Like most of George Herbert’s poems “The Collar” is a metaphysical poem. The poem, written in the early seventeenth century, discusses thoughts on life and religion. In general, metaphysical poetry uses strong images as it delves into the topics of love or religion. In this case, Herbert is dealing with a religious matter as indicated by the title of the poem. “The Collar” refers to the stiff neckwear worn to indicate that a person has devoted his life to religious pursuits, often giving up other ambitions. The narrator expounds on all that he has lost or wasted in his life.
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did it; there was corn
before my tears did drown it.
He rages on about how his life was unencumbered but describes with vivid imagery everything he lost and his realization that life is not equal for all. However, the poem ends on a quiet note as he hears his calling from God, and he answers, “My Lord.” He accepts “The Collar” as his calling in life.