My article for Imaginative Conservative this week is a meditation on two poems for Easter:
I was college student afflicted with a serious case of Anglophilia when I discovered George Herbert and his poetry. The discovery made my affliction worse. When I found that he forsook the allure of Cambridge and a court appointment and went to be the Rector of the hamlet of Bemerton in Wiltshire, my attraction to the man was complete. A few years later I would go on my own journey to become an Anglican country parson. The dream came true, and when I finally inhabited my own rural retreat on the Isle of Wight I even remembered to write some poems.The attractive George Herbert was born into an artistic, religious, and wealthy family. He enrolled as a student of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1609 and shone in languages, rhetoric and music. Although he intended to take holy orders, his brilliance attracted men in high places. As the University’s Public Orator, Herbert drew the attention of King James I. He left Cambridge to serve in the government and as a member of parliament, but on the king’s death he turned away from worldly affairs, was ordained, and retired to serve humbly in his country parish. The poet Henry Vaughan called him “a most glorious saint and seer.” Herbert died of consumption just thirty-nine years of age. When you visit the cathedral city of Salisbury, take a short detour to visit Herbert’s grave in Bemerton Church.
Like the other metaphysical poets, Herbert’s verse is full of sparkling wordplay, a great musical sense, and clever conceits taken from the natural and ecclesiastical world. His witty, surprising, and smart poem Easter Wings is a treasure of English poetry, and a fitting inspiration on Easter week.
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