From First Things-
The Anglican pastor and poet George Herbert died of tuberculosis on March 1, 1633, just one month shy of his fortieth birthday. Like his famous contemporary and friend John Donne and his nineteenth-century American echo Emily Dickinson, Herbert did not publish his poems during his lifetime. From his deathbed he entrusted them to his friend Nicholas Ferrar, granting him permission to either destroy or preserve them. The poems, he said, contained “a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul.” Later that year they were published in Cambridge as The Temple, and they have never been out of print since then.
Izaak Walton’s hagiographical account of Herbert’s life, published in 1670, helped to shape the iconic image of him as “the poet of a placid and comfortable easy piety” (T. S. Eliot)—not to say the quintessential Anglican perched midway between the rigors of Geneva and the extravagance of Rome. This image of Herbert and his place in the history of English spirituality prevailed in a 1907 collection of his poems which the editor introduced in this way:
Speaking to the Soul: Alleluia! Alleluia!
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