George Herbert

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George Herbert
BirthplaceMontgomery, Wales
Poet, author, priest, theologian

Herbert, George,

1593–1633, one of the English metaphysical poetsmetaphysical poets,
name given to a group of English lyric poets of the 17th cent. The term was first used by Samuel Johnson (1744). The hallmark of their poetry is the metaphysical conceit (a figure of speech that employs unusual and paradoxical images), a reliance on
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. Of noble family, he was the brother of Baron Herbert of Cherbury. He was graduated from Cambridge. His early determination to enter the church was temporarily deflected by an appointment as public orator in 1619, a post he held until 1627. In 1630 he was ordained an Anglican priest and made rector at Bemerton. Herbert's devotional poems combine a homely familiarity with religious experience and a reverent sense of its magnificence. His verse is marked by quietness of tone, precision of language, metrical versatility, and the use of conceits. All unpublished at his death, the poems were left by Herbert to his friend Nicholas Ferrar, who had them published as The Temple (1633). Herbert also wrote Latin poems and a prose manual of clerical life, A Priest of the Temple (first printed in Herbert's Remains, 1652). The 20th-century revival of interest in the metaphysical poets has stressed Herbert.


See his complete works edited by F. E. Hutchinson (2d ed. 1953); biographies by I. Walton (1670), G. H. Palmer (1905), A. M. Charles (1977), and J. Drury (2013); studies by M. K. Rickey (1966), A. Stein (1968), and C. A. Patrides, ed. (1983).

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