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The nature of spiritual conflict in Herbert's poems

George Herbert, in temperament and style of his writing, ranks among the outstanding group of poets known as "The metaphysicals" and by virtue of his faith in God and religion, he stands as the most distinguished Anglican poet among this group. His poetry is a record of religious experiences a record of strivings, failures and victories in the practice of the Christian life. He gave up life of worldly pleasures and worldly ambition in order to become a country priest and to devote himself to the service to God, both in the capacity as a poet and as a priest in practical life.

Herbert seems to have wished to combine a secular career with a religious life. As with Donne, circumstances compelled him to join the church and after he had become a priest, he was not altogether able to forget his worldly interests. This was the reason for the spiritual conflicts which he experienced and which are vividly depicted in a number of his poems. However, in Herbert's poetry there is no evidence of the deeper scars, the profounder remorse which gives such an anguished quality to the verses of his older friend Donne. Herbert knows the feeling of alienation from God; but he knows also the feeling of reconcilement the joy and peace of religion as in the following lines.

"You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat. So I did sit and eat.( Love)

Herbert finds his theme in his own heart, in his efforts to subdue his high, worldly rebellious spirit to the divine will or to rekindle inner flame when it seems to flicker low. What makes Herbert a great religious and metaphysical poet is this conflict and tension.

Herbert admits that he is a human being and that his senses crave for certain pleasures. But he is in a position to control those cravings and he loves God despite the cravings of his flesh. So, he aspires to climb to God under God's own guidance. The poet's love of God is so strong and so deep that he does not find it difficult to devote himself wholly to the service of God.

" The Collar" contains the same conflict between a secular life and a religious life in an intensely dramatic form. The poet feels a strong urge to rebel against God and to give up this life of servitude in order to enjoy unlimited freedom. But as he raves and becomes wild in his anger against God, He rebukes him gently, saying "child" and the poet is at once humble and replies, "My Lord." Thus the single word 'child' is a tender rebuke for childish rebellion and a reminder of the former relation of "Father" and "son". The poet's reply signifies his complete surrender to God's will.

Thus, there are many poems which contain the spiritual conflicts that had passed between God and the poet's soul before he could subject his will to the will of Jesus Christ, his master, in whose service he had eventually found perfect freedom. So, his poetry does not simply express the conflicts, it is continuously and steadily directed towards resolution and integration. They may justly be described as colloquies of the soul with God, or as self-communings which seek to bring order into that complex personality of his, which he analyses ceaselessly and rigorously.

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