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Notes on the Psalms in Herbert's The Temple by Noel Kinnamon The relationship of George Herbert's lyrics to the Psalms has often been acknowledged, but until recently has usually been taken for granted. Although editors' notes, for example, are full of references to the Psalms, there have been relatively few attempts to deal with the significance of these references in Herbert criticism. There are studies of St. Augustine's commentaries and the five poems called "Affliction"' and of the links between images in the Psalms and Herbert's language of love.2 Coburn Freer, in Music fora King, examines Herbert's affinities with the metrical psalmistsand proposes a number of Psalms as "analogues" to his poems.3 One of the best and also one of the earliest discussions of Herbert and the Psalms is in The Poetry of Meditation, where Louis Martz says of "The Church" that it is "hardly too much" to call it "a book of seventeenth-century psalmody."4 But Martz's comments are all too brief and, as valuable as they are, only underscore the need for a fuller study of the subject. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski's recent Protestant Poeticsandthe Seventeenth-CenturyReligious Lyric goes a very long way towards satisfying that need and provides a strong basis and justification for a still closer look at the ways in which Herbert makes use of the Psalms as an "important generic resource."5 Three of these ways are of particular interest and will be considered here: the use of Psalm structures, the use of allusions to individual Psalm verses, and, finally, the adaptation of particular Psalms as the basis of otherwise highly original poems. If it is true, as Lewalski suggests, that "Herbert seems to have conceived his book of lyrics as a book of Christian Psalms, and h is speaker as a new David, a Christian Psalmist,"6 then it is hardly surprising to find him modeling some of his lyrics on basic psalm structures.The two largest and most familiarof 10 HERBERT AND THE PSALMS the many classes of psalms which have been identified by both Renaissance and modern commentators are the psalms of praise and the psalms of lamentation or prayer. Each of these classes has its own distinctive (though not invariable) form.7 Praise and lamentation are also the subjects of many of Herbert's lyrics which are often developed in ways similar to those used by the Psalmists. Among the poems of praise, there is the first "Antiphon," "Let all the world in every corner sing,"8 with its analogue in sucha Psalm as number 100, "O Be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands" (in Coverdale's translation).9 The structure of such psalms, when it exists in its pure state, is fairly simple, consisting usually of exhortations to sing, shout, clap hands, or otherwise "make a joyful noise," followed by occasional lists of God's attributes or his "wondrous works."10 "Antiphon" (I) is mainly hortatory. As Herbert puts it, "The church with psalms must shout, / No doore can keep them out" — adding, with characteristic emphasis, "But above all, the heart / Must bear the longest part." The second "Antiphon," a complement to the first, praises God through a chorus of Men and Angels for the grace and love he has shown his creatures. Far more prevalent in The Temple are those lyrics which correspond in one way or another to the psalms of lamentation. According to Gunkel, the basic structure contains three main parts: first, the lament itself, followed by a "passionate appeal" or "prayer," then the "certainty of a hearing" or "of deliverance ."" Psalm 13 is, in its brevity, a convenient example of Gunkel's analysis (although he does not cite it himself). There are six verses altogether: two verses for the lament (again in Coverdale's translation, quoted here only in part), "HOW long wilt thou forget me, O Lord, for ever ...?... how long shall mine enemies triumph over me?"; two verses for the appeal, "Consider and hear me O Lord my God . . . Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him . . ."; and two verses containing the certainty of deliverance, "But my trust is in thy mercy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1192
Print ISSN
0161-7435
Pages
pp. 10-29
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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