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For the first time, John Drury convincingly integrates the life and poetry of George Herbert, giving us in Music at Midnight the definitive biography of the man behind some of the most famous poems in the English Language. 'Love bade me welcome . . .' 'Teach me my God and King . . .' George Herbert wrote, but never published, some of the very greatest English poetry, For the first time, John Drury convincingly integrates the life and poetry of George Herbert, giving us in Music at Midnight the definitive biography of the man behind some of the most famous poems in the English Language. 'Love bade me welcome . . .' 'Teach me my God and King . . .' George Herbert wrote, but never published, some of the very greatest English poetry, recording in an astonishing variety of forms his inner experiences of grief, recovery, hope, despair, anger, fulfilment and - above all else - love. He was born in 1593 and died at the age of 39 in 1633, before the clouds of civil war gathered, his family aristocratic and his upbringing privileged. He showed worldly ambition and seemed sure of high public office and a career at court, but then for a time 'lost himself in a humble way', devoting himself to the restoration of the church at Leighton Bromswold in Buckinghamshire and then to his parish of Bemerton, three miles from Salisbury, whose cathedral music he called 'my heaven on earth'. When in the year of his death his friend Nicholas Ferrar, leader of the quasi-monastic community at Little Gidding, published Herbert's poems under the title The Temple, his fame was quickly established. Because he published no English poems during his lifetime, and dating most of them exactly is impossible, writing Herbert's biography is an unusual challenge. In this book John Drury sets the poetry in the whole context of the poet's life and times, so that the reader can understand the frame of mind and kind of society which produced it, and depth can be added to the narrative of Herbert's life. (T.S. Eliot: 'What we can confidently believe is that every poem in the book [The Temple] is in tune to the poet's experience.') His Herbert is not the saintly figure who has come down to us from John Aubrey, but a man torn for much of his life between worldly ambition and the spiritual life shown to us so clearly through his writings. The result is the most satisfying biography of this exceptional English poet yet written.


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For the first time, John Drury convincingly integrates the life and poetry of George Herbert, giving us in Music at Midnight the definitive biography of the man behind some of the most famous poems in the English Language. 'Love bade me welcome . . .' 'Teach me my God and King . . .' George Herbert wrote, but never published, some of the very greatest English poetry, For the first time, John Drury convincingly integrates the life and poetry of George Herbert, giving us in Music at Midnight the definitive biography of the man behind some of the most famous poems in the English Language. 'Love bade me welcome . . .' 'Teach me my God and King . . .' George Herbert wrote, but never published, some of the very greatest English poetry, recording in an astonishing variety of forms his inner experiences of grief, recovery, hope, despair, anger, fulfilment and - above all else - love. He was born in 1593 and died at the age of 39 in 1633, before the clouds of civil war gathered, his family aristocratic and his upbringing privileged. He showed worldly ambition and seemed sure of high public office and a career at court, but then for a time 'lost himself in a humble way', devoting himself to the restoration of the church at Leighton Bromswold in Buckinghamshire and then to his parish of Bemerton, three miles from Salisbury, whose cathedral music he called 'my heaven on earth'. When in the year of his death his friend Nicholas Ferrar, leader of the quasi-monastic community at Little Gidding, published Herbert's poems under the title The Temple, his fame was quickly established. Because he published no English poems during his lifetime, and dating most of them exactly is impossible, writing Herbert's biography is an unusual challenge. In this book John Drury sets the poetry in the whole context of the poet's life and times, so that the reader can understand the frame of mind and kind of society which produced it, and depth can be added to the narrative of Herbert's life. (T.S. Eliot: 'What we can confidently believe is that every poem in the book [The Temple] is in tune to the poet's experience.') His Herbert is not the saintly figure who has come down to us from John Aubrey, but a man torn for much of his life between worldly ambition and the spiritual life shown to us so clearly through his writings. The result is the most satisfying biography of this exceptional English poet yet written.

