This book addresses the conflicts and spiritual struggles depicted in The Temple from a new perspective, that of George Herbert's investment in the Incarnation, the hypostatic union that provides him with his primary audience: his confidant and his Divine Lord. In the last three decades of the twentieth century, Herbert's devotional lyrics attracted considerable attention regarding his positions on the increasingly controversial issues within the early seventeenth-century Church of England. Prior to the publication of Barbara Lewalski's Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric, critics like Rosemond Tuve, Joseph Summers, and Louis Martz examined Herbert's poetics, which they saw as rooted in the medieval tradition; but they saw the actual flowering of his work within the Church of England whose reforms were political and therefore distinct from the theological beginnings of continental Protestantism. Helen Vendler's study of Herbert sees him as an artist for all times, a meticulous craftsman whose lyrical inventions express his true feelings and whose meter and music serve his sensibility not Christian theology.
Lewalski focuses on Herbert's announced intention to “plainly say, My God, My King” (“Jordan” l. 15), claiming that this allegiance to plainness, along with other signs and paradigms, classifies him as a Puritan, a member of the Church of England who sought to establish a closer doctrinal connection with continental reforms. There is some question about this designation, however, for few Puritans delighted as Herbert did in priestly vestments and stained glass windows, nor did many Protestants speak of the altar because the reformed church had dismissed the Sacrifice of the Mass: the consecration, central to Roman Catholicism and its doctrine of