George Herbert has for centuries been admired by the religious for his piety and by lovers of poetry for his language and his wit. In the present volume, Professor Summers seeks to abolish this dualism of approach: he is concerned throughout to demonstrate Herbert's religion as it is expressed in his poems, and to interpret the poems in the light of his religion, for they are a "picture" of meticulously observed spiritual experience. He gives us a scholarly, lucid, and integrated study of a much-loved poet, who was at once a good man, a profound Christian thinker, and a most daring experimentalist in the craft of verse.
Professor Summers charts the many currents and cross-currents of early seventeenth century religious thought that affected Herbert, traces the stages of the poet's life, and then proceeds to a thorough examination of the form and content of his work. There are interesting chapters on his metrical "counterpoint," his dramatic-colloquial style, and the influence of music upon his poetry. This is not only an authoritative study of the poet himself but a notable contribution to the problem, so keenly discussed today, of religious belief in relation to poetry.