30 review for Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lucinda

    ’Timeless in quality […] well written in verse […] honourable style of weightiness’ Equally, the hauntingly beautiful poetry of George Herbert and John Donne, retains lasting impaction and infinite spatiotemporal relevance. The beauty of poetry (beheld by reader and poet), is found within ’the poetic forms and fashionings’ of the words on paper. The lexis and subjective perspective is one aspect that creates semblance, simultaneously as the simplicity and language attaches the work to the ’Timeless in quality […] well written in verse […] honourable style of weightiness’ Equally, the hauntingly beautiful poetry of George Herbert and John Donne, retains lasting impaction and infinite spatiotemporal relevance. The beauty of poetry (beheld by reader and poet), is found within ’the poetic forms and fashionings’ of the words on paper. The lexis and subjective perspective is one aspect that creates semblance, simultaneously as the simplicity and language attaches the work to the poet –a melodic communication of ’rhyme and tuneable concord’. As in Herbert’s world and perspective, when regarding poetry that is so poignant, he bears in mind that we all ‘see’ and express (thoughts, feelings and illustrative connotations) in words –differently. Hence, when something is translated it may ‘look’ the same or a copy [say for instance into Latin or from Old English] –it inherently remains both the same (in part; such as the framework and ‘root’) yet it is always different (as the artist/ writer has naturally put his own interpretation into the work). Thus, when one regards ‘The Temple; the 23rd psalm’ as translated by Donne alongside the translation of Herbert’s; there remains those (a). Replicated aspects, which could be found within a mere mimesis of parallel words or metaphorical meaning and (b). Intent to draw facets from the former work [of the three] and that which binds, as it separates both renditions. For, our singular interpretation will nevertheless always remain unique albeit a ‘fitting tribute’ one could say, to the former. Poetry is indeed powerful, as so articulately enunciated by Herbert in respect of Sidney’s writing; ‘[…] poetry could be used with the fruit of comfort for some, when, in sorrowful pangs of their death-dealing sins, they find the consolation of the never-leaving goodness.’ In regards to Herbert, these words only reinforced his resolution to devote his talents exclusively to religious poetry. He answered the *cliché warning ‘call’ by writing two of the most arresting, memorable poems –the first being ‘The Quiddity’ [queer in is essence of something untold], then secondly ‘Jordan (II)’ [which is the most curious, enigmatical ‘key’ I’ve certainly read about]. The first Jacobean poem, for me, epitomises ‘the self’ in words. Not only does Herbert place his very spirit or one could say soul within the poem, it is the transcendent value of the simple privacy present within the words ’I am with thee’? [In reference to himself being in the company of ‘the other’ who is everything to him; as in God] –that crafts such redolent relevance to the present, in our own reading and interpretation. What Herbert sought above all else was simplicity, so as to allow the words to speak for themselves. In his second poem, it is that simplicity of thought onto paper which truly makes those words (and all meaning behind them, for him and the reader) so beautiful. When the poet writes they are in a state of being known as poetic self-consciousness’ and as such it not only makes that which is written, so personal to the poet but likewise so remarkable for the reader. The slight shadow which falls in the last line, may be a perceptive [presumed mistake] or learning is transmogrified into ‘the business of correction and revision’. As such, surely this is positive, to wind self and sense, poet and his matter, into fusion? In essence, ’poetic self-consciousness makes the process of writing and its inventions and interesting and appealing subject to fellow-poet.’ In Sidney’s ending he turns to ’looking inward’, at his heart so as to write what is unsaid –and in doing so he is looking not only beyond himself whilst paying due consideration to what was already written [with fresh eyes], he is finding that love which he had been seeking. So, what did Herbert give to Donne? One may assume that due to divergence of style and contrast, it was; simplicity against complexity, modesty against hyperbole and quiet against loud. That is not so, as each aided one another to have the ‘ability to find different voices for the self in its changing states.’ Henceforth I would state how poetry; [essentially is] words which speak in volumes –of truth, even as a whisper.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Candy Wood

