What does "coal" (l.15) represent in the text?

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In "Virtue," George Herbert reflects on the transience of the things of this world. Whatever comes into existence will one day perish, whether it is a beautiful rose or a sweet spring. The material world and everything in it must die.

As is so often the case in his poetry, Herbert draws our attention to the greater degree of reality enjoyed by the transcendent world of the spirit and the soul. Amidst all this constant change in the world around us via the never-ending flux of nature, stability is to be found only in the "sweet and virtuous soul," which brings the believer closer to God. This soul never dies—even in the case that the entire earth should perish, or as Herbert puts it, turn to coal. Coal burns, and if the earth should also come to an end in a gigantic apocalyptic ball of flame, the sweet and virtuous soul will live on, just as the God in which it inheres will remain for all eternity.

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