by Donald Meineke
Many of the great works of art – whether musical, visual, or written – are sacred in their subject matter. Yet even when its genesis is of a sacred institution, they are oft equally beloved and hold significant influence within secular audiences as well.
George Herbert (1593-1633) is a perfet example as such.
A Welsh-born poet and priest in the Church of England, Herbert's passionate and elegant writing inspired the likes of Henry Vaughan, Richard Crashaw, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, and even Robert Frost. Born into a powerful and wealthy family, after the death of his grandfather and father, Herbert’s mother (a notable figure in her own right) moved the family first to Oxford, then to London. It was there Herbert attended Westminster School, and later Trinity College, Cambridge. It was 1620, while at Cambridge, when Herbert was appointed oratory for the University, and through his writings, letters, and speeches eventually attracted the attention of King James I.