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front "Jonphi coot" to "A ime Hymns by Joseph Summers Asa number of readers have demonstrated In recent years, one of the best ways of coming to understand and appreciate what Herbert does in The Temple is to consider a sequence of the poems ¡n the order in which Herbert finally arranged them. Such a consideration suggests not only the variety of forms and moods and tones of Herbert's poems, but also the ways in which he related them to each other and created from them a moving emblem of the fluctuations of mood and achievement in the spiritual life. It is difficult to Isolate Individual sequences, since one can nearly always discover significant relations between them and the poems which precede and follow them, but I wish, more or less arbitrarily, to consider briefly the group that begins with "Josephs coat" and ends with "A true Hymne" — supposedly a relatively late sequence, since none of the poems are found in the Williams manuscript. The title of "Josephs coat" refers toa biblical event which early became a type of Christ's suffering: the "coat of many colors" which was the sign of Jacob's special love of Joseph also became the occasion of Joseph's suffering and slavery in Egypt — and, ultimately, of the salvation of the children of Israel. Herbert's strange sonnet (with unrhymed first and third lines) begins, Wounded I sing, tormented I indite, Thrown down I fall into a bed, and rest. It explores the central issuesconcerning the relations between God's ways, the abundance of His mercy, and the poet's sufferings and song, raised in the preceding poem, "Praise" (III), where the word "more" ends each of the seven stanzas. In "Praise" (III) the poet discovered, "I have not lost one single tear" (I. 25); now, in "Josephs coat" he recognizes that in the Joseph Summers very process of "singing" of a grief near death, the experience of anguish has been given "One of Joyes coats" (line 1 1 ). The sonnet concludes with the couplet, I live to shew his power, who once did bring My /OfM to weep, and now my griefs to smg In "The Pulley," which follows, Herbert constructs a bold and original fable: God at the creation decided to pour onto man all the blessings (strength, beauty, wisdom, honor, pleasure), and then stopped when "alone of all his treasure /Rest in the bottoms lay" (line 1 0). He withheld this final blessing so that man would return to Him: For if I should (said he) Bestow this Jewell also on my creature, He would adore my gifts in stead of me, And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature: So both should losers be. Yet let him keep the rest, But keep them with repining restlessnesse: Let him be rich and wearie, that at least, If goodnesse leade him not, yet wearinesse May tosse him to my breast. (II. 11-20) With its wittily impersonal surface, it is a very different kind of poem from "Josephs coat"; but the former relations of suffering, joy, and the ability to praise and sing are clearly related to a larger pattern of human gifts, "repining restlessnesse ." and the return to the living presence of God, as part of a process that is continuous so long as life truly exists. The following poem, "The Priesthood." is both a general consideration of the "Blest Order" and a personal statement of why at this time the poet will not offer himself for ordination, as if one who had come to understand God's invention of the "pulley" might be expected to choose immediately that profession which seemed to promise the closest relationship to God. "JOSEPHS COAT" TO "A TRUE HYMNE" (As Amy Charles has noted, this poem, although not in the Williams manuscript, was clearly written before Herbert's acceptance of priest's orders in 1630. 1 The larger half of the poems in 77m Temple are probably not the expressions of the parson-poet of Bemerton but of a master poet still struggling with the problems of choosing a Christian vocation.) After describing his sense of unworthiness, the speaker ends the penultimate stanza...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1192
Print ISSN
0161-7435
Pages
pp. 1-12
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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