Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 1995 Seamus Heaney.All rights reserved.
ISBN: 0-374-24853-2


The Redress of Poetry

Professors of poetry, apologists for it, practitioners of it, fromSir Philip Sidney to Wallace Stevens, all sooner or later aretempted to show how poetry's existence as a form of art relatesto our existence as citizens of society - how it is `of present use'.Behind such defences and justifications, at any number of removes,stands Plato, calling into question whatever special prerogativesor useful influences poetry would claim for itselfwithin the polis. Yet Plato's world of ideal forms also providesthe court of appeal through which poetic imagination seeks toredress whatever is wrong or exacerbating in the prevailing conditions.Moreover, `useful' or `practical' responses to thosesame conditions are derived from imagined standards too:poetic fictions, the dream of alternative worlds, enable governmentsand revolutionaries as well. It's just that governmentsand revolutionaries would compel society to take on the shapeof their imagining, whereas poets are typically more concernedto conjure with their own and their readers' sense of what ispossible or desirable or, indeed, imaginable. The nobility ofpoetry, says Wallace Stevens, `is a violence from within thatprotects us from a violence without'. It is the imagination pressingback against the pressure of reality.

Stevens, as he reaches this conclusion in his essay `The NobleRider and the Sounds of Words', is anxious to insist that hisown words are intended to be more than merely sonorous, andhis anxiety is understandable. It is as if he were imagining andresponding to the outcry of some disaffected heckler in thecrowd of those whom Tony Harrison calls `the rhubarbarians',one crying out against the mystification of art and its appropriationby the grandees of aesthetics. `In our time', the heckler protests,echoing something he has read somewhere, `the destiny ofman presents itself in political terms.' And in his understanding,and in the understanding of most people who protest againstthe ascription to poetry of any metaphysical force, those termsare going to derive from the politics of subversion, of redressal,of affirming that which is denied voice. Our heckler, in otherwords, will want poetry to be more than an imagined responseto conditions in the world; he or she will urgently want to knowwhy it should not be an applied art, harnessed to movementswhich attempt to alleviate those conditions by direct action.

The heckler, therefore, is going to have little sympathy withWallace Stevens when he declares the poet to be a potent figurebecause the poet `creates the world to which we turn incessantlyand without knowing it, and . . . gives life to the supremefictions without which we are unable to conceive of [thatworld]' - meaning that if our given experience is a labyrinth,its impassability can still be countered by the poet's imaginingsome equivalent of the labyrinth and presenting himself and uswith a vivid experience of it. Such an operation does notintervene in the actual but by offering consciousness a chanceto recognize its predicaments, foreknow its capacities andrehearse its comebacks in all kinds of venturesome ways, it doesconstitute a beneficent event, for poet and audience alike. Itoffers a response to reality which has a liberating and verifyingeffect upon the individual spirit, and yet I can see how such afunction would be deemed insufficient by a political activist.For the activist, there is going to be no point in envisaging anorder which is comprehensive of events but not in itself productiveof new events. Engaged parties are not going to be gratefulfor a mere image - no matter how inventive or original - of thefield of force of which they are a part. They will always wantthe redress of poetry to be an exercise of leverage on behalf oftheir point of view; they will require the entire weight of thething to come down on their side of the scales.

So, if you are an English poet at the Front during World WarI, the pressure will be on you to contribute to the war effort,preferably by dehumanizing the face of the enemy. If you are anIrish poet in the wake of the 1916 executions, the pressure willbe to revile the tyranny of the executing power. If you are anAmerican poet at the height of the Vietnam War, the officialexpectation will be for you to wave the flag rhetorically. Inthese cases, to see the German soldier as a friend and secretsharer, to see the British government as a body who might keepfaith, to see the South-East Asian expedition as an imperialbetrayal, to do any of these things is to add a complicationwhere the general desire is for a simplification.

Such countervailing gestures frustrate the common expectationof solidarity, but they do have political force. Their verypower to exacerbate is one guarantee of their effectiveness.They are particular instances of a law which Simone Weil announcedwith typical extremity and succinctness in her bookGravity and Grace. She writes there:

If we know in what way society is unbalanced, we must do what wecan to add weight to the lighter scale ... we must have formed aconception of equilibrium and be ever ready to change sides like justice,`that fugitive from the camp of conquerors'.

