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THE

69265
POETICAL WORKS

OF

GEORGE HERBERT.

With Life, Critical Dissertation, and

Erplanatory Notes,

BY THE

REV. GEORGE GILFILL A N.

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EDINBURGH:
JAMES NICHOL, 9 NORTH BANK STREET.

LONDON: JAMES NISBET AND CO.

DUBLIN: W. ROBERTSON.

M.DCCC.LIII.

ON THE LIFE AND POETICAL WORKS OF

GEORGE HERBERT.

“ 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

son.

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. y« 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 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 school for Trinity College, Cambridge, and repaired to that university in the year 1608. His mother, knowing well what nurseries of vice universities are, and deeply anxious that a promise so morally fair as her son's should not be blasted, recommended him to the special charge of Dr Nevil, then Master of the college and Dean of Canterbury, who provided him a tutor, and acted towards him like a second father. His mother had previously to this removed to Oxford, in order to give her eldest son Edward, and some of her younger children, the benefits of a university education. There she became acquainted with the celebrated Dr Donne, and an “amity,” to use Walton's language, was begun between them, “made up of a chain of suitable inclinations and virtues,—an amity like that of St Chrysostom to his dear and virtuous Olympias.” He was at that time a poor struggling man, with a wife and family, and she supplied him with funds, besides honouring him with her friendship. This admirable woman, after continuing twelve years a widow, was married a second time, to the Earl of Danby; and Dr Donne lived long enough to shed tears at her death, and to pronounce a funeral oration over her grave.

. Meanwhile, George was pursuing a calm, pious, and diligent career at Cambridge. His mother's image seemed to hang up like a picture, in his still study-chamber, restraining him from vice, calming down passion, and smiling him on to labour. Even in the “ morning of that short day of his life,” he seemed to be marked out for virtue and to become the care of Heaven." He was made Bachelor of Arts in the year 1611; Major Fellow of the college in 1615; and in the same year, when he was only twenty-two years of age, he became Master of Arts. It is notable, that during all his college career his principal diversion was music. This is another of the points in which he resembles Milton. While many of his youthful contemporaries were engaged in riot, or “ assembling themselves by troops in the harlots' houses,” holy George Herbert sate alone and aloft in his evening chamber, with a musical instrument in his hand, to the piercing call of which his own peaceful thoughts and the solemn stars of night appeared in

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