Critical Appreciation of THE COLLAR by George Herbert

George Herbert

Here we are looking at a poem, The Collar by George Herbert which is very similar to denial in its dramatization of the experience of being cut off from God but whereas denial is a poem of resignation of slackness and despair. This is a poem of anger and of one person who's described as a dramatization of the warfare of the will so let's have a read of it. I struck the board and cried no more I will abroad what shall I ever sigh and pine my lines in life are free as the road loses the wind as large as store shall I still be in suit have I no harvest but have throne and let me bleed and not restore what I have lost with cordial fruit sure there was wine before my size did drive there was corn Before my tears had drowned. It is the year only lost to me have I no bays to crown his no flowers no Garland's gay all blasted all wasted not so my heart pleasures.There are that the poem works fairly straightforwardly.
It begins with a statement of rejecting God I will abroad I went abroad in this sense not means not to another country just away from here on a journey and it ends with God calling the child and the speaker reconciles himself to God. He says, my Lord, it is, however, a little bit more complex than that and it's worth exploring and making sure we understand all of the imagery before we begin to discuss it critically to strike the board and cry or hear the board could mean simply a table although by implication it means the altar to sigh and pine of course the pine is to live in a state of mental and physical decline often used in the feeling of a broken heart you pine for someone you love the fourth or the third line story here is a statement of intent my lines and life are free is the road now my lines here seems to be quite self-conscious this is a poet speaking my lines are free and when we look at this poem it looks like free verse doesn't it, in fact, it looks like the sort of poetry that won't be written for another 300 years until poets like TS Eliot there's a pound HD. All of these poets of the early years of the 20th century and in fact just looking at it on the page the irregular line lengths the lack of any stable rhyme scheme all evoke the poetry of 19th 1920 s onwards so it's amazing that Herbert should be writing this sort of poetry taking such of extraordinary Liberty with form. So the poetess stays stated his intent of the speaker has at least my lines in life free as the road loses the windows largest store what a wonderful series of lines here building to this climate as large as store these three similes setting an in statement of his belief in his own powers as a poet to be as free as the wind as large a story I think we have to imagine a great barn or granary here interestingly. It reminds us of East wing's and we in that poem God who created man in wealth and store that image of richness and we have to be alert in this poem to points where the speaker is taking on himself attributes for human greatness the very often using language perhaps unconsciously that echoes the gifts that God has given to man so this is a really interesting exploring how the unconscious how in this case the unconscious religious belief that that remains of a speaker even as he rejects God the unconscious can shape our language fascinating study and interesting for example to compare this poem to the poems of Browning who was also interested in speaker or speakers of Browning's browning who's interested in speaker.
Speakers who weren't fully aware of the implications of their words so anyhow the line shall I still been suit to be in suit is perhaps well it means to be requesting something of your Lord or your king so that feeling that you can't do anything for yourself you're always asking for permission for things and that word still means always shall I always be asking for something and by implication never getting it again perhaps evoking the image of silent ears in denial so then the poem goes on and sets out in an important pattern of images of nature and the poet complains have I no harvest but a thorn to let me blood and of course you would hope to harvest rich beautiful things like grain or grapes but here all the speaker seems to harvest is thorns which let me in other words in a sense cause my blood to flow it's a deeply selfish image here the poet my lines desires perhaps recognition earthly riches for his poetry and yet all he gets is a thorn I feel this constant pain which causes blood to flow and nothing to restore what he's lost with cordial fruit now cordial here means Pleasant tasting but again exploring this idea of the unconscious in the poem and the thorn and the fruit in these two lines also echo the images of Christ's sacrifice on the cross so the thorn of course is like the crown of thorns and in Christian symbolism the fruit of the not only or it recalls the fruit of the tree of knowledge which Eve ate and caused man's fall and but it also then looks forward to the fruit which is a metaphor for Christ's blood which restores man to God and so even while the speaker is complaining in various secular worldly terms about what he desires unconsciously the language of religion is always there in his poem and I think we see in this next part of the poem a feeling that perhaps a rejection of the of a poem like for example denial sure that was wine before my size did dryers and if we read denial the image of sighing of longing of losses there was corn before my tears to drown it what good has sighing and weeping done this poet all it's done is dry wine and drowned corn but again of course wine and corn prefigured the Eucharist corn they're looking forward to the bread which Christians consumed at the altar so even while the speakers have said before desires worldly pleasures of wine and nice food he's doing so in terms that remind us explicitly