    What a lovely book this is. From beginning to end, Drury includes readings of the poems, bringing out effects of rhyme, meter, and sound as well as diction. An introductory chapter on Herbert's world sets the context while also including familiar poems, beginning with "Love (III)" ("Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back"). Poems also inform the biographical chapters, with an "interlude" discussing the manuscript housed in Dr. Williams's Library in London and dated 1623 or earlier. The What a lovely book this is. From beginning to end, Drury includes readings of the poems, bringing out effects of rhyme, meter, and sound as well as diction. An introductory chapter on Herbert's world sets the context while also including familiar poems, beginning with "Love (III)" ("Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back"). Poems also inform the biographical chapters, with an "interlude" discussing the manuscript housed in Dr. Williams's Library in London and dated 1623 or earlier. The biography proper ends with the narrative of Herbert's death in 1633, just short of age 40, but 5 more chapters follow, considering the first publication of the poems, their reception then and since, and their meaning today. In his aim "to bring together life and poetry, history and literary criticism as closely as possible," Drury refers to other perceptive readers, particularly Helen Vendler and T. S. Eliot. In the end, it's about music, and love.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Sinck

    Is Love (III) one of the best, if not the best, poems of all time? Yes. John Drury tackles that excellent work on page one of this excellent biography, and continues by interweaving Herbert's life story with analyses of some of his best poems. No poem is better than that first one, but most of them are belters. His biographer has done justice to his hero, with criticisms of Herbert ("priggish", for example, at one point)there but outweighed by praise. Any lover of poetry, good literature, or Is Love (III) one of the best, if not the best, poems of all time? Yes. John Drury tackles that excellent work on page one of this excellent biography, and continues by interweaving Herbert's life story with analyses of some of his best poems. No poem is better than that first one, but most of them are belters. His biographer has done justice to his hero, with criticisms of Herbert ("priggish", for example, at one point)there but outweighed by praise. Any lover of poetry, good literature, or indeed God, should tackle this work. Let me be clear - one of the best books I've ever read. Where is the sixth star>

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brian Robbins

    Excellent biography of Herbert from the beginning. When he likened Herbert's poetry to chamber music, he had me hooked. It was a perfect comparison, especially if you place Donne's work beside him. Donne uses all the razzmatazz of a full orchestra augmented by a jazz band, which is unmissable. But it's wonderful to retire to the delicacy of Herbert for a while too. Initially his commentaries on the poems were disappointing for the most part. However, he warmed up and his comments on individual Excellent biography of Herbert from the beginning. When he likened Herbert's poetry to chamber music, he had me hooked. It was a perfect comparison, especially if you place Donne's work beside him. Donne uses all the razzmatazz of a full orchestra augmented by a jazz band, which is unmissable. But it's wonderful to retire to the delicacy of Herbert for a while too. Initially his commentaries on the poems were disappointing for the most part. However, he warmed up and his comments on individual poems really came alive. Would recommend this to anyone interested in Herbert's poems set into the context of his life & time.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian Willis

    While this is entirely more of a 4 or 5 star rating for many readers (it is a superbly written book with in depth analysis of the mechanics, architecture, and syntax of most of Herbert's poetry), Herbert himself left me a little cold. He has long been understood as one of the more important poets of the pre-Civil War 17th century, often anthologized, and I was made to read him as an undergrad English major. But ultimately, I was left with the personal impression that he was just a country parson While this is entirely more of a 4 or 5 star rating for many readers (it is a superbly written book with in depth analysis of the mechanics, architecture, and syntax of most of Herbert's poetry), Herbert himself left me a little cold. He has long been understood as one of the more important poets of the pre-Civil War 17th century, often anthologized, and I was made to read him as an undergrad English major. But ultimately, I was left with the personal impression that he was just a country parson who had a talent for religious poetry. I far prefer Donne, but I do appreciate the effort Drury put into this book and can understand his passion. If you are a Herbert fan, you will love this book. If a casual fan, the odds are 50-50 that it will turn you on or turn you off. Not a bad book at all, just one that didn't interest me personally as much as it should have so my rating is a little low for a general readership of poetic biographies.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kris Lundgaard

