"Stone Hearts Will Bleed" : George Herbert's Depiction of Sanctification Through the Metaphor of the Stony Heart in THE TEMPLE



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Much of criticism on George Herbert’s Temple has focused on categorizing the Anglican priest-poet in a denomination of faith; however, Herbert’s theology, although it naturally saturates his poetic works, cannot be easily defined as Anglo-Catholic, Reformed, or via media. A more fruitful approach in engaging the devotional poems of The Temple is to consider how Herbert, who is concerned with heart-felt devotion, poetically portrays the heart, the fallen nature of man, and the process of sanctification as well as the methods by which he guides the reader in the practice of true inward devotion. In my study, I will examine how Herbert uses the metaphor of the stony heart drawn from Ezekiel 36:26 in key poems of The Temple and of his Latin collections, Lucus and Passio Discerpta, in order to illuminate the Christian’s struggle with sin and grace and to urge readers out of a state of complacency and toward a course of action or contemplation: remorse and repentance for sin, prayer for help and relief, proper sacramental practice, and praise of God’s grace and favor. Herbert’s additions and alterations of the biblical metaphor provide notable insight on his views of the Christian life: namely, that sanctification is an ongoing and often strenuous process, involving both God and man. Herbert’s poems ultimately offer meaning to suffering and assures readers that their “spiritual Conflicts” between them and God, when properly addressed, are integral to the practice of sincere devotion and lead them to a state of “perfect freedom.”



George Herbert, The Temple, metaphysical, poetry, heart, devotion, stone