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George Herbert's Love Poems to God--Introduction and Questions

Love I
  • stanza 1: Human beings have given the name of Immortal Love (or God) to their mortal loves.
  • stanza 2: Such mortal love is allied with poetic invention, so that both the human emotions that come from love and the human intelligence that comes in creating such poetry are not bestowed on God's love.
  • stanza 3: Wit (inventiveness/creativity) and beauty claim to be all the world, even though God's love and glory were shown in delivering humanity from hell.
  • stanza 4: Problem: only humans prompt each other to sing of love.

Love II

  • stanza 1: Herbert prays that God's Immortal Heat would draw our lesser fires of passion to him and create in us true desires.
  • stanza 2: Such true desires would make us burn for God; as a result, our poetic creations will be placed on God's altar and return to him.
  • stanza 3: Human eyes, which were blinded by wit, will now be able to see God and recover what was lost due to lust.
  • stanza 4: All will bow to God and praise him who made and restored us.

Love III

  • stanza 1: Herbert is reluctant to answer Love's invitation because of his dirty sin.  Still, Love draws near him and questions if he needs anything.
  • stanza 2: The two debate whether Herbert is worthy to be at the banquet.  Love insists that he made Herbert's eyes.
  • stanza 3: Herbert is shamed that he has marred his eyes. Yet Love insists that he bore the blame, and thus, Herbert must sit down at Love's banquet.


  1. What is the relationship between the first two poems?  How does "Love II" answer the dilemma in "Love I"?
  2. According to Herbert, what is the relationship between poetry, love, and God?  How does the third poem illustrate this?
  3. According to Herbert, what is the answer for the destruction caused by lust?
  4. How is beauty to be perceived and understood in these poems?   How is passion?

Basics of the Sonnet

  • 14 lines in iambic pentameter
  • The two most popular forms are the Italian and the English.  The Italian is divided into an octet and a sestet, while the English is divided into three quatrains and a couplet.  The English rhyme scheme is typically abab cdcd efef gg. Herbert's is abab cdcd effe gg.
  • As a result of the differing forms, the logic of the two differs somewhat.  The Italian tends to propose a problem in the octet, which is answered or countered by the sestet.  The English tends to develop a train of thought over the first three stanzas only to conclude a sudden twist in the final two lines.
  • The word "sonnet" or sonetto is Italian for "little song." Many sonnets were set to music.  This should remind us that the early sonnet as a form was meant to be lyrical and musical in nature.

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding