A Homage To The Poetry of George Herbert

'Love Bade Me Welcome:' A Homage To The Poetry of George Herbert

Metaphysical poet George Herbert's "Love (III)" ("Love bade me welcome") is very much the work of an Anglican cleric, and, at the same time, it goes far beyond that; indeed, it goes all the way to the status of great poetry.

'Love Bade Me Welcome:' A Homage To The Poetry of George Herbert

If John Donne is the indisputable king of the Metaphysical Poets, George Herbert (1593-1633) occupies a special position of affection in the world of English-language poetry. Like Donne, Herbert was an Anglican priest, and a good amount of his greatest verse is explicitly religious in nature. An example of this is the favorite "Love (III)", known by its opening lines: "Love bade me welcome".

The poem is notable for its marked mellifluous character and because it is a vivid versification of the very important Christian concept of the unworthy soul being loved by God and fed in Holy Communion. This echoes Luke 12:37 and Revelation 3:20 and it fuses these passages with the protestations of unworthiness before Communion exemplified in prayers such as the Prayer of Humble Access and the Domine non sum dignus. This is all sweetened beyond plain imagery of wrath and judgment through Herbert's depiction of Jesus as "Love". The musicality of his words and the sharpness of his imagery make for a good poem, even a great one, and the sentiment within makes the poem is perpetually appealing. He and his fellow Metaphysical Poets have had a rich afterlife of enjoyment by Christians and non-Christians of all stripes, and, in the process, they prove that the greatest religious poetry is great poetry, period.

Thus Ralph Vaughan Williams, an atheist/agnostic who also turned himself into one of the greatest composers of the Anglican choral tradition, composed a choral series setting various poems by Herbert, including "Love bade me welcome."

The Metaphysical Poets influenced Christina Rossetti, who, despite her Italian heritage, was so devoted to Anglicanism that she broke an engagement because of her suitor's Catholicism. Her Christmas poems have been turned into popular carols beloved the world over.

Herbert's influence can also be clearly perceived in the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins; he even quotes "Love bade me welcome" in "The Windhover". Hopkins was one of the greatest Victorian poets and was likely the most innovative. He was also an Anglican convert to Catholicism who became a Jesuit priest.

T.S. Eliot, the epitome of modern(ist) poetry, played a great role in increasing academic respect for the Metaphysical Poets, and, without his exposure to them, his "Four Quartets" certainly would not be the same. In fact, "Four Quartets" strikes right at the heart of Herbert's greatness, because that work blends the legacy of the Metaphysical Poets with Eliot's adolescent adoration of the French Symbolists, while poetry from the Spanish Golden Age of Mysticism is mixed in with Julian of Norwich's pre-Reformation English wisdom. Add in to this the enrichment that Eliot reaped from his familiarity with traditions outside of "the West" (the poem references the Bhagavad-Gita, and Eliot's conception of spirituality was deeply influenced by Buddhism), and you have the perfect embodiment, in a sense, of what religious poetry means in today's world. What we get is (hopefully) not confusion but an increased clarity, borne of greater sophistication and the refinement that naturally comes from exposure to diversity.

My school, Fordham University, is a Jesuit, Catholic institution. It has its own little prayer booklet, and the booklet samples prayers and pieces of religious poetry not only of Catholic origin but also from the wider world of Christianity and beyond. Thus it includes "Love bade me welcome" alongside a poem by Robert Southwell, an English Jesuit martyr whose lifetime just barely intersected with Herbert's and who is thought to perhaps have influenced Shakespeare. If the Jesuits wanted to, they would have every reason to feel nothing but spite for Anglicans. After all, Southwell was just one of many Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation, several of whom were Jesuits. Yet this is not conducive to Christian charity, nor is it consonant with a mature attitude towards intellectual and aesthetic enrichment. Thus, on the steps of the Fordham University Church, one finds a commemoration of Fordham having given an honorary doctorate to Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury.

