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Theory and Theology in George Herbert's Poetry: Divinitie, and Poesie, Met

By Elizabeth Clarke | Go to book overview

2
An Introduction to the Devoute Life and The Temple: 'The Poetry of Meditation' or 'Private Ejaculations'?

i. The Poetry of Meditation: St François de Sales and The Temple

St François de Sales is at first glance a more plausible model for Herbert than the austere, fanatic monk of Florence: at least many critics have thought so, following the magisterial work of Louis L. Martz , The Poetry of Meditation. A bishop of the Catholic Church, François de Sales had a close personal involvement with poetry and poets. Under his auspices the Academic florimontane was founded at Annecy in 1607, an informal gathering of scholars who met to discuss a range of disciplines from arithmetic and cosmography to rhetoric and philosophy. A co-founder of the Academie florimontane, and close friend of de Sales, was a devotional poet, Antoine Favre, the leading jurist of Savoy. Favre Centurie première de sonets spirituels de l'amour divin et de la pénitence of 1595 was dedicated to François de Sales, with a suggestion that the work was inspired and facilitated by de Sales himself.1

Despite the fact that François de Sales' classic of Counter- Reformation spirituality, An Introduction to the Devoute Life, is a prose treatise, it was placed firmly in the tradition of Biblical poetry by the author of Defensio Ecclesiae Anglicanae, William Nicholls. He edited de Sales' work as An Introduction to a Devout Life in 1701, and in his preface surveyed the use of Catholic devotional treatises in England. He notes 'the good Reception which Devotional Books have found in this Nation for some Years last past'. Obviously there is something attractive about Catholic devotional writing, as Nicholls grudgingly admits: 'it must be confessed that some of their Books this way are well wrote, with a great deal of Warmth and Affection.' He attributes this positive quality to the heritage of

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1
T. C. Cave, Devotional Poetry in France c.1570-1613 ( Cambridge, 1969), 81.

-71-

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