    Glorious.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Domhnall

    ... his answer was, that the thought of what he had done would prove music to him at midnight ... [p240] 1593 to 1633: George Herbert lived just less than forty years, feeling himself become aged in his thirties, in an era when Drury observes that one endured and accumulated illnesses for which there was no cure and experienced death without analgesics. Born into an aristocratic family, he enjoyed a brilliant early career as a student and academic at Cambridge University, before withdrawing to be ... his answer was, that the thought of what he had done would prove music to him at midnight ... [p240] 1593 to 1633: George Herbert lived just less than forty years, feeling himself become aged in his thirties, in an era when Drury observes that one endured and accumulated illnesses for which there was no cure and experienced death without analgesics. Born into an aristocratic family, he enjoyed a brilliant early career as a student and academic at Cambridge University, before withdrawing to be the parson of a small congregation near Salisbury. He is remembered for a volume of poetry published after he died, and for a book of advice to other Church of England parsons. “He also writ a folio in Latin, which, because the parson of Hineham could not read, his widow [having remarried to said parson] ... condemned to the uses of good housewifery.” [p309] There is little enough to be said of this life, there is apparently little direct, contemporary written record of Herbert himself, while some material assembled from witnesses many years after his death is unreliable, but Drury successfully reconstructs a considerable amount by inference from other accounts of the period. While we know little of Herbert’s particular experiences as a student in Cambridge, we do know the syllabus and teaching methods that he would certainly have encountered, and this in turn can be sensibly related to aspects of Herbert’s poetry. What we can infer of Herbert’s religious convictions from his own writings can also be related to our knowledge of the wider religious landscape in this period. In general, it turns out that quite a lot can usefully be said and Drury’s account of Herbert’s life seems very credible and well supported. The book is ultimately an introduction to Herbert’s poetry, with many poems included in full within the text, and Drury’s celebration of its language and technique is as breathtakingly articulate as his interpretation of its meaning and context. If anything, I found Drury’s commentary a bit intimidating: he is not averse to identifying weaknesses in Herbert’s work; when he turns to lesser imitators late in the book, his commentary becomes brutal. However, much of Herbert’s poetry is sublime, and technically it is of the very highest order, so that Drury draws fully on all his own resources to do justice to Herbert’s achievements. The phrase ‘My Master’ occurs five times. Herbert loves its sound: the deliciousness of its mumbled ‘m’ opening into the long ‘a’, followed by the dental crash of ‘ster’. It is like biting into a peach. [p215] ‘Words of the right sort to ask about the divine’: Herbert likes them to have the truth of sensual immediacy, rather than the remote abstractness of theology’s vocabulary... To describe the spirituality of prayer, in his dazzling sonnet with that title, he appeals to the senses; to the palate with ‘the Church’s banquet; to the eye with ‘sinner’s tower’ and ‘the bird of paradise’; to the ear with ‘thunder’, ‘church bells’ and ‘a kind of tune’; to the touch with ‘softness’; to the nose with ‘the land of spices’; eventually to the mind in the conclusive ‘something understood’. ... So has I once more smell the dew and rain, And relish versing in ‘The Flower’. [p337] For those who love language for its own sake, and despair at its slaughter in the age of the internet, the following may bring a smile: Resignation, like giving up, can mean two very different things. It can be a passive going along with things or an aggressive rejection of them. You can give up complacently or you can give up crossly. It is a matter of ‘how’. As Herbert’s contemporary Bishop Joseph Hall said, “God loveth adverbs.’ [p92] Herbert’s poetry is deeply religious and Coleridge, for example, argued that only a true Christian was likely to appreciate it. TS Elliot, for a counter example, totally disagreed and, with very little reflection, it is not hard to pull out a list of influential and very great poets who were similarly religious – Gerard Manley Hopkins comes to my mind at once. Drury takes the very reasonable view that many modern readers will not be familiar with the countless biblical references and allusions in Herbert’s poems, and for the poems that Drury examines he supplies a detailed explanation of the Christian beliefs and the specific biblical sources relevant to the poem. Ultimately, he does not consider it unrealistic for non Christians to appreciate and quickly relish what Herbert is saying in his work; certainly Drury has supplied everything we need to undertake the experiment. It is not surprising to find that Herbert has influenced many subsequent poets, from near contemporaries to the very recent example of Vikram Seth, who even took the opportunity to purchase the Bemerton Rectory which Herbert once occupied; that is nearly as enviable as Seth’s brilliant poem, Lost, which is included and interpreted in this book, modelled on one by Herbert. [Richard] Crashaw was not so much an imitator of Herbert as a religious poet with his own distinctive voice, for whom Herbert was an inspiration. [Henry] Vaughan was an imitator who, eventually finding his own ecstatic voice, wrote