History works in strange ways, and poetry, which we might term the wild and weird underside of history, does what debate cannot do. On its own terms and in its own context it unites warring factions and heals serious divisions through the power of beauty. Creeds are not insignificant; in fact, they are anything but, and no amount of Catholics praying "Love bade me welcome" is going to immediately resolve the intricate legacy of the English Reformation and everything it means for English-language religious poetry. But poetry does in a real sense transcend such things.

Long live poetry's respect for George Herbert, the Anglican whose religious poetry moves beyond Anglicanism and beyond religion into that shadowy region known to our souls as Beauty.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less

Nordstrom's Biggest Sale Has The Most Legendary Deals On Luxury Beauty Brands We've Ever Seen

Counting down the days to the Chanel box set gracing my front door.

I oftentimes (excessively) use the excuse of my job as a writer to justify my excessive spending habits.

I needed the new Huda Beauty palette before anyone else in the name of journalistic integrity. It was my job to test out the new Francis Kurkdjian fragrance to make sure I could tell people whether or not it was truly worth the splurge (it was).

Keep Reading... Show less

Listen, you can do whatever you want with your free time. It's yours to spend and you have free range. However, I hope you recognize that there are a ton of proactive things you can do right now instead of stalking your man's ex – yes, I know you do it becuase we are all guilty of it.

Take this time to research your privilege. There are always new things to learn and ways to deepen your understanding of yourself, this world, and your surroundings. We live in a multi-dimensional, ever-changing society that needs your help and your time. By that, I mean there are so many layers to each and every one of us, and with our physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional selves, we can create real, positive change.

Keep Reading... Show less

Preview These Top Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2020 Picks — From Luxury Purses To Skincare

Currently 3 million people viewing the Stella McCartney purse I absolutely must have.

Online shopping has been a guilty pleasure of ours for years, but now more than ever it's been a shopping lover's outlet for all our home redecorating projects and resort wear we're purchasing for that trip we had to cancel.

One of my favorite places to (virtually) window shop has always been Nordstrom. I admittedly can't afford to go on sprees there often, but I still get a high off of adding things to my cart I know I'll never actually end up buying. But sometimes, that's not enough — that's when I, like the masses of luxury-, beauty-, fashion-, and decor-lovers around the world count the days down to the annual Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

Keep Reading... Show less

I remember the days where closet drinking before going to a party or bar was part of the night's itinerary. It was a requirement to have a good buzz flowing before calling the Uber to take you to that bar where you see everyone from your high school at. The pregames were the best part of the night, but it wasn't ever because of the alcohol, it was because of the atmosphere and those who were in it. The number of times I've heard "Wait, why aren't you drinking tonight? C'mon, get drunk with us" is endless, but think about it. Where were you when you were asked that? You were at the goddamn pregame and being there doesn't mean you need to be ripping shots. Being social doesn't require alcohol.

I asked 20 people how they cut back on alcohol while still being social.

Keep Reading... Show less

Whether you are quarantining away from your significant other because of coronavirus or separated by the country lines at this time, it's fair to say that long-distance relationships are tough no matter what. However, there are ways to show love from a distance whether that's through daily FaceTime calls, cute Snapchats, or sexy pics sent to them on their phone. You can brighten up their day even more with some of these unique gifts that can fit any price range and a variety of interests.

Keep Reading... Show less

Rihanna is known for many things: her music, fashion, makeup, and now skincare. As a makeup artist myself, I can confidently say that she rocked the makeup world when she released her makeup line in 2017 and has been influencing the beauty world ever since.

Trying some of her makeup products myself, I know that she doesn't skimp on quality, and even though some of her products may be a little pricey, trust me, you get what you pay for.

Keep Reading... Show less

Friends, no one needs to be reminded that the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in the U.S. Frankly, this is because we have all collectively decided not to do the one simple thing that was asked of us and wear a mask.

I could make this a very boring article, and berate you with facts and statistics and the importance of wearing a mask, but I have opted against that for both of our sakes. Instead, I will attempt to reach you in another way. You might not care about a disapproving look from me, but from Nick Miller? Maybe that will be enough to change your mind.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments