Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Wntr 1995 v35 n1 p89(15)

The audience shift in George Herbert's poetry. Johnson, Bruce A..

Abstract: George Herbert's poetry employed strategies of audience shifting, addressing a tripartite audience comprised of others, self and God. The audience shift in Herbert's poetry was a conscious rhetorical maneuver to acknowledge the multiple audience, demonstrate the difficulty of addressing such an audience and exploit the tension created by that difficulty to instruct and edify his readers.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1995 Rice University

The formal theories of rhetoric known by or available to George Herbert do not answer a question that is asked, implicitly, over and over again in his poetry: How do I keep in view the three audiences who have an interest in this poetry - the general human audience, which needs the edification and instruction the work offers; my self as poet, who "uses" this work as a way to be with God (as in "The Quidditie," lines 11-12); and God, the very interested audience, and the inspiration of all prayer, meditation, and spiritual exhortation?(1) Contemporary rhetorics provided rationales and methods for dealing with the above audiences separately,(2) but none discussed the poetics of playing to all three audiences simultaneously. Herbert's poetry habitually signals its awareness that a tripartite audience - others, self, and God - is listening, even when a poem is directed to only one part of it.

Much of Herbert's poetry demonstrates the difficulty of accommodating the needs of a multiple audience by continually shifting its view, sometimes seemingly unconsciously, sometimes nervously, from one part of the threefold audience to another. Many poems directed ostensibly only to the self(3) or only to God, for instance, also have various ways of remembering the human audience. Other poems often appear to forget or neglect and then to remember suddenly one or another part of the multiple audience. I will argue that shifting among the threefold audience, sometimes seemingly unconsciously, is always a conscious rhetorical maneuver. Herbert acknowledges his multiple audience, demonstrates the difficulty in taking the appropriate stance toward all three at once, and then uses the tension born of this difficulty to be more effective in an important part of his poetic vocation - instructing and edifying his readers. Herbert's paradigm for this stance derives especially from the priest in the pulpit, both preaching and in prayer to God while his congregation listens, prays, observes, and learns the character of a holy life. The priest in the pulpit is serving not only the congregation but also God and himself as he discharges his vocation. As we watch the speakers of the various poems twist themselves in different directions simultaneously, we will see that it is not only Herbert's human audience that is served by the "I" of the poems; God is sought and praised, as He requires, and the speaker, whom we often feel to be Herbert speaking in his own voice, repents and brings himself to a place where he may better understand how to continue his Christian pilgrimage.(4) The much-remarked drama of Herbert's poetry derives in great part from Herbert's open demonstrations of the dangers and difficulties that attend playing to multiple audiences simultaneously.

Before discussing poems in which Herbert's rhetorical maneuver of the audience shift succeeds in accommodating all three parts of his audience, we should look at a poem that witnesses to the fact that balancing the different needs of Herbert's audiences is difficult and sometimes results in mishandling, overaccommodation, or worry about one or more of the three audiences attending to his work. I find "The Windows" thrown slightly out of balance by a concluding stanza directed to a segment of the tripartite audience that the poet worries needs special attention.

"The Windows" (pp. 67-8) is ostensibly addressed to God ("Lord, how can man preach thy eternall word?" [line 1]), but the question is rhetorical; the rest of the poem is an exposition of just how man can preach the eternal word. The poem is a verbal "emblem" of the role of the priest, intended for the instruction of the speaker's general human audience. The poem is also directed at the poet himself, who is a priest, as a reminder of the proper identity of the priest and as a comfortable remembrance that his exalted role is legitimate and need not be a source of self-aggrandizement or presumption. All "holy Preachers" are part of the human audience of this poem. The first two stanzas complete the conceit and instruct that audience well. Herbert's mistake, I believe, is that he feels that the emblem he has drawn is too abstract for his congregation of readers; the last stanza is an explanation of the emblem. Of course there is nothing wrong with a philosophical reflection on an image that has just been presented. Often this type of poetic elaboration serves to make the image even more brilliant in the reader's mind. But this is not the effect of the last stanza; here it is irritating to be offered again what the poem has already provided. The poem completes its conceit at the end of stanza two:

Lord, how can man preach thy eternall word? He is a brittle crazie glasse: Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford This glorious and transcendent place, To be a window, through thy grace.

But when thou dost anneal in glasse thy storie, Making thy life to shine within The holy Preachers; then the light and glorie More rev'rend grows, & more doth win: Which else shows watrish, bleak, & thin.

This satisfying conclusion and complete explanation of the conceit is diminished, illustrating the difficulty of playing to the multiple audience, as the speaker goes on to the colorless commentary of the final stanza:

Doctrine and life, colours and light, in one When they combine and mingle, bring A strong regard and aw: but speech alone Doth vanish like a flaring thing And in the eare, not conscience ring.(5)

But Herbert does not often fail in his poetic balancing act. We turn now to poems that successfully accommodate the tripartite audience; each of these poems makes the shifting of its gaze between the three parts of the audience central to its dramatic situation. The audience shift in Herbert's poetry is of two types. The first I will call the "oratorical" shift; in poems of this type, we understand that all three audiences are recognized and that the speaker is deliberately turning his attention to one part of the audience or another, just as an orator makes the gesture of bodily turning toward a particular part of the audience in addressing it: "And, Mr. President, I'm sure you have found that . . ." In making this gesture the orator does not slight the other groups within her or his audience; in fact, and this is the case in many Herbert poems, the other parts of the audience are brought to special attention when one other part of the audience is singled out. When the orator says, "And, Mr. President . . ." the rest of the audience does not lose interest; on the contrary, the audience is more fully alert than ever. Herbert urges that just this strategy be used by the country parson. As a part of "procur[ing] attention by all possible art," the preacher will find rhetorically effective

turning often, and making many Apostrophes to God, as, Oh Lord blesse my people, and teach them this point; or, Oh my Master, on whose errand I come, let me hold my peace, and doe thou speak thy selfe; for thou art Love, and when thou teachest, all are Scholers. Some such irradiations scatteringly in the Sermon, carry great holiness in them.

Herbert goes on to plead that this rhetorical maneuver is not of his own devising, but is a scriptural approach used by the prophets (pp. 232, 233-4).

Herbert finds it necessary to claim scriptural support for his pulpit rhetoric; he was a professional rhetorician for most of his career, and he has found a way in his own mind to baptize the classical rhetoric that was his business. Herbert's first employment was as praelector in rhetoric at Cambridge; in this position he lectured four or five mornings a week, using as examples of excellent rhetoric the works of, for example, Cicero, Quintillian, and (shrewdly, shamelessly?) James I. Shortly after this work Herbert campaigned for and got the position of public orator of the University. For seven years he pleased and impressed audiences of king, prince, and ambassadors while representing Cambridge and defending the university's interests. There could be no better education in accommodating the needs of divergent audiences within the course of a single speech, and we are especially reminded of Herbert's background as a professional rhetorician when we read a poem in which the speaker alternates his view between the three-fold audience of God, extended congregation of readers, and self. In Herbert's most successful poems, the speakers create and manipulate a dramatic situation that involves recognition of each of the three audiences. The remarkable function of "The Invitation" (pp. 179-80), for instance, is to name and address each of the three audiences individually only to blur the lines between them at the last, creating a memorable picture of the speaker's view of his duty as poet and priest and simple communicant.

The situation of the poem is that of a priest calling parishioners, especially obvious sinners, to the sacrament of the last supper. No poem could be more overtly addressed to a congregation of readers; of the poem's six stanzas, the first five begin, "Come ye hither All." This "All" is then defined: "All whose taste/Is your waste," "whom wine/Doth define," "whom pain/Doth arraigne," "whom joy/Doth destroy," "whose love/Is your dove" (lines 1-2, 7-8, 13-4, 19-20, 25-6). And a prescription, the Eucharist, is offered to cure each ill. In the case of the glutton, the Eucharist is a true feast:

Come ye hither All, whose taste Is your waste; Save your cost, and mend your fare. God is here prepar'd and drest, And the feast, God, in whom all dainties are.

(stanza 1)

Similarly, drunkards are invited to drink new wine (stanza 2). Then, those destroying themselves in their pursuit of earthly joys are offered an overwhelming

joy that drowneth quite Your delight, As a floud the lower grounds.

(lines 22-4)

Finally, those pursuing mortal love are offered immortal love as found in the sacrament:

Come ye hither All, whose love Is your dove, And exalts you to the skie: Here is love, which having breath Ev'n in death, After death can never die.

