George Herbert, Getting Back Up

5 thoughts on “George Herbert, Getting Back Up”

  1. Why is this poem considered to be metaphysical? Can you explain what that means? I must have slept that day in college. 🙂


  2. I didn’t even make it to that day in college, but “Metaphysical” seems to be a catch-all for more overtly religious seventeenth century poetry. I’ve heard that the term was an insult at first against folks like Donne, who was accused of being wilfully obscure/complex.


  3. There is that more historical accusatory application, metaphysical. It seems almost every term or category come up with for a new art, something yet undefined, began by application by journalists seeking an abbreviation with cut and edge to it, or hack critics with an agenda, those who believe themselves to be the preservers and protectors of cultural heritage. Something new comes along and there’s a bristling and name-calling. Ironic that those terms originally meant as a put-down with intent to dismiss stick and through time become the category under which a kind or type of work is recognized. The sting lessens through time, and the meaning strangely changes from what was once derogatory into its opposite, something lifted up and placed on a pedestal and worshipped. Then what happens is that the cycle repeats itself. After absorption and digestion, and canonization, the self-appointed cultural guardians encounter something which doesn’t yet fit into any known category, and someone calls it “metaphysical”, and comes the exclamation: “How dare you place that within the category the great George Herbert is in!”

    Out of this sort of friction, and in the heat of the moment, a new term flies out like a swear word and sticks.

    This is just my intuition. There’s probably a fascinating inner history of how certain names for certain types of art and literature and movements were arrived at and now stick in the historical record. In some sense almost or maybe all those terms falsify, unfortunately putting into the heads of individuals assumptions which many, pressed for time, then come to the actually work with, projecting into it, trying then only to find what is “metaphysical” in the work of Herbert. One should read Herbert for Herbert, not because he’s a “metaphysical poet.” For me the most profound or sublime work has much that escapes category.


  4. How many times have I felt this! It seems there’s no way I’ll flourish or feel full, but there it is, that familiar beckon occluded (or enriched) with the knowledge of ups and downs.


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