George Herbert

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Explain the poem "Man" by George Herbert.

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Herbert, in this poem, creates a sense of cohesion by writing cyclically, beginning and ending with the same idea: that God, having put so much time and energy into His creation, Man, should come and live among us. The poem is an apostrophe, an address to God: "O, dwell in [your creation], that it may dwell with thee at last!" The speaker calls upon God to bring Himself into personal contact with mankind; in the meantime, men will "serve [God]" as the world He has created serves man.

The speaker is in no doubt that the day will come that God will join His creation. He makes this explicit in the first stanza, which states that "none doth build a stately habitation / But that he means to dwell therein." God has devoted His energy to the stateliest habitation of all, the kingdom of Man, and therefore He must one day want to come and live in this creation.

The bulk of the poem is occupied with examples of what makes Man the pinnacle of God's creation. Man is "more" than a beast, having "reason and speech." All men across the world, even those far apart, "may call the furthest 'brother.'" The speaker suggests that all the other creatures of earth are there for us to hunt for food, and that water, wind and stars are all for us—"the whole is either our cupboard of food / Or cabinet of pleasure." Earth exists for Man to enjoy.

If Man has a failing, however, it is that "in ev'ry path / He treads down that which doth befriend him." So, until such time as God comes to bring His kingdom to earth, the speaker calls upon God to afford man "wit" enough to appreciate what they have been given, and serve God as everything else on earth serves Man.

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In the first stanza of "Man," the speaker claims that no one would built a stately (grand or impressive) house unless he intended to live there. Since God created the Earth and "man" (humans), God must have intended to live there: in the heart and consciousness of each person and/or as a spiritual presence in the world. 

In the second stanza, the speaker notes that man (humanity) is this stately house because man is everything: 

For man is ev'ry thing,
And more; he is a tree, yet bears more fruit;
A beast, yet is, or should be, more;
Reason and speech we only bring;
Parrots may thank us if they are not mute,
They go upon the score. 
Man bears similar traits and characteristics to other things in the world except man surpasses those other things. In this sense, man is a microcosm of the world; the condensed paradigm of the world's proportions. 
Although the poem is an homage to God, it is also an anthropocentric poem in that it focuses on man as the center of the world. Man's proportions are symmetrical and all of his parts have private amity (work well together). The next four to five stanzas describe the ways in which the world exists to serve man. "Herbs gladly cure our flesh," "For us the winds do blow," and "The stars have us to bed;" -- all of these examples indicate that these are "servants" that wait on man, some of which he (we) do not even notice. 
In the eighth stanza, the last two lines symbolize the idea that man is a microcosm of the larger world: 
O mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
Another to attend him. 
In the last stanza, the speaker invites God to dwell in the world (be a spiritual guide to man) so that man my dwell with God in the afterlife ("That it may dwell with thee at last!"). The last two lines express the relationship between man and God; as God made the world to serve mankind, the world of mankind will serve God. 

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