(stanza 5)

The audience shift occurs in the last stanza, bringing both the other audiences, God and the speaker's self, into full view. Having called every kind of human to communion, the speaker now turns frankly to look above to God and speak directly to Him about what he, the speaker, has just done. The speaker then invites God also to be present at the sacramental reenactment of the last supper:

Lord I have invited all, And I shall Still invite, still call to thee: For it seems but just and right In my sight, Where is All, there All should be.

(stanza 6)

The poem names three audiences who need this invitation: the extended congregation of readers, the poet/priest who discharges his duty to God in calling the human audience to communion, and God, as the speaker finally bows in a petitionary prayer for Him to commune with humans, himself included. After naming and distinguishing the roles to be played by the poem's tripartite audience, the final stanza punningly erases the boundaries between these audiences.

"All," capitalized in each instance in the poem, even when referring only to the sinful human audience, refers in the poem's last stanza to all three audiences simultaneously. "Where is All, there All should be" is nonsense unless we understand that one "All" is the group of communicants who have been called together and that the other "All" is God, who has been invited to join them. Here we have a picture of the divine in communion with the human through the Eucharist, but we also are left with the arresting image of wretched sinners being identified with the "All," which is, finally, God. This poetic effect is created through the poem's deliberate naming, identifying, and exploring the roles of each of the three parts of the poem's audience.

The oratorical audience shift of "The Invitation" is the deliberate and sure turning of a skilled orator from one part of his audience to another. But in the second type of audience shift which Herbert employs - I will call it the "sudden" shift - the problem of playing to three audiences simultaneously is made to seem too difficult. We read poems where the initial audience seems to have been forgotten, but suddenly becomes again the object of the direct address of the poem. Other times, a poem seems to be addressed to one audience specifically, to the neglect of the other two, when, abruptly, the speaker seems to remember himself and surprises the other audiences by speaking directly to them. And sometimes a confident speaker makes bows to God and then to his human audience as he proceeds in a windy and confident address to God, only to be interrupted by truth revealed or remembered, which turns the poem's attention to the speaker himself. And if the speaker cannot recover his composure or assume a correct posture before God in the face of this truth, the lights go out and the drama is over - or, rather, the drama of the poem is driven to an unexpected height. Just as with the oratorical shift, the sudden audience shift is a conscious strategy in Herbert's struggle to hold the attention of his congregation of readers and to edify them, while at the same time taking a stance that demonstrates his concern that he properly perform a central duty of his vocation as divine poet, to praise God.

As the preacher in the pulpit serves as an instructive paradigm for the stance of a Herbert speaker who engineers the oratorical audience shift, so the picture of the priest at public prayer in front of the congregation gives us a way of understanding Herbert's rhetorical tactic of the sudden audience shift. Some readers follow the subtitle of The Temple (1633, probably not appended by Ferrar, and almost certainly not Herbert's words)(6) in hearing Herbert's poems as "private ejaculations." Philip C. McGuire and Cynthia Elaine Garrett have explored, in separate studies, seventeenth-century prescriptions for and practices of private prayer. They find in Herbert's poetry the substance and the rhetorical stance urged by manuals of private prayer. McGuire finds that "The Altar," for instance, is essentially a private prayer put in the form of a poem by Herbert to heighten "his praise and the persuasiveness of his petitions."(7) But this runs directly counter to Herbert's actual practice, which was very often to make his public gestures in the form of the most private conversations between the self and God, or the self and the religious conscience.

Public prayer was, of course, a central task of Herbert's priestly vocation. His ideal priest is to enter into public prayer as a performance that illustrates how the congregation should pray, since "no Sermon moves them so much to a reverence, which they forget againe, when they come to pray, as a devout behaviour in the very act of praying."(8) Accordingly, "The Countrey Parson, when he is to read divine services, composeth himselfe to all possible reverence; lifting up his heart and hands, and eyes, and using all other gestures which may expresse a hearty, and unfeyned devotion" (p. 231). The effectiveness of this performance depends on how far the priest can enter into personal communion with God in this public setting: "This he doth, first, as being truly touched and amazed with the Majesty of God, before whom he then presents himself . . . as this is the true reason of his inward feare, so he is content to expresse this outwardly to the utmost of his power; that being first affected himself, hee may affect also his people" (p. 231).

