Two Gentle Men: The Lives of George Herbert and Robert Herrick

By Marchette Chute | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN

GEORGE HERBERT WROTE FIVE POEMS THAT HE NAMED "AFFLICtion" and the first of them is an account of the servant who has lost his way. It describes the joyful beginning of Herbert's service to God, "no place for grief or fear." It describes his loss of health, his loss of friends, and his sense that his gifts were not put to their best use.

Whereas my birth and spirit rather took
The way that takes the town;
Thou didst betray me to a ling'ring book
And wrap me in a gown.

The poem ends with the conviction that he cannot "change the service" and seek some other master, even though his own "ways" have been taken from him. But in one wistful stanza that is almost childlike in its wording, Herbert expresses his longing for some sort of uncomplicated usefulness.

Now I am here, what Thou wilt do with me
None of my books will show:
I read, and sigh, and wish I were a tree;
For sure then I should grow
To fruit or shade: at least some bird would trust
Her household to me, and I should be just.

He again uses the image of the contented tree in a poem called "Employment," when he thinks with envy of the orange tree, "that busy plant." Like the image of working bees, which he uses in four different poems, the usefulness of ordinary things haunts him. For he can find no place for himself in the hierarchy of natural order that ascends to God.

I am no link of Thy great chain,
But all my company is a weed.

-107-

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Two Gentle Men: The Lives of George Herbert and Robert Herrick
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Part One - George Herbert 9
  • Chapter One 11
  • Chapter Two 22
  • Chapter Three 35
  • Chapter Four 47
  • Chapter Five 57
  • Chapter Six 68
  • Chapter Seven 77
  • Chapter Eight 85
  • Chapter Nine 93
  • Chapter Ten 107
  • Chapter Eleven 116
  • Chapter Twelve 123
  • Chapter Thirteen 134
  • Chapter Fourteen 148
  • Part Two - Robert Herrick 153
  • Chapter Fifteen 155
  • Chapter Sixteen 161
  • Chapter Seventeen 170
  • Chapter Eighteen 178
  • Chapter Nineteen 184
  • Chapter Twenty 192
  • Chapter Twenty-One 203
  • Chapter Twenty-Two 211
  • Chapter Twenty-Three 219
  • Chapter Twenty-Four 226
  • Chapter Twenty-Five 235
  • Chapter Twenty-Six 244
  • Chapter Twenty-Seven 255
  • Chapter Twenty-Eight 265
  • Appendix - Walton's Biography of Herbert 277
  • Selected Bibliography 283
  • Index 299
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