Music and the poetry of George Herbert
Dykes, Sayre Ellen
Master of Arts
The purpose of this paper is two-folds generally, to investigate three different approaches to the problem of the relationship between the arts of music and poetry; and, specifically, to investigate three ways in which music influences the poetry of George Herbert. Music -- incorporated into Herbert's poetry as metaphor, as external or stanzaic structure, and as internal or sound structure -- deepens and helps to convey Herbert's poetic and religious vision. Herbert's imagery is derived both from Platonic and Pythagorean doctrines of world harmony as transmitted through Boethius, Augustine and Macrobius and from technical aspects of the music of his own day. The imagery shows Herbert's concern with man's "untuned state as contrasted with God's "harmony;" but it. also shows that Herbert is ultimately optimistic in his belief that, through God's Grace, man can be redeemed and inspired. The air was very popular in Herbert's day, and his poetry employs many of the technical devices of that musical form, including the conventional lyric diction, refrains, repetition and variation, and parallel stanzaic form. These devices are responsible for the simplicity of surface texture and allow for the underlying associational complexity of his verse. Like other poets, Herbert incorporates "musical" components of sound and rhythm into the verbal structure which is his poetry. In contrast to most other poets, however, he uses these "musical" components as formal elements to unify and synthesize, not only the stanza or verse, but the intellectual concepts as well. These "musical" components are used to supplement the intellectual and emotional content of his poetry? they become a means of grasping that content and of enlarging its significance.