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VII.

George Herbert.

SELECTED POEMS.

VII.

George Herbert.

SELECTED POEMS.

E could scarcely have found a greater contrast than that presented by George Herbert and Keble, yet it is one which,

while it separates, yet draws these men together. The one is the typical churchman of the Elizabethan, the other of the Victorian age. But Keble is without Herbert's humour, and Herbert is without Keble's emotion. The one is the austere Puritan, the other glows with Roman Catholic fervour. Each embodies with fervid piety the influence which happened at the time to be passing over the Church of England.

With George Herbert we come upon the great age when the English language became substantially what it now is. Our language possessed then a certain directness of expression, which we are in some danger of losing. German, and French, and Italian have since grown common in England,

and consequently many words of foreign extraction have been introduced into the English language; and although this has doubtless enriched our tongue, yet it has been thought that we are in danger of thereby losing something of our native force and directness of expression.

In the old days men neither wrote nor spoke so much as they do now, but they wrote and spoke very much to the purpose; hence there is a wonderful and condensed force and vigour in the language of Shakespeare, Milton, and George Herbert; and the translators of our Bible, the framers of our Liturgy, shared these gifts. For this reason I do not wish to see a new translation, or a new Prayer Book, because the old ones belong to the classic age of English literature.

Between Shakespeare (1564) and Milton (1608), as between two suns of surpassing brilliancy, lie a host of minor poets-stars of lesser magnitudebut not for that reason to be overlooked.

Indeed the Elizabethan age is best read by the light of the Elizabethan poets, and an age so complex needs all the light that can be thrown upon it. Perhaps at no time since England had become a nation was there such a strange and sudden fusion of old and new ideas.

Through the printing-press books got to be numerous beyond all precedent, and the middleage giant of popular ignorance lay sick unto death.

Through the discovery of the Bible to the million, the phantom of Roman Catholic superstition had been, if not laid, at all events considerably dwarfed.

Through the revival of art and literature in Italy, English taste had been reached, and quickened into new life. Music, painting, architecture, and classical study were national pursuits.

Piratical enterprise brought to light new aspects of life in Africa and America, whilst commercial enterprise opened up new avenues of wealth. The English navy established for a time our supremacy by sea, whilst the fortunate issue of internal war and intrigue ended in the union of Scotland and England under one crown.

That such changes could go on without materially affecting the government of the country, was hardly to be expected. Popular religion and popular education invariably precede a cry for popular government. But between the two great struggles in England there came a pause. Elizabeth's successor, James I. of England and VI. of Scotland, occupied that short space of time between the

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