The congregation's impression of viewing the priest wholly immersed in a private moment - a personal meditation on God's majesty - can only be increased when the prayer is not a set prayer but is rather a prayer of the priest's own composition. In addition to reciting and leading the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer, a priest could also pray in front of the congregation in his own words and still be in conformity with church regulations.(9) So Herbert, in a prayer that he identifies as "The Authour's Prayer before Sermon," prays in such a way that the members of the congregation must imagine that they are overhearing an anguished plea to God from Herbert personally. Although early in the prayer Herbert includes the congregation by using a plural first person - "we are darknesse," "then did'st thou place us in Paradise," "O brand it in our foreheads for ever" (p. 288) - Herbert later seems to have forgotten that a congregation is listening in as he addresses God personally and refers to the congregation in the third person: "this word of thy rich peace, and reconciliation, thou hast committed, not to Thunder, or Angels, but to silly and sinfull men: even to me, pardoning my sins, and bidding me go feed the people of thy love . . . Lord Jesu! teach thou me, that I may teach them" (p. 289).

Herbert's seemingly private prayers are very effective public ejaculations - effective for Herbert's vocation as a divine poet commissioned to speak to a human audience. The blurred line between private and public gestures is illustrated in Walton's story about Herbert's induction into the Bemerton pastorate:

When at his Induction he was shut into Bemerton Church, being left there alone to Toll the Bell, as the Law requires him, he staid so much longer than an ordinary time, before he return'd to his Friends that staid expecting him at the Church-door; that his Friend, Mr. Woodnot, looked in at the Church-window, and saw him lie prostrate on the ground before the Altar: at which time and place (as he after told Mr. Woodnot) he set some Rules to himself, for the future manage of his life; and then and there made a vow, to keep them.(10)

If we see the communications of The Temple as self-expressive and generally private, we are in the position of Mr. Woodnot peeking in the window of the church, finding Herbert in deep communion with God alone. This view is too simple; we need to consider that Herbert's gesture of private prostration before God made a life-long impression on Mr. Woodnot - and on generations of Walton's readers. Perhaps Herbert was aware of his friends "that staid expecting him at the Church-door." Herbert stayed "so much longer" than usual, knowing that because the doors were locked, someone would come around to the windows to see what the matter was. Woodnot peeked through the window and was presented with the tableau of Herbert prostrate before the altar. Woodnot was not only impressed with Herbert's piety, but also must have felt a strong conviction that the sort of relationship with God demonstrated by Herbert was something to which he, Woodnot, might or must aspire. Herbert later underlined the message of the icon he had created for Woodnot by telling Woodnot what had passed between God and himself at that moment and what Herbert meant to do because of that moment of communion with the divine.

Walton's perhaps apocryphal story (an instructional fiction of Walton's to exhort and edify his own audience?) becomes a paradigm of Herbert's relation to his audiences if we acknowledge that Herbert's gesture of prostration before God was no less sincere because a human audience was looking in. Here we have the situation of Herbert and his audiences. Herbert is acting, has donned a persona. He is making a direct gesture to God; he has placed himself in the correct posture before God; and he has instructed his general human audience with extraordinary force - much of the force consisting in the fact that the members of that audience feel they are witnessing the most private moments between God and the individual. Douglas Bush describes just the effect that I believe Herbert aimed at in his public/private poetry: "With all his sophisticated art, [Herbert] seems unaware of an audience, so that we rather overhear him than read him."(11) Herbert's often seeming unawareness of an audience makes him capable of many surprise attacks on it.

If Herbert did indeed plan the tableau that Woodnot saw through the church window, if we readers see similar tableaux as we find Herbert's personae in private communication with God, Herbert has achieved the effect that he most positively recommends to all clergymen:

But above all, I will be sure to live well, because the vertuous life of a Clergy-man, is the most powerful eloquence to perswade all that see it, to reverence and love, and at least to desire to live like him. And this I will do, because I know we live in an Age that hath more need of good examples, than precepts. And I beseech that God, who hath honour'd me so much as to call me to serve at his Altar: that, as by his special grace he hath put in my heart these good desires, and resolutions: So, he will by his assisting grace enable me to bring the same to good effect; and, that my humble and charitable life, may so win upon others, as to bring glory to my Jesus.(12)

As we watch speakers of poems like "The Altar," "The Windows," and "Aaron" struggle to come to a place where God can use them, we are presented with tableaux of the type described above: we see the speaker on his knees begging to be made a fit vessel for divine truth. The creation of this picture is a central concern of Herbert's priestly and poetic vocations.

