LenTree For George Herbert

[The Collar]

Day 0: Shrove Tuesday

The Collar

        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 you have hands.
                     Recover all your sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave your cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not. Forsake your cage,
                                             Your rope of sands,1
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to you
        Good cable, to enforce and draw,
                                             And be your law,
        While you did wink and would not see.
                                           Away; take heed:
                                           I will abroad.
Call in your death’s head there: tie up your 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,
        I thought I heard one calling, "Child !"
                    And I replied, "My Lord."

1633 Edition

1 Note on the "rope of sands" image: Teacher Mike writes "In Jorge Borges's story 'The Book of Sand,' he uses as an epigraph the words 'Thy rope of sands...' by George Herbert."
By this point in the poem, the persona now sees everything that he has been taught and believed to be true is his "cage." [For the religious person, these may include all of the tenants of the faith, the 10 Commandments, doctrinal and theological formularies, historically arrived definitions, "naturally" argued religious non-inspired dogma and rules regarding Christian and professionally religious behaviour.] The persona sees these truths, that he has been taught to accept as real, as the "rope of sands," ineffective, unreal. Until now, he believed and acted on them as if they were true. Now he rejects them as just "your [talking to himself] rope of sands."
The last 2 lines always remind me of the leash on the collar. I once watched a dog on a leash that someone had attached to a clothes line. The dog could cover the entire yard freely except for one end when the leash jerked him back and reminded him of his limits. The persona learns in the last 2 lines that the rope is not made of sand as he thought. JRA [Return]

Music Interpretation: A penillion arrangement of "The Collar,"  by Red Dragon.    [Open music in another window.] [Editor’s note on the music: The melody for "The Collar" is a counter melody sung against the hymn tune Penpark.]

General Note: The collar represents all externally enforced and internally reinforced restrictions on freedom.
If you assume that Herbert is the persona, it also refers to the Anglican priest’s collar that George Herbert wore. The appearance of the cleric collar would have been different in his day, but because of its present day appearance, it is also called a "dog collar."

Irrelevant Note: There is a story of an African who had to wear an iron collar because he was a slave. When he was freed, he took off the collar. When he became a Christian, he willingly put the metal, slave collar back on. (Different Master.)

Perhaps not irrelevant note: George Herbert, whenever he used the name of Jesus Christ, always added "My Master." See I Corinthians 7:21ff. [the Greek word may be translated "servant" or "slave."]

"Shrove," "shriven" - forgiven. [On the Tuesday before Lent, after Mardi Gras, people go to confession to have their sins forgiven.]

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LenTree For George Herbert. The Altar.

Service for Ash Wednesday with Herbert Poems added: Commination against Sinners 1559 for George Herbert

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