‘Ejaculations’ and the Poetry of the Psalms: Herbert’s Role as Contemporary Psalmist

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

‘Ejaculations’ and the Poetry of the Psalms: Herbert’s Role as Contemporary Psalmist

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This chapter shows that maintaining the link between poetry and the motions of the heart is crucial to a Protestant poetics, which regarded this link as having been sacralized by the Psalmist David. One text in the tradition of Christian poetics which has been established as important to The Temple is the book of Psalms. St François de Sales linked his concept of ejaculatory discourse with the biblical Psalms. His own writing, however, reveals the discontinuity between such a discourse and Counter-Reformation poetics, which is deeply committed to rhetorical artifice, as we have seen. However, Protestant poets were also familiar with the idea of the Psalms as ‘ejaculations’. The Protestant use of the Psalm text seems more congenial to Herbert’s practice of ejaculatory poetry, which preserves the Augustinian sense of prayerful emotion as ‘Engine against th’Almightie’. The genre of Psalm meditation, which seems to have developed within Reformed contexts, is particularly illuminating for a reading of Herbert, who was considered by 17th-century readers to be a new Psalmist.

Keywords: George Herbert; ejaculatory poetry; Psalm meditation; Psalm text; Reformation; Protestant poetics

Chapter.  20840 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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