The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Search” is a personal meditation in which the author wonders why God appears to have forsaken him. The poem is structured into fifteen four-line stanzas. The rhythm of the poem is terse and staccato because each stanza’s first and third lines consist of eight syllables, set off by four-syllable second and fourth lines. The first and third lines rhyme with each other, as do the second and fourth. Each stanza comes to a full stop. This structure lends a tone of driving restlessness, consonant with the searching theme.

The poem is written in the first person; George Herbert speaks directly to and asks questions of God. “The Search” is one in a long collection of Herbert’s poems called The Temple. All of the poems in The Temple are religious in theme, although many have less mournful tones than that found in “The Search.” The religious feeling Herbert speaks of in his poetry is considered to be personal and genuine to his actual experience. The reader can assume that Herbert actually felt at some time the longing described in “The Search.” This fact is significant to Christian readers of Herbert, who are able to find solace and guidance in his works. Many non-Christian readers also admire Herbert’s poetry, in part because of its honesty.

Herbert begins the poem by asking, “whither art thou fled,/ My Lord, my Love?” One can assume that the speaker in the poem at one time enjoyed a closeness with a...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In agreement with the religious nature of “The Search,” Herbert makes use of language familiar to many Christians through biblical allusions. The first stanza contains the line, “My searches are my daily bread,” which directly reflects the New Testament’s Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The poet implies here that his daily sustenance consists of looking for the warmth of God’s presence, which does not, for him, materialize. Later in the poem, Herbert speaks of a distance so huge that “East and West touch, the poles do kisse.” Personification of this nature, such as having two inanimate and completely separate objects, the Earth’s north and south poles, kiss each other, is a poetic device used frequently in the Bible’s Old Testament. For example, in Psalms 85:10, “righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”

While Herbert is considered by most critics to be one of the premier Metaphysical poets in English, his use of Metaphysical conceits is not as pronounced in “The Search” as it is in some of his other works. In his poem “Love (III),” for example, he successfully compares divine love with a waiter in a tavern. This type of imaginative and unlikely comparison is peculiar to Metaphysical conceits, and Herbert excels at it. The metaphors found in “The Search” are not as single-minded or fully developed as the example from “Love (III),” but there are intriguing images of space and distance...

(The entire section is 567 words.)