George Herbert

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Please explain "Death," a poem by George Herbert.

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"Death" by George Herbert is a religiously motivated poem that muses on how the perception of Death, which the poem personifies, has changed since "our Savior's death did put some blood / Into thy face."

The poem ruminates on how death was once viewed as "an uncouth hideous thing." It was the end of life and a doom which "turned bones to sticks." This image of death as a reaper is eerie and grotesque: death is portrayed with his mouth open, "but thou couldst not sing." Evidently, there is nothing to look forward to, and everything to fear, in this specter.

In the context of Christ's death, however, death changes. It becomes "fair and full of grace" and "much sought for as a good." Herbert may be referring here to the change in the understanding of death as Christianity spread or to how each man comes to view death differently as he turns to Christ; the reference can also encompass both. Christians no longer see death as a horror to be feared but instead as something "gay and glad" that they will meet "at Doomsday," when their souls will rise up and walk toward God.

Herbert concludes by saying that, in the end, we should not fear death. We should be sure that in our "honest faithful grave" we will encounter not the frightful death, but the welcoming one who will usher...

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