Thesis Title

The school of George Herbert: The temple's devotional mode in seventeenth century religious poetry

Date of Graduation

Spring 2001


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

James Baumlin

Subject Categories

Creative Writing


Although George Herbert has sometimes been labeled a member of John Donne's metaphysical school, Herbert inspired a devotional school distinct from Donne's through his emphasis on humility as well as his reflective musings directed more towards God than "self." Christopher Harvey, Henry Colman, Mildmay Fane, Ralph Knevet, and Samuel Speed are among those minor poets who emulated Herbert's poetic form and especially his devotion. Literary critics have rarely acknowledged these minor religious poets, thus dismissing a flowering of religious poetry devoted to Herbert's poetic mode. This study explores the individual creativity and poetic art of these writers and their imitations of Herbert's devotional process. The Temple's devotional mode consists of self-knowledge, in which the soul recognizes its weaknesses and dependence upon grace, and worship, the poet's expression of praise to God because He has accepted the soul in its imperfect state. Herbert's two-part devotional expression is always accompanied by a humble attitude. He invariably speaks in first person and avoids using the authoritative "you," which would overtly instruct his audience and convey a sense of obvious didacticism. Herbert teaches, but he does so indirectly, using himself as a model of private devotion and placing himself level with his audience by admitting his own depravity. The members of Herbert's School use his devotional mode and humble tone, yet regularly attempt to expand, rephrase, reshape, or respond to his poetry. Rather than directly copying Herbert's ideas, they combine them with their own poetic abilities, thus spawning original religious verse, yet following Herbert's devotional mode.


© LaDonna Joy Friesen