Clearly, this corresponds to deep structures of thought and feelingderived from centuries of Christian teaching and fromChrist's paradoxical identification with the plight of the wretched.And in so far as poetry is an extension and refinement ofthe mind's extreme recognitions, and of language's most unexpectedapprehensions, it too manifests the workings of Weil'slaw.

`Obedience to the force of gravity. The greatest sin.' SoSimone Weil also writes in Gravity and Grace. Indeed herwhole book is informed by the idea of counterweighting, ofbalancing out the forces, of redress - tilting the scales of realitytowards some transcendent equilibrium. And in the activity ofpoetry too, there is a tendency to place a counter-reality in thescales - a reality which may be only imagined but which neverthelesshas weight because it is imagined within the gravitationalpull of the actual and can therefore hold its own andbalance out against the historical situation. This redressingeffect of poetry comes from its being a glimpsed alternative, arevelation of potential that is denied or constantly threatenedby circumstances. And sometimes, of course, it happens thatsuch a revelation, once enshrined in the poem, remains as astandard for the poet, so that he or she must then submit to thestrain of bearing witness in his or her own life to the plane ofconsciousness established in the poem.

In this century, especially, from Wilfred Owen to Irina Ratushinskaya,there have been many poets who from principle, insolitude, and without any guarantee of success, were drawnby the logic of their work to disobey the force of gravity. Thesefigures have become the types of an action that gains value inproportion to its immediate practical ineffectiveness. In theircase, the espousal of that which critics used to call `vision' or'moral commitment' grew exorbitant and carried them beyondthe charmed circle of artistic space and further, beyond domesticprivacy, social conformity, and minimal ethical expectation,into the solitary role of the witness. Characteristically, figuresof such spiritual stamina incline to understate the heroic aspectof their achievement and insist upon the strictly artistic disciplineat the heart of their vocation. Yet the fact remains thatfor the writers I have mentioned, and others like them- OsipMandelstam and Czeslaw Milosz, for instance - the redressof poetry comes to represent something like an exercise of thevirtue of hope as it is understood by Vaclav Havel. Indeed,what Havel has to say about hope can also be said aboutpoetry: it is

a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within usor we don't; it is a dimension of the soul, and it's not essentiallydependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate ofthe situation . . . It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of theheart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and isanchored somewhere beyond its horizons. I don't think you can explainit as a mere derivative of something here, of some movement, orof some favourable signs in the world. I feel that its deepest roots are inthe transcendental, just as the roots of human responsibility are . . . Itis not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certaintythat something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Of course, when a contemporary lifts a pen or gazes intothe dead-pan cloudiness of a word processor, considerationslike these are well in the background. When Douglas Dunnsits down at his desk with its view above the Tay Estuary orAnne Stevenson sees one of her chosen landscapes flash uponher inward eye, neither is immediately haunted by the bigquestions of poetics. All these accumulated pressures andissues are felt as an abiding anxiety but they do not enter asguiding factors within the writing process itself. The movementis from delight to wisdom and not vice versa. The felicityof a cadence, the chain reaction of a rhyme, the pleasuringof an etymology, such things can proceed happily and as itwere autistically, in an area of mental operations cordonedoff by and from the critical sense. Indeed, if one recallsW. H. Auden's famous trinity of poetic faculties - making,judging, and knowing - the making faculty seems in this lightto have a kind of free pass that enables it to range beyondthe jurisdiction of the other two.

It is only right that this should be the case. Poetry cannotafford to lose its fundamentally self-delighting inventiveness, itsjoy in being a process of language as well as a representation ofthings in the world. To put it in W. B. Yeats's terms, the willmust not usurp the work of the imagination. And while thismay seem something of a truism, it is nevertheless worth repeatingin a late-twentieth-century context of politically approvedthemes, post-colonial backlash and `silence-breaking' writing ofall kinds. In these circumstances, poetry is understandablypressed to give voice to much that has hitherto been deniedexpression in the ethnic, social, sexual and political life. Whichis to say that its power as a mode of redress in the first sense -as agent for proclaiming and correcting injustices - is beingappealed to constantly. But in discharging this function, poetsare in danger of slighting another imperative, namely, to redresspoetry as poetry, to set it up as its own category, an eminenceestablished and a pressure exercised by distinctly linguisticmeans.

