What is George Herbert's 'The Pearl' about?

What is he referring to?

Answer #1

In The Pearl, Herbert addresses God and attempts to demonstrate his love for Him by showing the powerful attractions of those things that he has renounced for God’s sake. These three great worldly goods each form the subject of a stanza. They are: “Learning”; “Honour”; (i.e. the special pleasure to be gained from achieving prestige and glory in the service of the court and “Pleasure” (broadly understood, but expressed by the figure of music). In each stanza Herbert states and demonstrates his knowledge of each of these three goods (at length) but concludes (briefly):

“Yet I love thee.”

Thus, in the final stanza, he can tell God that his choice is not an ignorant one, but one made with eyes open to the desirability of these other things.

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This seems to be leading to the arrogant conclusion that, as he has renounced all this for God, so God should return the sacrifice. Instead, Herbert dismisses his own contribution (in renouncing the world) to achieving a true intercourse with God as of little value - it is mere “groveling wit”. It is not this but God’s “silk twist let down from heav’n” to the poet which has conducted and taught him “how by it/To climbe” to God.

Even when man thinks he has done much to earn the kingdom of heaven, Herbert argues, he has done little. Without God’s initiative, that communion would never be realised.

http:// www. teachit.co.uk/armoore/poetry/herbert.htm

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