poems of extraordinary beauty. Together they suggest that imitation may be good training, as was commonly believed at the time, but that inspiration consists of an individual voice telling of things which, however hackneyed or unregarded, have not been told quite like this before. There needs to be something new and, even if modestly, startling. [p291] Herbert ... had done more than anyone to teach Vaughan the trick of the last line which transforms the whole poem and the combination of the quotidian with the sublime. [p304] Herbert’s poetry turns out to be not only accessible and understandable, but sublime in its philosophy and in its art. John Drury achieves the most important task of any such biography: it makes the reader a fan of the poet. A Wreath A wreathed garland of deserved praise, Of praise deserved, unto thee I give, I give to thee, who knowest all my ways, My crooked winding ways, wherein I live, Wherein I die, not live: for life is straight, Straight as a line, and ever tends to thee, To thee, who art more far above deceit, Than deceit seems above simplicity. Give me simplicity, that I may live, So live and like, that I may know, thy ways, Know them and practise them: then shall I give For this poor wreath, give thee a crown of praise.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    George Herbert has long been one of my favorite poets (along with Gerard Manley Hopkins and Edwin Muir), and now I have a better sense as to why. Drury provides insightful readings of many of Herbert's poems, providing economical glosses on challenging language, and placing them in the context of Herbert's life and era. Although we lack significant details about the events of Herbert's life, Drury's approach in this biography, and his sensitive reading of the poetry, allows the reader to enter George Herbert has long been one of my favorite poets (along with Gerard Manley Hopkins and Edwin Muir), and now I have a better sense as to why. Drury provides insightful readings of many of Herbert's poems, providing economical glosses on challenging language, and placing them in the context of Herbert's life and era. Although we lack significant details about the events of Herbert's life, Drury's approach in this biography, and his sensitive reading of the poetry, allows the reader to enter into Herbert's understanding of his world and his God, and his attempts to deal with the vicissitudes of his unfortunately short life. One finishes the book feeling a closer acquaintance with Herbert than would have been possible in a more conventional biography, had such a thing even been possible. One of the most enjoyable chapters of this book was an interlude on the Williams Manuscript, prepared by Herbert around a decade before his death, which shows for many of his poems subsequent revisions. Drury's discussion draws the reader into the poet's creative process and demonstrates the sensibility that marks Herbert as a rare poetic genius.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    This is as good a biography of George Herbert as could be wished for, and will surely be the definitive one for many years to come. Herbert's life was comparatively short (though Drury reminds us that a death at 40 was not that premature in the early seventeenth century where middle age effectively began at 30) and aside from his published poems and treatise on parish ministry, little remains in terms of primary sources (some letters, but not much else). Therefore a straight biography might This is as good a biography of George Herbert as could be wished for, and will surely be the definitive one for many years to come. Herbert's life was comparatively short (though Drury reminds us that a death at 40 was not that premature in the early seventeenth century where middle age effectively began at 30) and aside from his published poems and treatise on parish ministry, little remains in terms of primary sources (some letters, but not much else). Therefore a straight biography might offer thin fare. Drury spends approximately two-thirds of the book describing Herbert's life, helpfully illustrated through his poetry (though not even approximate dates can be fixed to his poems, they have so little autobiographical content). The remaining third is a study of Herbert's style and legacy. It is well written throughout and Drury does not assume that his readers will already know about iambs, trochees and enjambment. Having just reread all of Herbert's English poems in a critical edition, this volume still had a lot to teach me. I didn't know that in Herbert's time a banquet was not a feast as we understand it but a smaller repast of sweetmeats. This makes more sense of prayer being the "church's banquet". The church's feast is of course the Eucharist. Drury also makes a case that Easter Wings is not intended as a poetic pictogram of angels ascending but of birds flying east, excusing all those publishers who have been criticised for printing the page at an erroneous 90 degree angle. Love (III) is the companion throughout.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Exhaustive and insightful biography into the life and times of George Herbert. I’ve been obsessed since first discovering Herbert’s poetry earlier this year and this book helped me to better understand the context in which they were penned. Do yourself a favor and explore the poetry of George Herbert.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This biography of George Herbert looks at how his times shaped his writing, and discusses many of his poems in depth. It also compares him with other English poets of the time, which I thought was interesting.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Richard Anderson