Not that it is not possible to have a poetry which consciouslyseeks to promote cultural and political change and yet can stillmanage to operate with the fullest artistic integrity. The historyof Irish poetry over the last 150 years is in itself sufficient demonstrationthat a motive for poetry can be grounded to a greateror lesser degree in programmes with a national purpose. Obviously,patriotic or propagandist intent is far from being a guaranteeof poetic success, but in emergent cultures the struggle of anindividual consciousness towards affirmation and distinctnessmay be analogous, if not coterminous, with a collective strainingtowards self-definition; there is a mutual susceptibility betweenthe formation of a new tradition and the self-fashioningof individual talent. Yeats, for example, began with a desire `towrite short lyrics or poetic drama where every speech would beshort and concentrated', but, typically, he endowed this personalstylistic ambition with national significance by relating itto `an Irish preference for a swift current' and contrasting itwith `the English mind ... meditative, rich, deliberate', which`may remember the Thames valley'.

At such moments of redefinition, however, there are complicatingfactors at work. What is involved, after all, is the replacementof ideas of literary excellence derived from modes ofexpression originally taken to be canonical and unquestionable.Writers have to start out as readers, and before they put pen topaper, even the most disaffected of them will have internalizedthe norms and forms of the tradition from which they wish tosecede. Whether they are feminists rebelling against the patriarchyof language or nativists in full cry with the local accents oftheir vernacular, whether they write Anglo-Irish or Afro-Englishor Lallans, writers of what has been called `nation language'will have been wrong-footed by the fact that their own literaryformation was based upon models of excellence taken from theEnglish language and its literature. They will have been predisposedto accommodate themselves to the consciousness whichsubjugated them. Naturally, black poets from Trinidad or Lagosand working-class writers from Newcastle or Glasgow will befound arguing that their education in Shakespeare or Keats waslittle more than an exercise in alienating them from their authenticexperience, devalorizing their vernacular and destabilizingtheir instinctual at-homeness in their own non-textual worlds:but the truth of that argument should not obliterate othertruths about language and self-valorization which I shall cometo presently.

In any movement towards liberation, it will be necessary todeny the normative authority of the dominant language orliterary tradition. At a special moment in the Irish LiteraryRevival, this was precisely the course adopted by ThomasMacDonagh, Professor of English at the Royal University inDublin, whose book on Literature in Ireland was publishedin 1916, the very year he was executed as one of the leadersof the Easter Rising. With more seismic consequences, it wasalso the course adopted by James Joyce. But MacDonagh knewthe intricacies and delicacies of the English lyric inheritancewhich he was calling into question, to the extent of havingwritten a book on the metrics of Thomas Campion. And Joyce,for all his hauteur about the British Empire and the Englishnovel, was helpless to resist the appeal of, for example, thesongs and airs of the Elizabethans. Neither MacDonagh norJoyce considered it necessary to proscribe within his reader'smemory the riches of the Anglophone culture whose authorityeach was, in his own way, compelled to challenge. Neitherdenied his susceptibility to the totally persuasive word in orderto prove the purity of his resistance to an imperial hegemony.Which is why both these figures are instructive when we cometo consider the scope and function of poetry in the world. Theyremind us that its integrity is not to be impugned just because atany given moment it happens to be a refraction of some discreditedcultural or political system.

Poetry, let us say, whether it belongs to an old politicaldispensation or aspires to express a new one, has to be a workingmodel of inclusive consciousness. It should not simplify. Itsprojections and inventions should be a match for the complexreality which surrounds it and out of which it is generated. TheDivine Comedy is a great example of this kind of total adequacy,but a haiku may also constitute a satisfactory comebackby the mind to the facts of the matter. As long as the coordinatesof the imagined thing correspond to those of the worldthat we live in and endure, poetry is fulfilling its counterweightingfunction. It becomes another truth to which we can have recourse,before which we can know ourselves in a more fully empoweredway. In fact, to read poetry of this totally adequate kind is to experiencesomething bracing and memorable, something capableof increasing in value over the whole course of a lifetime.

There is nothing exaggerated about such a claim. Jorge LuisBorges, for example, makes a similar point about what happensbetween the poem and the reader:

The taste of the apple (states Berkeley) lies in the contact of the fruitwith the palate, not in the fruit itself; in a similar way (I would say)poetry lies in the meeting of poem and reader, not in the lines ofsymbols printed on pages of a book. What is essential is . . . the thrill,the almost physical emotion that comes with each reading.

