The urge to return to Uncle George was irresistible. He is so lucid but honest; so lightly humourous, but theologically weighty. I actually filmed this a fortnight ago, but have had various things to juggle so not got round to it until today.

Incidentally, if you’ve not yet done so, please read John Drury’s biography, Music at Midnight. It has to be one of my favourite books of all time. He weaves his narrative of Herbert’s life with deft and pithy interpretations of the poems at the probable moments of inspiration. (Incidentally, another book that employs this model well, inspired no doubt by Drury’s example, is Malcolm Guite’s wonderful biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mariner.)

Here are a handful of excerpts:

Poetry as consolation ‘of any dejected poor soul’ was Herbert’s motive for allowing what he had written for so long in the privacy of manuscript to be published after his death.

The first of these [his 'Employment' poems] is as so often, an argument with the God who governs human lives, yet refuses or fails to impart to them the grace and happiness which is his to give. It would be to God’s advantage as well as Herbert’s if the divine disposer would arrange for the poet to have a satisfyingly productive life, such as he believed to prevail throughout the natural world, before he died and came upon God’s ‘great doom’ or judgment.

On this crucial question, the question of whom Herbert was addressing all the time, Simone Weil’s ‘presence more personal, more certain, more real than that of a human being,’ is closer to the poet than Helen Vendler. But Vendler [in her 1975 survey of Herbert's poetry] is very close indeed to Herbert’s heart, as she shows in the words about the end of Love (III), which close her book: ‘a welcome, a smile, a colloquy, a taking by the hand, and a seat at the table stand for all the heart can wish.’

Following up:

Memorial window to Nicholas Ferrar (l) and George Herbert (Bemerton Church, taken by Kyle Dickson)
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