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With Life, Critical Dissertation, and
REV. GEORGE GIL FILLA N.
NDO : JAMES NISBET AND CO.
ON THE LIFE AND POETICAL WORKS OF
“ LIFE,” it has been said, “is a Poem.” This is true, probably, of the life of the human race as a whole, if we could see its beginning and end, as well as its middle. But it is not true of all lives. It is only a life here and there, which equals the dignity and aspires to the completeness of a genuine and great Poem. Most lives are fragmentary, even when they are not foul—they disappoint, even when they do not disgust —they are volumes without a preface, an index, or a moral. It is delightful to turn from such apologies for life to the rare but real lives which God-gifted men, like Milton or Herbert, have been enabled to spend even on this dark and melancholy foot-breadth for immortal spirits, called the earth.
We class Milton and Herbert together, for this, among other reasons, that in both, the life and the poems were thoroughly correspondent and commensurate with each other. Milton lived the “ Paradise Lost” and the “ Paradise Regained,” as well as wrote them. Herbert was, as well as built, “The Temple.” Not only did the intellectual archetype of its structure exist in his mind, but he had been able, in a great measure, to realise it in life, before expressing it in poetry. His piety was of a more evangelical cast than Milton's—his purity was tenderer and lovelier-he had more of the Christian, and less of the Jew. Milton ranks with the austere and sin-denouncing pro
phets of ancient Israel-Herbert reminds us of that “disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Before, however, proceeding to analyse his character, and criticise his Poem, we have the facts of his life to record. “ Holy George Herbert” was born in Montgomery Castle, Shropshire, on the 3d day of April 1593. This castle, afterwards levelled to the ground during the Civil War, was then the seat of an ancient, wealthy, and reputable family. His father was Richard Herbert, surnamed of Blakehall, in Montgomery, who sprang from a long line of knights. His mother
a was Magdalene Newport, the youngest daughter of Sir Richard Newport, of High Arkall, in the county of Salop. Like most of the mothers of men of genius, she was a remarkable person, distinguished by her wit, her “cheerful gravity,” her godliness, her kind-heartedness, and her fond appreciation of her
She was wont to say that, as the mother of seven sons and three daughters, God had given her Job's number and Job's distribution. George was the fifth son. The eldest of the family is well known as Lord Herbert of Cherbury—a title which he obtained, on account of his services when ambassador in France, from Charles I. He was a gallant and chivalrous man; but is now chiefly known by his book, De Veritate prout distinguitur a Revelatione, an argument against Revealed Religion-or, properly speaking, is remembered mainly for the memorable hallucination he has recorded in his preface.
George spent his childhood under the watchful eye of his mother, in the society of two of his brothers, and under the tuition of a chaplain. When he had reached the age of four, his father died. At twelve, he was transferred to Westminster School, where, under the care of Dr Neale and Mr Ireland, according to honest Izaak Walton, “ the beauties of his pretty behaviour and wit shined and became so eminent and lovely in this his innocent age, that he seemed to be marked out for piety, and to become the care of Heaven and of a particular good Angel to guard and guide him." While at this school, he profited much in the learned languages, and especially in Greek. About the age of fifteen, he was elected out of that