Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Quick Review

Herbert: PoemsHerbert: Poems by George Herbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is but a little book -- part of an excellent, attractive and affordable series of Pocket Poets -- and as with the best of such small things, while satisfying of itself, it made me want more.  I've read dozens of the books in this edition; familiar poets and not, anthologies on themes and by period, and selections, as here of just one writer, in this instance a writer I had otherwise avoided.  Here is George Herbert, just as I vaguely remembered him; pious, inventive, shrewd.  I do not share either his faith or his interests.  His times to mine could not frankly feel more remote.  Yet unlike his contemporary and fellow clergy, John Donne, by some strange alchemy of novelty and sincerity, Herbert won me over completely, not to his Christianity or his God, but to him.  I like and admire him now more than I might ever have imagined possible.

As a poet his is an almost artless seeming innovation; making new forms, fresh visions and the brightest and warmest of readings from all too familiar materials.  He seems, the poet himself, as seen in these poems, the gentlest and kindest man, even when his theology, to me, is repugnant; full of as much Hell as Heaven, sin and sincerity, and yet what a great and generous heart!

I cannot let him alone.  I've read and reread poem after poem in just this slim book, marveling at how good both the poetry and the author seem to me now.

As an introduction then, this little book seems to me a fine thing, well made.  Now I want more, bless him.

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