Equivocal Prediction

Equivocal Prediction: George Herbert's Way to God

HEATHER A.R. ASALS
Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1981
Pages: 145
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt15jjccz
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Equivocal Prediction
    Book Description:

    In this study, Professor Asals analyses George Herbert's use of language as a method of devotion in his major cycle poem,The Temple.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5638-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction: Holy Equivocation
    (pp. 3-17)

    What comes to mind more than anything else as I reflect at this point of departure is that what I have to say has all been said before, that ‘The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Once, in conversation with Margaret Bottrall in Cambridge, I came to feel this acutely: that there is nonew thinghere and that my function here is to make whole, to integrate some of the present disparities in...

  6. 1 The Chirograph: Liturgy and Ontology
    (pp. 18-37)

    Profoundly significant, the references inThe Templeto the poet’s practice of the physical act of writing, to theeventof his transcribing of the poem, have gone virtually unnoticed by modern criticism. The speaker begins his suggestion of this striking image pattern in ‘The Thanksgiving,’ there questioning how he can ‘Copie’ Christ’s ‘fair, though bloudie hand’ (‘how then shall I imitate thee, and /Copie thy fair, though bloudie hand?’). His concern continues, and while considering the potential hazards implicit in the ‘false embroyderies’ of the traditional materials of poetry in ‘Vanitie (ii),’ the speaker cautions himself, ‘Heark and...

  7. 2 The Sacramental Voice: Distance Related
    (pp. 38-56)

    Through the limited, mortal, and even quite individual voice of the poet, the voice of Christ expresses itself. ‘Almightie God doth grieve,he puts on sense,’ Herbert observes in ‘Ephes. 4:30’ of what happens in the sacramental persona of his poem: ‘I sinne not to my grief alone, / But to my Gods too;he doth grone.’¹ In the isolated, stilling, moments of the emotional life of one member who at times speaks as ‘The Church,’ the voice of Christ reveals itself, expresses itself as still suffering in his Body, which is ‘The Church’:

    My heart did heave, and there...

  8. 3 Augustinianism: The Use and Enjoyment of Poetry
    (pp. 57-75)

    George Herbert gives no more succinct definition of the nature of his poetry than he does in ‘The Quidditie.’ In a reasonably straightforward statement, Herbert works through thevia negativaof ‘My God, a verse is not a crown, / … nor yet a lute’ to the clarity of his final positive definition: ‘But it is that whichwhile I use / I am with thee.’ In spite of its simplicity, Herbert’s direct identification of his poetry with ‘use’ has gone both unannotated and unexplicated.¹ ‘Some things are to be enjoyed, others to beused,’ Augustine comments in the central...

  9. 4 Wisdom: The Seam and the Wine
    (pp. 76-93)

    ‘Could not thatWisdome, which first broacht the wine, / Have thicken’d it with definitions?’ Herbert asks wistfully in ‘Divinitie.’ And with considerable irony, he continues to make presumptuous additions to the sufficiency of God’s own self-revelation, suggesting, ‘Andjagg’d his seamlesse coat, had that been fine, / With curiousquestions and divisions?’ But the harassing interrogatives of stanza three are replaced by proverbial sentences in stanza five: ‘Love God, and love your neighbour. Watch and pray.’ And the imperial mode of those ‘dark instructions,’ the sententiousness of those ‘Gordian knots,’ prepares the way for the brilliantly equivocal command of...

  10. 5 One-Both and the Face of Anglicanism
    (pp. 94-110)

    ‘Shee never diverted towards thePapist, in undervaluing theScripture; nor towards theSeparatist, in undervaluing theChurch.’¹ In his sermon in commemoration of Magdalene Herbert after her death in 1627, John Donne paints for us the portrait of a lady as the Anglican Church, defining the path of the ‘middle way.’ Even the manner of her dress, Donne informs us, ‘neversumptuous, neversordid,’ proclaimed the principle which directed her life: ‘Her rule wasmediocrity.’ To begin my final remarks by mentioning that thevia mediadiscretion in fashion possessed by the mother of George Herbert is identical to...

  11. Afterword
    (pp. 111-112)

    According to the Gospel of John, Jesus answered Nicodemus saying that unless a man be bornἄνωθεν(again-from above), he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. There is no way the Greek word can be properly translated without the use of a hyphen. The poetic language of George Herbert is similar in its complexity under the smooth surface of simplicity. I have argued almost mathematically that the key to the richness and sacramentality of Herbert’s language, as well as the key to his vision, is that one word equals two (a ‘son’ is ‘light’ and ‘fruit’) and that ‘both’ are ‘one.’...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 115-130)
  13. A Bibliography of Exegetical and Doctrinal Materials
    (pp. 131-140)
  14. Index
    (pp. 141-145)