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

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

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

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

Excerpt

GEORGE HERBERT CAME OF A LONG LINE OF WARRIORS. HIS great-great-grandfather passed into renown and Hall Chronicles by fighting his way through a whole army and back again. His father was attacked in a churchyard and, with his skull split through to the brain, routed his adversaries and walked victoriously home. His own brothers were notable swordsmen and the ones who took up the trade of soldiering showed the courage of their ancestors. William, fighting in the wars in Denmark, overcame his opponent with a broken sword; Thomas, in the East Indies, took command of his ship when the captain was killed and forced the Spanish enemy aground; and Richard, when he died, bore the scars of twenty-four wounds.

Out of this military family came George Herbert, who was a poet and in the end something of a saint. He fought a different kind of warfare in his short life, one not less difficult than over- coming an enemy with a sword. He never conquered a city, but he became a ruler of words and of his own spirit.

The Herberts were descended from a French family that could trace its lineage back to the Emperor Charlemagne. The first of the line in England was a friend of William the Conqueror, and the lands that were granted to Herbert the Chamberlain are recorded in the Domesday Book. His descendants became prominent in both England and Wales, and it was the Welsh side of the family that produced George Herbert.

The most famous of his ancestors was Sir Richard Herbert of Colebrook, a magnificent young Welsh giant who fought at the side of his elder brother, the Earl of Pembroke. It was Sir Richard who entered the history books by hacking his way single-handed through an entire army, and he was so beloved that after his . . .

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