Many of those poems that best create for us the illusion of looking in on the speaker wrestling privately with his doubts, fears, and afflictions, or wrestling with God in prayer, are successful because they employ a sudden audience shift. "The Thanksgiving" (pp. 35-6), for example, is directed to God throughout, but there are two points in the poem where the speaker is disturbed by an idea. At the first point the speaker stops, grasps for words, and then manages to go on. At both points, the reader suddenly sees another audience in the poem - the speaker's self. Again, the effect is analogous to a situation in public oration. If a priest were offering a public prayer to God (especially a private/public prayer such as Herbert's prayer before the sermon) and momentarily lost his place in the prayer, struggling for words, the whole audience would come to attention and be acutely aware of the tortured presence of the speaker, rather than being aware of the addressee, God. The dramatic force of "The Thanksgiving" is based on Herbert's grasp of this shift from the audience explicitly addressed in the poem - God - to the orator who stumbles and who speaks anxious lines directed to himself as he seeks to recover his composure.

The first instance of a startled grasping for words occurs at line 29. The speaker has been asserting, in a tone of self-congratulation, that he will do one good thing after another to show God how thankful he is:

If thou dost give me wealth, I will restore All back unto thee by the poore.

(lines 19-20)

For each gift of God, the speaker will return the blessing; then, at line 29 the speaker thinks of the gift of Christ's passion and death. Here he falters, and the audience suddenly becomes the speaker himself (and, implicitly, the entire congregation of listeners), who can offer God no fit return for His gift of His Son:

As for thy passion - But of that anon, When with the other I have done.

(lines 29-30)

We identify with the stumbling speaker here because we are so able to imagine ourselves in the same predicament. After this break in the speaker's almost breathless string of assertions, the speaker manages to go on in his address to God. The human audience is put at ease as the focus of the poem once again becomes God. The speaker as poet confidently asserts that "If thou shalt give me wit, it shall appeare, / If thou hast giv'n it me, 'tis here" (lines 43-4). Here the speaker's self-assurance has returned, as he points to the poem at hand as proof that he will repay God for the gifts given him. All this breaks down at the poem's end.

Again the subject of Christ's passion and death surfaces; and again the speaker is at a loss. This time he does not recover and the poem ends abruptly:

Then for thy passion - I will do for that - Alas, my God, I know not what.

(lines 49-50)

Standing alone in front of his hushed audience is the speaker, talking to himself. His human audience also becomes the focus of the poem's attention as we sit tense in our seats, waiting for the orator to recover himself, tense also because we see in his loss of composure the possible shattering of our own self-confidence as we are forced to think on God's love expressed in the horror of the crucifixion.

The sudden audience shift in "Miserie" (pp. 100-2) is among the most shocking in The Temple. In the first of the poem's three movements, stanzas one through eight, God is the pretended sole audience, but the aphoristic tone of the lines indicates that the poet intends confession and exhortation for the human audience listening in:

Lord, let the Angels praise thy name. Man is a foolish thing, a foolish thing, Folly and Sinne play all his game.

His house still burns, and yet he still doth sing, Man is but grasse, He knows it, fill the glasse.

(stanza 1)

The poem's second section, stanzas 9 through 12, addresses the human audience (but God is certainly another audience of this indictment of depraved human nature):

Oh foolish man! where are thine eyes? How hast thou lost them in a croud of cares? Thou pull'st the rug, and wilt not rise, No, not to purchase the whole pack of starres: There let them shine, Thou must go sleep, or dine.

(stanza 9)

The height of the poem's drama is reached by means of the very sudden audience shift in the poem's last line. The first movement directly addresses God, the second is a condemnation of humankind addressed to "foolish man," and the third is a direct assault on the third part of the poem's audience, the self. The last stanza begins in the same way as the other stanzas of the second movement, as an indictment of human nature. The voice here is that of the misanthrope who has not yet included himself in his general loathing of humanity. But the poem's last line speaks directly to the self as the speaker's voice is silenced in a paralyzing moment of anagnorisis:

But sinne hath fool'd him [humanity]. Now he is A lump of flesh, without a foot or wing To raise him to a glimpse of blisse: A sick toss'd vessel, dashing on each thing; Nay, his own shelf: My God, I mean my self.

(stanza 13)

Herbert artfully directs the poem toward one, then another of the audiences explicitly addressed in the poetry - from God, to the extended congregation, to the speaker's self. The shift is jolting, provocative, and, finally, a very effective didactic strategy. While only one segment of the audience appears to be addressed in turn, Herbert is highly conscious of all of his audiences throughout, and uses the final, alarmed shift of the speaker's attention to himself to drive home the point that no one may claim exemption from the human condition. As the speaker points finally at himself, those listening to his harangue find a finger pointed at them.