    Highly informative critical biography of the poet.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liam Guilar

    I think the subtitle is the wrong way round..it should read The Poetry and Life of George Herbert. There's not a lot of his life to know, but Herbert the person is absent from most of the book, which is taken up by Drury's readings of the poems. He is a fine and careful reader, though repetitive, and inclined to overstate the obvious. If quoting a poem in full is there really a need for a paragraph summary to introduce it? For a biographer there's an obvious pit fall in reading the poems, and I think the subtitle is the wrong way round..it should read The Poetry and Life of George Herbert. There's not a lot of his life to know, but Herbert the person is absent from most of the book, which is taken up by Drury's readings of the poems. He is a fine and careful reader, though repetitive, and inclined to overstate the obvious. If quoting a poem in full is there really a need for a paragraph summary to introduce it? For a biographer there's an obvious pit fall in reading the poems, and taking the reading as evidence of the writer's beliefs and values, or even emotional states, especially when some of the value judgements seem so subjective....but with that reservation in mind, the discussion of the poetry is invaluable. Drury gets at Herbert the poet through a chapter on Herbert's surviving manuscript, comparing originals with revisions both in the manuscript and in the final version of poems published in the Temple. Since Herbert epitomizes one of the major problems facing readers of modern poetry: ignorance of the bible, Drury does a fine job of explaining the theological background, as well as the biblical allusions in the poems, opening them for the modern reader.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Marr

    George Herbert is among my most favorite composers. He shows an amazing ability to invent stanza forms that embody the content of the poem with a perfect fit of hand in glove. The wry and sometimes anguished humor that he uses to express his spiritual and moral crises make him a consolation to many readers, which was his hope if his work should be published. (Nicholas Farrar of Little Gidding, to whom the poems were entrusted made sure they did find their way in print.) Born in an aristocratic George Herbert is among my most favorite composers. He shows an amazing ability to invent stanza forms that embody the content of the poem with a perfect fit of hand in glove. The wry and sometimes anguished humor that he uses to express his spiritual and moral crises make him a consolation to many readers, which was his hope if his work should be published. (Nicholas Farrar of Little Gidding, to whom the poems were entrusted made sure they did find their way in print.) Born in an aristocratic and cultured family, Herbert's life intersected with many important persons of his time including Lancelot Andrewes and John Donne. With Herbert being such a favorite, I have read many books about him and this one is the best. A detailed account of his life is interwoven with careful and insightful explications of many of his poems, adding up to a feast of poetic wit and a life conscientiously, of sometimes problematically, lived. Drury's own elegance of style makes this book a delight to read for anyone interested in Herbert's poetry.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Scott Graham