of Christ's sacrifice on the on the cross the unconscious religious belief is always there even while the speaker is talking it other things this year only lost here I think if we read only in the sense of nothing but lost to me is there have I achieved nothing this year have I no Bayes to crown in our Bay is the wreath which were placed on the head of the winner of a poetry competition in classical antiquity so it's a classical symbol of poetic mastery and greatness of course it also echoes the image of harvests from earlier in the poem and he desires flowers and Garland's and feels that he has achieved nothing but to blast them and waste them now to blast and waste as you can imagine is it develops this image of Sighs drowning and drying then developed in His image of blasting and wasting here and it's just fascinating I mean on the page you can see immediately can't movie and the way that Herbert is using these very short lines here we have a rhyming couplet blasted west at.
Probably in 17th century pronunciation of these two words would have rhymed but up until this point the rhyme scheme has been highly irregular there is rhyme I wonder if perhaps that's suggesting that even wild man is trying to be free that rhyme is there it will persist a little bit like the calling at the end if through all the raving and the chaos that rhyme will go wrong now at this point a new speaker appears not so my heart and I think this is a voice of temptation and it's telling him to look after himself there is fruit and thou hast hands in other words if you go out there's fruit for you to get for yourself and this is a very selfish idea of temptation recover thy blown age pleasures in other words go and find what's really pleasurable and the cold dispute which there is tempted to leave like cold dispute and perhaps recalls the style of Education we would have had at Cambridge when Herbert was there of learning academic discussions of points of theology and in fact Herbert himself did say that dispute I use of arguing about minor points of religion was the scab of the church which is a rather wonderful description you have to remember at the time that Herbert was writing this wars were being fought quite enthusiastically and very bloody over very minor points of religion and stuff that we would nowadays perhaps believe it very hard for be able to get that excited about and the following lines forsake thy cage thy rope of sounds now that forsake my cage obviously we can see is break out of this cage which you've made for yourself in those your petty thoughts the rope of sounds is rather splendid image it is a proverb for something which is pointless you can't make a rope out of sand so stop trying we tried to make a rope out of sand it falls apart so in other words your petty thoughts are nothing more than a rope out of sand and they except ironically. They have actually become good cable and your petty thoughts have become the cable which ties you up to drag you along and enforce you and be thy law so this is a very powerful evocation of the idea that getting lost in disputes and these petty thoughts which caused him to sigh and pine earlier in the poem actually had the idea of a cable of a rope which binds us and the speaker here there's a temptation voice even accuses the original speaker in the poem although actually deliberately blinding himself that is wink in other words a wink we use in the sense or what would we use in a sense of blink you closed your eyes with woods not see and then we get the return to the original voice the poem away take heed I will abroad this statement again I will abroad through three very short words and the speaker says call in like death's-head there now I think they said the death's-head would be the symbol of the skull which so often appeared in churches at the time memento mori which in Latin means a reminder of death and it was very common to see those in Christian churches to say remember man thou must die and then you get this statement here in these next three lines he that forbear to suit and serve his need deserves his load and a lot of this recalls the early image of the poem, in other words, he that refuses to look after himself to serve his need and this word suit earlier was it was being in suit to somebody else who wasn't listening to your requests. So you might as well look after yourself look after number one and he that refuses to look after himself two for bears to serve his and he deserves his load he deserves all the suffering he has to put up with and the last four lines of the poem rather beautiful but as I raved and grew more fierce wild at every word my thoughts they had one calling child and here we have the one word that God speaks in the whole poem and the speaker replied my lord and a fascinating poem and lots of critical disputes about it all sorts of interesting things how do we respond to this image of submission Drewry argues that the childishness comes not from acknowledging you were a child.
In the end by saying yes I am the child but the childishness isn't the tantrum the selfishness of the first view of the majority of the poem the conclusion does it restore order I'm not sure actually a Hartmann another critic has asked the question does this rebellious in the voices got a certain coherence and stability which actually is relinquished by the speaker in the favor of a vulnerable present. It's actually the last line is quite is not as sort of and it's actually quite a risky position to put yourself in and it is a favor of a vulnerable present so it's a really interesting poem this one I'm formally so powerful an incredible dramatization dramatic rebellious MMus dramatic rebellion the rebellious Mrs. Wilcox described it a wonderful poem and a fascinating example of how Herbert uses poetic form to evoke powerful ideas.

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