GEORGE HERBERT, 1593-1633
Cannot thy love Heighten a spirit to sound out thy praise As well as any she? GEORGE HERBERT
HERBERT'S mother, Magdalene Herbert, was the addressee of several of Donne's poems and letters. When she died he made for her a magnificent funeral oration; he must often have visited that house which he describes as 'a court in the conversation of the best' and George Herbert must have been early acquainted with manuscripts of his poetry. The influence of the elder poet on the younger was strong and permanent. Herbert's imagery, like Donne's, works through the mind rather than the senses and the structure of his poems is logical. But, for various reasons, his poetry is simpler than Donne's. The range of his experience was narrower. Donne expresses hate, disgust, jealousy, lust, love, reverence, security and mistrust. He traverses every variety of mood, both as a lover and as a worshipper; and at any given moment the experiences he has already passed through are still present to him. Each poem represents a complex state of mind and a subtle adjustment of impulses. Herbert's narrower experience not only limits his choice of subject-matter, but simplifies the texture of his poems.
At an early age Herbert decided that the emotional peace and satisfaction he sought was not to be found in the love of women. He shut himself off from the whole field of experience in which Donne's Songs and Sonets found their origin. His mother was the only woman to whom he ever addressed a poem. When he was only four years old his father died and Magdalene Herbert was free to give all her