Borges goes on to be more precise about the nature of that thrillor `physical emotion' and suggests that it fulfils the continualneed we experience to `recover a past or prefigure a future' - aformulation, incidentally, which has a suggestive truth at thecommunal as well as at the personal level.

The issue is clarified further if we go back to Borges's firstbook of poems, and his note of introduction:

If in the following pages there is some successful verse or other, maythe reader forgive me the audacity of having written it before him. Weare all one; our inconsequential minds are much alike, and circumstancesso influence us that it is something of an accident that you arethe reader and I the writer - the unsure, ardent writer - of my verses.

Disingenuous as this may be, it nevertheless touches on somethingso common that it is in danger of being ignored. Borges istalking about the fluid, exhilarating moment which lies at theheart of any memorable reading, the undisappointed joy of findingthat everything holds up and answers the desire that it awakens.At such moments, the delight of having all one's facultiessimultaneously provoked and gratified is like gaining an upperhand over all that is contingent and (as Borges says)`inconsequential'. There is a sensation both of arrival and ofprospect, so that one does indeed seem to `recover a past' and`prefigure a future', and thereby to complete the circle of one'sbeing. When this happens, we have a distinct sensation that (toborrow a phrase from George Seferis's notebooks) poetry is`strong enough to help'; it is then that its redress grows palpable.

I would like to spend the rest of the available time in celebratingone such undisappointing poet. For three centuries andmore, George Herbert exemplified the body heat of a healthyAnglican life. John Donne might be permitted his fever andchills, Henry Vaughan indulged for his Welsh mysticism, andRichard Crashaw condoned in spite of a torrid Catholicism; butGeorge Herbert's daylight sanity and vigour, his via media betweenpreciousness and vulgarity, promoted the ideal mentaland emotional climate.

This may be a misrepresentation of the Herbert known toscholars and specialized readers, the poet whose `tickle pointsof wit' were in fact subtle addresses to Calvinist divergences ofdoctrine within the Church of England, but I do not think itmisrepresents the general impression of him which a sympatheticliterate audience carries around. Herbert's work, moreover -so essential to the tradition of English lyric, so domiciledwithin a native culture and voice, so conscripted as a manifestationof the desirable English temperament - was long understoodto embody the civilities and beliefs which England,through the operations of its colonial power, sought to imposeupon other peoples. But in the end, my point has to be this:even the most imposed-upon colonial will discern in the clearelement of Herbert's poetry a true paradigm of the shape ofthings, psychologically, politically, metaphorically and, if onewants to proceed that far, metaphysically. Even here, betweenmarginalized reader and privileged poet, the Borgesian circularityapplies. Herbert's work, in other words, is an example ofthat fully realized poetry I have attempted to define, a poetrywhere the co-ordinates of the imagined thing correspond to andallow us to contemplate the complex burden of our own experience.

His poems are wise and witty transformations of the ups anddowns of his pulley-like sympathies. His w:t, indeed, is as integralto his world view as his religious faith. All the antitheseswhich exercised him and upon which he exercised his mind -creator/creature, heaven/earth, soul/body, eternity/time, life/death, Christ/man, grace/guilt, virtue/sin, divine love/courtlylove - all these antitheses were commonly available through thecosmology and theology of the Church of England in the earlyseventeenth century, and the drama of Herbert's poems isplayed out wholly in terms of the Christian story and liturgy.But such antithetical pairings are experienced more immediatelyas emotional dilemmas than as doctrinal cruces: they are functionsof the poet's mind as it moves across the frontier of writing,out of homiletics and apologetics into poetry, upon theimpulses and reflexes of awakened language. At an elementarylevel, some grasp of the poems' basic conceptual and theologicalmachinery is, of course, necessary, but what Borges calls`the almost physical emotion that comes with each reading' derivesfrom the superfluity of the poems' language-life and theirstructural animation. What might be called the DNA pattern ofHerbert's imagination is fundamentally a matter of up-down,criss-cross motion, reversals effected with such symmetry thatthey are experienced as culminations, tensions so thoroughlyexercised and traced home that they return the system to relaxation,dialogues so sinuous that they end with speakers ready tostart again, sometimes from diametrically opposed premises.The wonder is that poems which seem so perfectly set tobecome perpetual-motion machines can find ways of closureand escape from their own unfaltering kinesis.

