What type of poem is "The Collar"?

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As with virtually all of Herbert's poems, "The Collar" is a meditation on his relationship with God. And as a metaphysical poet, Herbert uses an elaborate metaphor, or conceit, to illustrate the nature of that relationship. At first, it seems that the speaker regards the collar—that is the dog-collar worn by a priest—as something that restricts his freedom. Serving God in this capacity appears to be much too demanding for him.

But as the speaker calms down from his ranting and raving, he starts to reflect on his condition, and comes to realize that, even in the midst of his intemperate rant, he was still answering to a divine calling. God wants him to be a priest, and as one of God's children he responds as a child, acknowledging his Lord and master.

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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.

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