george herbert, voice of eros

XChapelle_sixtine_x448.jpg.pagespeed.ic.mikhfNHg6GAdam Plunkett at Poetry Magazine:

George Herbert, the 17th-century poet and parson, is notable for having written almost only sacred poems, about his experience of God rather than that of other people. His single and singular masterpiece, The Temple, written throughout his adulthood and published shortly after his death in 1633, is “a record of spiritual struggles,” as T. S. Eliot wrote, struggles inspired “only in the Faith, in hunger and thirst after godliness.” A good churchman, Herbert wrote poems to draw his readers, like his parishioners, toward the love of God. This meant that he evoked the range of human love, from sacred to profane. But it also made him, perhaps unwittingly, a master of erotic poetry. This is not something of which the churchman is often accused. But erotic love is everywhere in The Temple, the unspoken drive behind many other loves in the poems and, in the end, their impossible fulfillment.

Herbert’s God was that of the flourishing moderate and humanist Anglicanism in the early 17th century, set against what the Anglicans saw as the ritual austerity of Puritanism, the ideological austerity of Calvinism, and the elaborate hierarchies and rituals of Roman Catholic popery. In 1611, when Herbert was 18, the King James Bible was first published, the translation that reproduced the majesty of biblical language in the vernacular.

more here.