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Linking Techniques in Herbert end Vaughan by Sidney Gottlieb The premise I am beginning with Is by now readily acceptable : that Herbert's volume of poems, TTw Temple, is carefully arranged and that throughout It the poems are linked in a number of ways. Though much work remains to be done analyzing the particular ways that Herbert links his poems and what models might have influenced him to do this, I would like to go off in a slightly different direction and examine how the same or similar types of linking techniques that appear in 77»· Temple are used in the poetry of one of Herbert's chief disciples in the seventeenth century, Henry Vaughan. As much as they are studied together, Herbert and Vaughan are typically contrasted: Vaughan's verbal borrowings from Herbert are undeniably extensive, but after noting this most critics go on to point out Vaughan's lack of structural ability. Herbert is considered the master craftsman while Vaughan is scarcely the apprentice in some things, incapable of or not interested in fully developed images and themes. Helen White, for example, suggests that Vaughan "has not the kind of mind that takes possession of his theme firmly and precisely. Rather his sensitivity outreaches his power of analysis, and his best intuitions would seem to come in a flash and all too often vanish again when he tries to hold them or fit their vague implications to a preconceived scheme." ' I believe we get a somewhat different sense of Vaughan when we see his poems falling into groups. While it would be difficult to argue that Silex Scintillons is structured as tightly and creatively as TTm Temple, we should not miss the fact that Vaughan's poems, like Herbert's, are often drawn together in such a way that he is able to seize and elaborate on certain themes "firmly and precisely." Far from vanishing, Vaughan's themes, images, and even key words often reappear from one poem to the next, and this is important evidence of a talent for structuring his poems that Vaughan is not often credited with. 2 Before going on to examples of the particular linking techniques that Herbert and Vaughan shareand then toa more or less full reading of a group of poems from Sllox Scintatene, 38 HERBERTANDVAUGHAN several preliminary points need to be made. First, although I think it is highly probable that Vaughan learned much about linking poems by reading 77t· Temple, we must be careful not to overestimate his dépendance on Herbert. It is possible that Vaughan was also influenced by the same models as Herbert: the linked verses in the Bible, the sonnet sequences, the practice of repeating and elaborating a theme in music, the stress on repetition found in Jesuit manuals of devotion, catechistica! practice, textbooks on rhetoric and pedagogy, and so on. Second, we may need to remind ourselves that connections between poems do not automatically increase their value or interest. Linking poems is a technique that can be used superficially and badly, distracting the poet and reader from more important concerns. Finally, any discussion of links in Herbert's and Vaughan's poetry Is liable to the objections that either these ingenious connections exist only in the mind of an ingenious reader or that such connections are simply a matter of redundancies creeping into the works of poets with notoriously limited vocabularies. All of what follows Is an attempt to counter these objections. Perhaps the best place to begin is with thesimpler kinds of linking techniques. We know how effectively Herbert uses the titles of his poems in The Temple, not only to key the reader to the meaning of his individual verses but also to draw certain poems together. He repeats titles frequently; there is thus a natural tendency on the part of the reader, for example, to view the five poems titled "Affliction" as a coordinated group, even though they are separated in the volume. Even when he does not repeat titles, Herbert often chooses them carefully to link poems that stand next to or near one another. "Mattens" is naturally followed shortly after by "Even-song"; "Churchmonuments " is followed by "Church-musick...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1192
Print ISSN
0161-7435
Pages
pp. 38-53
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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