Themes and Meanings

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 451

“The Pulley” is both a myth of origins and a moral and spiritual fable; these two genres overlap because, for Herbert, one’s devotional responsibilities are perfectly consistent with and flow inevitably from who one is. Despite the brevity and simplicity of the poem, several key facts are affirmed. For example, this version of the Creation myth emphasizes the dignity of humankind, bestowed by a God who is thoughtful, generous, and kind. The story of Creation in the Book of Genesis is astonishing: A spiritual breath raises dusty clay to life in the form of Adam. In Herbert’s poem, the Creation seems even more splendid, as humankind is described as the sum and epitome of all the world’s riches, and God is a being who communicates easily and cordially with His creation.

Illustration of PDF document

Download The Pulley Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Simultaneous with this emphasis on the dignity of humankind, however, is a carefully drawn distinction: Strength, beauty, wisdom, honor, and pleasure are necessary and vital components of humankind, but they are not sufficient to guarantee spiritual health. For this humans need rest, the one quality held back by God. Human independence, then, is qualified, but not undermined completely. “The Pulley” does not suggest that humankind is disastrously flawed and impotent, or that life in the world of Nature is insignificant and useless: Life can, after all, be “rich.” It does show the limits of human powers and the liabilities of earthly existence: The inevitable human fate is restlessness and weariness.

Perpetual desire serves two extremely important purposes. First, it is an important devotional corrective, saving one from an undue concentration on Nature, the things of this world, and what is in fact only the illusion of human independence. It...

(The entire section contains 451 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this The Pulley study guide. You'll get access to all of the The Pulley content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Themes
  • Analysis
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial


Explore Study Guides