<i>An Introduction to the Devoute Life</i> and <i>The Temple:</i> ‘The Poetry of Meditation’ or ‘Private Ejaculations’?

Elizabeth Clarke

in Theory and Theology in George Herbert’s Poetry

Published in print September 1997 | ISBN: 9780198263982
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191682698 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Theological Monographs

An Introduction to the Devoute Life and The Temple: ‘The Poetry of Meditation’ or ‘Private Ejaculations’?

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Louis Martz’s analysis of the similarities between An Introduction to the Devoute Life and The Temple has been extremely influential in Herbert criticism, despite the lack of certainty that Herbert actually read de Sales’ treatise. The basic thesis of The Poetry of Meditation is that ‘the qualities developed by the “art of meditation”…are essentially the qualities that the 20th century has admired in Donne, or Herbert, or Marvell’. This chapter challenges the orthodoxy established by Martz that Counter-Reformation meditation is the rhetorical and spiritual mode adopted by Herbert. It shows that the attitude to religious language represented in An Introduction to the Devoute Life is actually alien to Reformation spirituality, and to much of Herbert’s poetic practice, although there are superficial similarities in style, tone, and occasionally, form.

Keywords: George Herbert; Louis Martz; The Poetry of Meditation; Counter-Reformation meditation; spirituality

Chapter.  22355 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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