It is tempting to use the word `balance' here, but to use it toosoon would preclude sufficient acknowledgement of the volatileaspect of the Herbertian scales, the fluidity of all about thefulcrum, and the sensitivity of the arms to leverage by wit orwisdom equally. In fact, wit/wisdom may turn out to be thecentral antithesis, because it is in the delights of Herbert's wittymaking that the gravity of his judging and knowing works itselfin - and then works itself out. At its best, this play of mind isheuristic. It may have illustrative force in relation to the truthsof religion, but it is also doing the work of art: personal force isbeing moved through an aesthetic distance, and in a spacewhere anything can happen the longed-for may occur by wayof the unforeseen, or may be balked by the limitations of theusual.

In Herbert's `The Pulley', for example, a pun on the word`rest' is executed in slow motion. As in the operation of apulley, one of the word's semantic loads - `rest' in the senseof repose - is gradually let down, but as it reaches the limitof its descent into the reader's understanding, another meaning`rest' in the sense of `remainder' or `left-over' - beginsto rise. At the end, equilibrium has been restored to thesystem, both by the argument and by the rhythm and rhyme,as `rest' and `breast' come together in a gratifying closure.But as with any pulley system, the moment of equilibrium istentative and capable of a renewed dynamism. The poem canbe read as a mimetic rendering of any pulley-like exchange offorces, but equally it presents itself as an allegory of the relationshipbetween humanity and the Godhead, a humanitywhose hearts, in St Augustine's phrase, `are restless till theyrest in Thee'.

The Pulley

When God at first made man, Having a glasse of blessings standing by; Let us (said he) poure on him all we can: Let the worlds riches, which dispersed lie, Contract into a span.

So strength first made a way; Then beauty flow'd, then wisdome, honour, pleasure: When almost all was out, God made a stay, Perceiving that alone of all his treasure Rest in the bottome lay.

For if I should (said he) Bestow this jewell also on my creature, He would adore my gifts in stead of me, And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature. So both should losers be.

Yet let him keep the rest, But keep them with repining restlessnesse: Let him be rich and wearie, that at least, If goodnesse lead him not, yet wearinesse May tosse him to my breast.

Perhaps this poem does not immediately strike us as what hasbeen called `big-league poetry'. Its pitch is low, it proceedsabout its business without histrionics, and the sureness of itsprogress invests it with an underplayed self-containment. It is,in fact, a little more sober than many of Herbert's poems. Nowheredoes it evince the catch in the breath that occurs withhappy frequency elsewhere in his work. It does not have thosesurprising local effects of lyric joy which remind us how availablethis poet once felt himself to be to a more erotic genre, howcapable he would have been of a delicious squandering had henot made sacred poetry his whole vocation. But if `The Pulley'is subdued to its demure purpose, it still generates that compensatorypressure which all realized works exert against the surroundinginconsequentiality. In its unforced way, it does containwithin itself the co-ordinates and contradictions of experience,and would be as comprehensible within the cosmology of Yinand Yang as it is amenable to the dialectic of thesis, antithesis,and synthesis.

Herbert's most celebrated poem, `The Collar', illustratesmuch more dramatically than `The Pulley' all that I have beenclaiming for him. The dance of lexical possibilities in the title;the way in which the poem changes partners with the meaningsof `collar', as an article of clerical clothing and a fit of anger; thereversal of emotional states from affront to assuagement; thetechnical relish of postponing stanzaic composure until the lastfour lines - it is all as Seferis wants poetry to be, `strongenough', and can be hung out on the imaginative arm of thebalance to take the strain of our knowledge of things as theyare:

Away; Take Heed:

I will abroad. Call in thy deaths head there: tie up thy fears.

He that forbears To suit and serve his need,

Deserves his load. But as I rav'd and grew more fierce and wilde

At every word, Methoughts I heard one calling, Childe:

And I reply'd, My Lord.