The problem for Herbert's poetry I have described in this essay - playing to a multiple audience, parts of which are often only implied - must, I believe, have presented a challenge to the divine poets of the period sensitive enough, or scrupulous enough, to feel it. For instance, the sacramentalism of Crashaw points individual poems in many directions at the same time - toward God, toward the poet himself, and toward human participants in the sacramental drama. For Herbert, the difficulty of addressing the very different needs of each of the three segments of his audience is not made to disappear by means of the poet's art; rather, demonstrating this difficulty in the poetry itself becomes a powerful rhetorical strategy. We are brought more fully to attention and are drawn into the work's dramatic situation as the poem moves its focus, sometimes startlingly, among the three parts of the audience. The rhetorical force of Herbert's poetry is heightened by involving the audiences in his struggle to address them responsibly and honestly. And this struggle provides dramatic tension in much of Herbert's poetry, making it taut with hesitation, equivocation, self-doubt, and surprise.


1 George Herbert, The Works of George Herbert, ed. F. E. Hutchinson (1941; rprt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1945). All references to Herbert's work are from this edition, and hereafter will be cited parenthetically in the text.

2 For an analysis of Herbert's understanding of Augustinian rhetoric as compared with the theories of Wilson, Puttenham, Sherry, and others, see Michael P. Gallagher, "Rhetoric, Style, and George Herbert," ELH 37, 4 (December 1970): 495-516. This makes a good companion to Arnold Stein's introductory chapter on Herbert, Augustine, and plain style in George Herbert's Lyrics (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1968). Robert L. Entzminger argues the importance to the seventeenth-century ars praedicandi of the Augustinian principle that the best teacher is example; Entzminger finds that this principle informs Herbert's poetic ("Doctrine and Life: George Herbert and the Augustinian Rhetoric of Example," GHJ 13, 1 and 2 [Fall 1989-Spring 1990]: 37-47). Other studies of Herbert's rhetoric have opened a way to discuss multiple audiences in Herbert's poetry by looking to the courtesy literature of the time. Here Marion White Singleton finds backgrounds for Herbert's negotiations between the court of the Stuarts and God's court (God's Courtier: Configuring a Different Grace in George Herbert's "Temple" [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987]). Michael C. Schoenfeldt's Prayer and Power: George Herbert and Renaissance Courtship (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991) also explores how the courtly pose must take into account a multiple audience. Schoenfeldt disagrees with Singleton on fundamental matters. Those who have found the psalms to be an important source for Herbert's poetic stance also touch on the subject of a multiple audience; the psalms are concerned with various constituencies - the nation, God, and the "I" - often within a single song. Heather Asals hears in "The Church" a multiplicity of psalmic voices ("The Voice of George Herbert's 'The Church'" ELH 36, 3 [September 1969]: 511-28). Barbara K. Lewalski locates a biblical, Protestant poetic for Herbert and others in contemporary sermon theory and in a typological understanding of the poet's stance as, in different poems, Solomon, the Preacher, John of Patmos, but most often as "a Christian David" (Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric [Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1979], chap. 7, esp. pp. 241-7). Psalmic echoes in Herbert, in terms of diction, phrasing, and poetic stance, form one of Chana Bloch's subjects in Spelling the Word: George Herbert and the Bible (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1985).

3 Although seventeenth-century and twentieth-century conceptions of the self do not agree exactly, I would argue that the self that emerges in Herbert's poetry is recognizable in the modern sense: "an autonomous, unique individuality possessing a continuous internal awareness." Debora K. Shuger uses these words to describe a conception of self that she finds to be unavailable in the Renaissance. Sacred Rhetoric: The Christian Grand Style in the English Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1988), pp. 232-3.

4 Throughout this essay I will use he when referring to Herbert's speakers. While there is no reason not to imagine that some of these speakers are female, none of the voices demands to be heard as distinctly female, and I prefer to use the masculine pronoun as a way of reminding myself of Herbert's presence behind his various masks, especially since so often the mask is that of a poet or priest or, sometimes, both.

