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Theory and Theology in George Herbert’s Poetry`Divinitie, and Poesie, Met'$
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Elizabeth Clarke

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780198263982

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198263982.001.0001

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‘Ejaculations’ and the Poetry of the Psalms: Herbert’s Role as Contemporary Psalmist

‘Ejaculations’ and the Poetry of the Psalms: Herbert’s Role as Contemporary Psalmist

(p.127) 3 ‘Ejaculations’ and the Poetry of the Psalms: Herbert’s Role as Contemporary Psalmist
Theory and Theology in George Herbert’s Poetry

Elizabeth Clarke

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows that maintaining the link between poetry and the motions of the heart is crucial to a Protestant poetics, which regarded this link as having been sacralized by the Psalmist David. One text in the tradition of Christian poetics which has been established as important to The Temple is the book of Psalms. St François de Sales linked his concept of ejaculatory discourse with the biblical Psalms. His own writing, however, reveals the discontinuity between such a discourse and Counter-Reformation poetics, which is deeply committed to rhetorical artifice, as we have seen. However, Protestant poets were also familiar with the idea of the Psalms as ‘ejaculations’. The Protestant use of the Psalm text seems more congenial to Herbert’s practice of ejaculatory poetry, which preserves the Augustinian sense of prayerful emotion as ‘Engine against th’Almightie’. The genre of Psalm meditation, which seems to have developed within Reformed contexts, is particularly illuminating for a reading of Herbert, who was considered by 17th-century readers to be a new Psalmist.

Keywords:   George Herbert, ejaculatory poetry, Psalm meditation, Psalm text, Reformation, Protestant poetics

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