[The Temple, Detail of Model]from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert:


¶    Prayer. (I)

PRayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
     Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
     The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinners towre,
     Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
     The six-daies world transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and  blisse,
     Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
     Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The Milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

     Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
     The land of spices; something understood.

The difference that I wish to emphasize is not that between the violence of Donne ["Batter my heart"] and the gentle imagery of Herbert ["Prayer (I)"], but rather a difference between the dominance of intellect over sensibility and the dominance of sensibility over intellect. Both men were highly intellectual, both men had very keen sensibility: but in Donne thought seems in control of feeling, and in Herbert feeling seems in control of thought. ... In Donne’s religious verse, as in his sermons, there is much more of the orator; whereas Herbert, for all that he had been successful as Public Orator of Cambridge University, has a much more intimate tone of speech.
     The difference which I have in mind is indicated even by the last two lines of each sonnet. Donne’s ... is, in the best sense, wit. Herbert’s ... is the kind of poetry which ... may be called magical. - T. S. Eliot. "George Herbert."


  • "Herbert's 'Prayer I.'" by Robert H. Ray in The Explicator.
  • "Unstrung Conversations: Herbert's Negotiations with God" by Susannah B. Mintz. Philological Quarterly, Wntr 1998 v77 i1 p41(1). [Poems cited: "Prayer (I)," "Praise (II)," "Holdfast," "Longing," "The Collar," "Sighs and Groans," "Deniall," "Clasping of Hands," "Content," "Temper (I)."]
  • The theologian Richard Hooker on Prayer.

    Note on Sonnet form and organization.

    Internal and Internet Links to George Herbert’s Reputation and Influence.

  • Modern version
    1633 Poem Index George Herbert & The Temple Home Page