5 Even Sigrid Renaux, who argues that the third stanza is an effective conclusion for the poem, agrees that the stanza "repeats and sums up" the central metaphor ("George Herbert's 'The Windows' Illuminated: A Critical Approach," GHJ9, 1 [Fall 1985]: 26-32, 28). The polemical, anti-Puritan point that Herbert makes in the third stanza - that preaching is less affecting than the combination of "Doctrine and life, colours and light" (line 11) - is made forcefully in the first two stanzas.

6 Amy M. Charles, A Life of George Herbert (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1977), pp. 185-6.

7 Philip C. McGuire, "Private Prayer and English Poetry in the Early Seventeenth Century," SEL 14, 1 (Winter 1974): 63-77, 75; Cynthia Elaine Garrett, Soothing Understood: The Prayer Poetry of Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1990).

8 Herbert's diminution of the role of the sermon in these lines has the polemical edge that we have seen in "The Windows," and that is again evident in Herbert's decision to make the reading pew and the pulpit of an equal height at the Leighton church (Izaak Walton, "The Life of Mr. George Herbert," in The Lives of Dr. John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton . . . [1670; rprt. Menston, Yorkshire: Scolar Press, 1969], p. 33).

9 Study of the extent to which prayers of the priest's own making were allowed by the church results in an interesting context for Herbert's "The Authour's Prayer before Sermon." Because extemporaneous praying by the priest and the saying of written prayers other than those in the Book of Common Prayer provided an opportunity to voice dissent, Hooker, Andrewes, and Laud each saw this type of prayer, which was widely practiced, as a threat to the church. For Hooker, see Alan L. Hayes, "Spirit and Structure in Elizabethan Public Prayer," in Spirit Within Structure: Essays in Honor of George Johnston on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, ed. E. J. Furcha (Allison Park PA: Pickwick Publications, 1983), p. 127; for Andrewes, see P. J. Klemp, "Lancelot Andrewes's 'Prayer before Sermon': A Parallel-Text Edition," BLR 11, 5 (November 1984): 300-19; 301; for Laud, see E. C. E. Bourne, The Anglicanism of William Laud (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1947), p. 166. That the threat of subversive praying was real is demonstrated by this excerpt from the prayer before sermon of Nathaniel Bernard, lecturer at St. Sepulchre's: "Oh Lord, open the eyes of the Queen's Majesty that she may see Jesus Christ, whom she hath pierced with her infidelity, superstition and idolatry" (quoted, in Paul S. Seaver, The Puritan Lectureships: The Politics of Religious Dissent, 1560-1662 [Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1970], p. 144), J. Yeowell, thinking that Herbert was very far in theological/political temper from those who would pray prayers not in the Book of Common Prayer, argues against Herbert's authorship of "The Authour's Prayer before Sermon" and "The Authour's Prayer after Sermon": "When it is remembered how punctiliously George Herbert walked according to canonical rule in small as well as in great matters, it seems highly improbable that he would use these two unauthorised prayers in Divine service" (N&Q 2nd ser., no. 57 [31 January 1857]: 88-9). Hutchinson points out that Yeowell overlooks a canon that sanctions a prayer before sermon of the priest's own making (p. 563). But canon fifty-five of 1604 is less a sanction for such prayer than it is an attempt to curb the excesses of a type of praying very commonly practiced. The canons of 1604 were part of a campaign against the Puritan faction, especially the Puritan lecturers. These canons, for example, forced a lecturer to read divine service before preaching, a duty so obnoxious to some lecturers that they hired others to read the service (Seaver, pp. 144-5). The lawful form of the prayer before sermon is set out in such detail in canon fifty-five as to make the penning of subversive prayers impossible. For example, the prayer must include a plea that "all the people of the realm . . . may live in the true faith . . . and in humble obedience to the king" (Constitutiones sive Canones Ecclesiastici . . . [London: John Norton, 1604], p. 34; my translation). Even this did not prevent Anthony Wotton, lecturer at Allhallows Barking, from praying in 1604 that "the king's eyes might be opened"; Wotton was relieved of his position for a brief time (Seaver, p. 223). A problem that I hope to explore elsewhere is the great difference between the type of prayer before sermon prescribed by this canon and the prayer that Herbert wrote and used. Of the eight points that the canon demands be a part of the prayer before sermon, Herbert's own prayer addresses only two, and those two in one brief section of his long prayer.

10 Walton, p. 42.

11 Douglas Bush, English Literature in the Earlier Seventeenth Century, 1600-1660, rev. edn. (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1962), p. 143.

12 Walton, pp. 42-3.

Bruce A. Johnson is associate professor of English at James Madison University.