This poem has a wonderful logical and psychologicalself-sufficiency. It is so formally replete that it tempts me toquote from Wallace Stevens again: `a poet's words are of thingsthat do not exist without the words.' And yet `The Collar' hasan applicability beyond its own vivid occasion, and could beread at certain historical moments as a way of comprehendingironies and reversals more extensive than the personal crisiswhich it records. Which is to say that as a form of art it doesrelate very definitely to our existence as citizens of society.When the terrorists sit down at the negotiating-table, when thenewly independent state enters history still being administeredby the old colonial civil service, then the reversal which thepoem traces is merely being projected upon a more extensiveand populous screen.

This is why references to Herbert's simplicity can often comeacross as too simple themselves. His poems, of course, exhibitan attractive forthrightness; his articulation has an exhilaratingclarity about it and gives the reader the airy sensation of invigilatingfrom a superior plane. But neither the lucidity of presentationnor the even tenor of voice should diminish our respect forthe tried quality of Herbert's intelligence. Even that immaculateballet of courtesy and equilibrium in `Love III' represents agrounded strength as well as a perfect tact. This country parsonmay not have gone to the Gulag for his faith, but he possesses asort of Russian down-to-earthness, a readiness that would notbe found wanting:

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

Guiltie of dust and sinne. But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in, Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning, If I lack'd anything.

A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:

Love said, You shall be he. I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,

I cannot look on thee. Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes but I? Truth Lord, but I have marr'd them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve. And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?

My deare, then I will serve. You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:

So I did sit and eat.

The OED has four entries for `redress' as a noun, and I beganby calling upon the first sense which it provides: `Reparation of,satisfaction or compensation for, a wrong sustained or the lossresulting from this.' For `redress' as a verb the dictionary givesfifteen separate entries, all of them subdivided two or threetimes, and almost all of the usages noted as obsolete. I have alsotaken account of the first of these obsolete meanings, which isgiven as, `To set (a person or a thing) upright again; to raiseagain to an erect position. Also fig. to set up again, restore,re-establish.'

But in following these rather sober extensions of the word, inconsidering poetry's possible service to programmes of culturaland political realignment, or in reaffirming poetry as an upright,resistant, and self-bracing entity within the general fluxand flex of language, I don't want to give the impression that itsforce must always be exercised in earnest, morally premeditatedways. On the contrary, I want to profess the surprise of poetryas well as its reliability; I want to celebrate its given, unforeseeablethereness, the way it enters our field of vision and animatesour physical and intelligent being in much the same way asthose bird-shapes stencilled on the transparent surfaces of glasswalls or windows must suddenly enter the vision and changethe direction of the real birds' flight. In a flash the shapesregister and transmit their unmistakable presence, so the birdsveer off instinctively. An image of the living creatures hasinduced a totally salubrious swerve in the creatures themselves.And this natural, heady diversion is also something induced bypoetry and reminds me of a further (obsolete) meaning of`redress', with which I would conclude, a meaning which comesin entry four of the verb, subsection (b): `Hunting. To bringback (the hounds or deer) to the proper course.' In this `redress'there is no hint of ethical obligation; it is more a matter offinding a course for the breakaway of innate capacity, a coursewhere something unhindered, yet directed, can sweep aheadinto its full potential.

Herbert, for all his inclination to hold to the via media - atthe line between exhaustion and unappeasability - provides usconstantly with those unforeseen images and stanzas that sendour reader's mind sweeping and veering away in delightedreflex:

Lovely enchanting language, sugar-cane, Hony of roses, whither wilt thou flie?

Such an apostrophe, from his poem `The Forerunners', is surelyjust the kind of apostrophe we would like poetry to call fromus. That impulsive straining towards felicity - which we get inthe `window-songs' line of `Dullness', for example - is a sinequa non of lyric power:

Where are my lines then? my approaches? views? Where are my window-songs? Lovers are still pretending, and ev'n wrongs Sharpen their Muse.

For all his sacerdotal fragrance, Herbert never fully quelledthis more profane tendresse in himself and his idiom, and thetraces of that older, amorous, dandyish self are among the bestrewards of his work. The confirmations bestowed by proportionand pace and measure are undeniably essential to hisachievement, and there is a fundamental strength about the wayhis winding forms and woven metaphors match the toils ofconsciousness; but it is when the spirit is called extravagantlybeyond the course that the usual life plots for it, when outcry orrhapsody is wrung from it as it flies in upon some unexpectedimage of its own solitude and distinctness, it is then that Herbert'swork exemplifies the redress of poetry at its mostexquisite.