George Herbert: His Religion and Art

By Joseph H. Summers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
Music

IN the Life Izaak Walton described in detail Herbert's devotion to music. During Herbert's years at Cambridge, 'all, or the greatest diversion from his Study, was the practice of Musick, in which he became a great Master; and of which, he would say, "That it did relieve his drooping spirits, compose his distracted thoughts, and raised his weary soul so far above Earth, that it gave him an earnest of the joys of Heaven, before he possest them."'1 Later, at Bemerton,

His chiefest recreation was Musick, in which heavenly Art he was a most excellent Master, and did himself compose many divine Hymns and Anthems, which he set and sung to his Lute or Viol; and, though he was a lover of retiredness, yet his love to Musick was such, that he went usually twice every week on certain appointed days, to the Cathedral Church in Salisbury; and at his return would say, That his time spent in Prayer, and Cathedral Musick, elevated his Soul, and was his Heaven upon Earth: But before his return thence to Bemerton, he would usually sing and play his part, at an appointed private Musick-meeting; and, to justifie this practice, he would often say, Religion does not banish mirth, but only moderates, and sets rules to it.2

It is pleasant to know that Herbert occasionally missed services at Bemerton in order to attend his music meetings.3 Walton's climatic scene relates the poems in The Temple directly to Herbert's music:

The Sunday before his death, he rose suddenly from his Bed or Couch, call'd for one of his Instruments, took it into hand, and said--

My God, My God,
My Musick shall find thee,
and every string
Shall have his attribute to sing.

-156-

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George Herbert: His Religion and Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 7
  • I 9
  • Chapter I Time and the Temple 11
  • Chapter II The Life 29
  • Chapter III Religion 49
  • II 71
  • Chapter IV The Conception of Form 73
  • Chapter V The Proper Language 95
  • III 121
  • Chapter VI The Poem as Hieroglyph 123
  • Chapter VIII Music 156
  • Appendix A- 'Mr Herbert's Temple & Church Militant Explained and Improved' 191
  • Appendix B- Bacon and Herbert 195
  • Abbreviations Used in Notes 198
  • Notes to Chapter I 199
  • Index 239
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