents God's loving nature by which he draws mankind close to his bosom where man can find rest. It is the synecdoche-a trope which represents the entire divine life force by which God the Creator holds on to and controls his creation, Man.

2. Similarly, "breast" - the last word of the poem - is another synecdoche. "Breast" represents not just the physical bosom of God but represents the comfort and consolation which only God and not the secular blessings can give Man.  It is a 'part' which represents the 'whole' of the goodness of God.

The Paradox, of course, lies in the fact that God who is so benevolent and generous and fills Man to the overflowing with all the wonderful secular gifts,

Let us (said he) poure on him all we can :
Let the worlds riches, which dispersed lie, 
Contract into a span. 

So strength first made a way ;
Then beautie flow’d, then wisdome, honour, pleasure :

withholds from him the most precious gift - the jewel - rest.

The fact that God did not give 'rest,' the most precious gift to man seemingly detracts from his benevolent and generous nature, but God has done this for Man's own good -  to compel him always to worship and adore only God and to seek comfort and solace only in God's bosom and not in "Nature":

For if I should (said he) 
Bestow this jewell also on my creature, 
He would adore my gifts in stead of me, 
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature :

By denying man the most precious jewel, "rest," God has not been unkind to Man but he has only been all the more good to him. It is this denial of "rest" which acts as the "pulley" which always draws restless Man to God and also helps God to keep ambitious and wayward  Man under His control.  If God had not been kind enough to deny Man "rest" then Man would not seek God and he would lose eternity and consequently God would also lose Man to the eternal fires of hell: "So both should losers be. Paradoxically, God the 'giver' by refusing to give the most precious gift proves himself to be all the more generous and kind.

Another paradox can be found in the line, "Rest in the bottom lay." The most precious gift is at the bottom of the "glass" and not at the top.