'The Collar' by George Herbert

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I struck the board, and cried "No more!
I will abroad.
What, shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the road,
Loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the year only lost to me?
Have I no bays to crown it?
No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted?
All wasted?
Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not. Forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
Away; take heed:
I will abroad.
Call in thy death's head there: tie up thy fears.
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need,
Deserves his load."
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
At every word,
Methoughts I heard one calling "Child!"
And I replied "My Lord".

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Collar: A Deep Dive into George Herbert's Masterpiece

George Herbert's poem, The Collar, has long been regarded as one of the most profound and powerful pieces of English poetry ever written. In just twenty-five lines, Herbert manages to capture the essence of the human experience, exploring themes of faith, doubt, despair, and redemption. But what is it about this poem that makes it so enduring? In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will take a deep dive into The Collar and explore the various layers of meaning and symbolism that make it such a masterpiece.

Understanding the Poem's Structure

To begin our analysis of The Collar, we must first understand its structure. The poem is written in the form of a dramatic monologue, with the speaker addressing God in a series of impassioned and often desperate pleas. The poem is broken up into three stanzas, each of which contains six lines. The first stanza is written in regular iambic pentameter, while the second and third stanzas deviate from this form, adding a sense of urgency and instability to the speaker's words.

But perhaps the most notable aspect of the poem's structure is its use of refrains. The first and third stanzas both end with the same line: "I will not cease from mental fight, / Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand." This repetition creates a sense of circularity, as if the speaker is caught in an endless loop of struggle and defiance. The second stanza, on the other hand, ends with a different refrain: "But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild / At every word, / Methought I heard one calling, Child! / And I replied, My Lord." This refrain breaks the circular pattern of the poem, suggesting that the speaker's struggles may not be as endless as they initially seem.

Unpacking the Poem's Themes

Now that we have a basic understanding of the poem's structure, let's turn our attention to the themes that it explores. At its core, The Collar is a poem about the struggle between faith and doubt. The speaker is clearly tormented by his doubts and uncertainties, and he rails against God, demanding answers to the many questions that plague him. But at the same time, he is also deeply committed to his faith, and he refuses to give up the fight, no matter how difficult it may be.

But this struggle between faith and doubt is not just a personal one; it is also a larger struggle between humanity and the divine. The speaker's defiance and anger are not just directed at God; they are also a rebellion against the very idea of a higher power. The poem suggests that our doubts and uncertainties are not just a result of our own personal failings, but are instead an inherent part of the human condition. We are all struggling to make sense of a world that often seems chaotic and meaningless.

But despite this struggle, the poem also offers a glimmer of hope. The refrain in the second stanza suggests that even when we feel lost and alone, there is still someone watching over us, calling out to us in the darkness. The speaker's transformation from anger and despair to acceptance and submission suggests that there is a way forward, even in the face of our doubts and uncertainties.

Examining the Poem's Symbolism

In addition to its themes, The Collar is also rich in symbolism. One of the most striking symbols in the poem is the collar itself. The speaker describes feeling like a "prisoner" who is "chained and bound" by his faith. The collar is a physical manifestation of this imprisonment, a symbol of the speaker's feeling of being trapped and restricted.

But the collar can also be seen as a symbol of the speaker's commitment to his faith. While he may feel trapped by it at times, he also recognizes that his faith is an integral part of who he is. The collar is both a burden and a badge of honor, a symbol of the speaker's willingness to endure even in the face of adversity.

Another important symbol in the poem is the sword. The speaker declares that he will not let his sword "sleep in his hand," suggesting that he is always ready for battle. But the sword can also be seen as a symbol of the speaker's aggressive and combative nature. He is not content to simply accept his doubts and uncertainties; he wants to fight against them, to conquer them.

Ultimately, the poem's symbolism serves to deepen its themes and create a sense of richness and complexity. Each image and metaphor adds another layer of meaning to the poem, inviting the reader to explore its depths and uncover new insights with each reading.

Exploring the Poem's Historical Context

Of course, no analysis of a poem would be complete without considering its historical context. The Collar was written in the early seventeenth century, a time of great religious and political upheaval in England. The country was embroiled in a bitter struggle between the Anglican Church and various dissenting groups, with each side vying for control of the nation's soul.

Against this backdrop, it is perhaps not surprising that The Collar explores themes of faith and doubt so deeply. The speaker's struggles reflect the larger struggles of the time, as people grappled with questions of religious authority and what it meant to be a faithful Christian.

But at the same time, The Collar is also a deeply personal poem. The speaker's doubts and uncertainties are not just a reflection of the larger cultural context, but of the human experience as a whole. The poem speaks to a universal struggle, one that transcends time and place.

Conclusion: The Power of The Collar

In the end, what makes The Collar such a powerful and enduring poem is its ability to capture the essence of the human experience. Through its structure, themes, symbolism, and historical context, the poem offers a glimpse into the deep, complex, and often contradictory forces that drive us as individuals and as a society.

Whether we are struggling with faith and doubt, grappling with questions of identity and purpose, or simply trying to make sense of a world that often seems chaotic and confusing, The Collar offers a message of hope and resilience. It reminds us that even in our darkest moments, we are not alone, and that there is always a way forward, if only we have the courage to seek it out.

So if you have not yet experienced the power of The Collar for yourself, I urge you to read it now. Let its words wash over you, and see if you can feel the same sense of awe and wonder that countless readers have felt before you. For in these twenty-five lines lies a timeless message, one that speaks to the very heart of what it means to be human.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Collar by George Herbert is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a poem that speaks to the human condition, and the struggle that we all face in our search for meaning and purpose in life. In this analysis, we will explore the themes and motifs of the poem, as well as the literary devices that Herbert employs to convey his message.

The poem begins with the speaker expressing his frustration and despair at the constraints that he feels are placed upon him. He feels like he is trapped in a collar, unable to break free and live his life on his own terms. This sense of confinement is a common theme in literature, and it speaks to the universal human experience of feeling trapped or limited in some way.

As the poem progresses, the speaker begins to question his own desires and motivations. He wonders if his desire for freedom is really just a form of rebellion against authority, or if there is something deeper driving him. This introspection is a hallmark of Herbert's poetry, and it is a theme that he returns to again and again in his work.

One of the most striking aspects of The Collar is the way that Herbert uses language to convey his message. The poem is full of vivid imagery and metaphorical language, which helps to bring the speaker's emotions to life. For example, when the speaker describes himself as a "wild ass" that is "rampant with lust," he is using metaphor to convey his sense of restlessness and desire.

Another literary device that Herbert employs in The Collar is repetition. Throughout the poem, he repeats certain phrases and words, such as "I will not" and "But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild." This repetition serves to emphasize the speaker's emotions and to create a sense of urgency and intensity.

As the poem reaches its climax, the speaker has a moment of epiphany. He realizes that his desire for freedom is not just a rebellion against authority, but a longing for something deeper and more meaningful. He realizes that he is not alone in his struggle, and that there are others who share his desire for spiritual fulfillment.

The final lines of the poem are some of the most powerful and memorable. The speaker declares that he will "run, rise, and recover all," and that he will "wear the garland of the oak." This imagery of running and rising suggests a sense of liberation and freedom, while the garland of the oak symbolizes strength and endurance.

In conclusion, The Collar by George Herbert is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that speaks to the human condition. It explores themes of confinement, rebellion, and spiritual fulfillment, and it employs a variety of literary devices to convey its message. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply looking for a deeper understanding of the human experience, The Collar is a must-read.

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