    Drury's book on Herbert is a beautiful, well-thought out combination of biography and poetic analysis. He is at his best in describing why certain poems work as effectively as they do, and sheds just enough light on the more obscure sections of the works to bring them to light, without bogging down the overall flow or enjoyment of the poetry. Herbert, along with Donne, are the two essential English Christian poets to read, and this is a great introduction to understanding how poetry 'works' Drury's book on Herbert is a beautiful, well-thought out combination of biography and poetic analysis. He is at his best in describing why certain poems work as effectively as they do, and sheds just enough light on the more obscure sections of the works to bring them to light, without bogging down the overall flow or enjoyment of the poetry. Herbert, along with Donne, are the two essential English Christian poets to read, and this is a great introduction to understanding how poetry 'works' within the rules of 16th century verse. I do believe Drury's own middle-to-the left Anglicanism affects his understanding of Herbert's poetry and piety. While Drury writes as a churchman, he certainly paints Calvinists with a severe brush, and I suspect he frames Herbert's beliefs in a more 'liberal' fashion than the good poet would like. Drury is writing, however, with Christians to Atheists in mind. It is far and away the best introduction to Herbert that I've found, and anyone interested in lasting poetry or piety would be rewarded by reading it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This book reminded me how cosy I find old-school close reading of poetry. It helps that Drury is probably the ideal Herbert exegete (though I admit to skimming most of the early-modern-english-101 preambles), being of the avuncular species of calm, clear-eyed, erudite Anglican, who knows just how to foster appreciation of the assiduous middling-ness of Herbert's poetry and religion both. Only 3 stars, because I had some beef with: the repetitive structure (this feels quite obviously a This book reminded me how cosy I find old-school close reading of poetry. It helps that Drury is probably the ideal Herbert exegete (though I admit to skimming most of the early-modern-english-101 preambles), being of the avuncular species of calm, clear-eyed, erudite Anglican, who knows just how to foster appreciation of the assiduous middling-ness of Herbert's poetry and religion both. Only 3 stars, because I had some beef with: the repetitive structure (this feels quite obviously a not-fully-worked-up version of JD's forthcoming compleat Herbert at times), digs at Sidney and Donne (unnecessary and often with a tendency to backfire), and the fact that I'm just not a biography fan and would've preferred some readings of the poems without the forced shackling to H's life. Still highly recommended as an intro, and I'm looking forward to JD's notes in that Penguin edition of Herbert.

  17. 4 out of 5

    F

    I started this book, got so far, put it down and it took me a year to get back to it. This was not because I was not enjoying it; I found it fascinating and felt it well worthwhile to take time to read it closely and with attention. The author impressed me with his attention to detail, his clear narration. He had worked out what he wanted to say, and how best to convey his meaning so that the reader could easily follow his argument.I am someone who does not read poetry much, nor often read books I started this book, got so far, put it down and it took me a year to get back to it. This was not because I was not enjoying it; I found it fascinating and felt it well worthwhile to take time to read it closely and with attention. The author impressed me with his attention to detail, his clear narration. He had worked out what he wanted to say, and how best to convey his meaning so that the reader could easily follow his argument.I am someone who does not read poetry much, nor often read books about poetry, but I found this an accessible, enjoyable and memorable book and one I will return to again and again.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mauberley

    This is a fine piece of work on one of one of England's very greatest poets. The analysis of the poetry owes much to the 'New Criticism' and Drury seeks to locate a number of the poems within Herbert's biography. In my view, Drury is better in reading Herbert's poetry than in giving an account of his life yet for it's having reawakened and refreshed my love for the poet, I judge the book to be a tremendous success. I look forward to Drury's edition of Herbert's collected poems.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nigel

    If you like poetry, or aspire to, and if you have the time, this is a book to remember, to inspire and one to go back to.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Liz Wager

    Insightful and delightfully full of Herbert's verse. Highly recommended (just a little repetitive but forgivably so)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Excellent. He weaves the poems into the biography beautifully.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Engle

    A celebration of the poet and priest George Herbert ... seamlessly combines biography, poetry collection, literary analysis, and a study of historical influences ... beautifully done ...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alan Hoyle

    A richly fascinating blend of biography and erudite poetry criticism: hugely impressive.

  24. 4 out of 5

    William

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ian Meads

  26. 4 out of 5

    Charvet

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Barber

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dr_Savage

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  30. 4 out of 5

    Judith Guttman

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