This thesis argues that George Herbert develops in The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (1633) a poetics of integrity, and that his theory of poetry suggests both an ideal poet, as well as an ideal reader, rooted in Herbert’s own Christian identity.
In order to substantiate this proposition, I have at the beginning of my thesis outlined the metaphysical framework for Herbert’s ideal poet found in The Temple, which I interpret in light of Herbert’s professed Christian faith. I propose at the very start that Herbert works to position the poet’s authority over his verse in relation to the authority of the Christian God, through a reading of ‘The Collar’ as a poet’s complaint. The conceptual matrix of authority in which Herbert’s poet is situated, is then considered in light of Herbert’s views on originality and inspiration. On the basis of the above, and springing from a reading of ‘The Dedication’ and ‘Employment (I)’, I proceed to argue that Herbert entertains an idea of dual authority, which I believe to be formative of his poetics. The perception that two authors (human and divine) are at work to bring forth the poem, is further illustrated through a reading of ‘The Altar’, in which the poem is perceived first as God’s work in the poet, and next as the poet’s transcribing of that experience – as both act and artefact. Although the division between act and artefact may seem artificial, I aim to describe constituent parts of a whole, and lay a clear premise for the poetics of integrity, where the two must accord. Through an analysis of Herbert’s phrase ‘lines and life’ in context of the preceding chapters I will finally conclude that Herbert advocates integrity as a qualifying feature of his own verse. In conclusion I will also venture to discuss the role of Herbert’s ideal poet and ideal reader in light of his poetics, and as they are presented in The Temple.