WHEN GEORGE HRRBERT TOOK HIS OATH AS A FELLOW OF Trinity College, he agreed to take holy orders within seven years or give up the fellowship. At the time he had expected to get a degree as Bachelor of Divinity and then enter the Church. But by the time the seven years were ended Herbert had altered his course and decided to go into government work instead.
On the basis of the available evidence, there does not seem to have been any shift in Herbert's fundamental point of view. He still intended to serve God. But he now believed that this could be done not only in the Church but also in the world outside.
The line of demarcation between the things of the world and the things of God was not as strong in the Renaissance as it later became, and in Herbert's eyes it had never been so. When he was seventeen he had declared that the art of writing sonnets -- that pride of secular poets -- could be turned to the glory of God. When he was twenty-six he had decided with equal conviction that the office of Public Orator could be "joined with heaven." And now he apparently felt that the same thing could be true of a government office, as long as the government was that of so Christian a ruler and so dedicated a man of peace as King James.
It must be remembered that it was not possible for Herbert to look upon the King with the well-informed hindsight of an historian. He saw him through the affectionate and idealistic eyes of his friend, Lancelot Andrewes, and to both men James was a scholar-king who was using his great office to save England from war and England's church from dissolution. To serve such a monarch was to serve the purposes of God Himself.
Sir Edward Herbert once described King James as "that in
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Publication information: Book title: Two Gentle Men:The Lives of George Herbert and Robert Herrick. Contributors: Marchette Chute - Author. Publisher: E. P. Dutton. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1959. Page number: 77.
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