Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert (UK Edition)

November 28, 2020
Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert (UK Edition)

George Herbert wrote, but never published, some of the verygreatest English poetry, recording in an astonishing variety offorms his inner experiences of grief, recovery, hope, despair,anger, fulfilment and - above all else - love.He was born in 1593 and died at the age of 39 in 1633, beforethe clouds of civil war gathered, his family aristocratic and hisupbringing privileged. He showed worldly ambition and seemed sureof high public office and a career at court, but then for a time'lost himself in a humble way', devoting himself to the restorationof the church at Leighton Bromswold in Buckinghamshire and then tohis parish of Bemerton, three miles from Salisbury, whose cathedralmusic he called 'my heaven on earth'. When in the year of his deathhis friend Nicholas Ferrar, leader of the quasi-monastic communityat Little Gidding, published Herbert's poems under the titleThe Temple, his fame was quickly established.Because he published no English poems during his lifetime, anddating most of them exactly is impossible, writing Herbert'sbiography is an unusual challenge. In this book John Drury sets thepoetry in the whole context of the poet's life and times, so thatthe reader can understand the frame of mind and kind of societywhich produced it, and depth can be added to the narrative ofHerbert's life. (T.S. Eliot: 'What we can confidently believe isthat every poem in the book [The Temple] is in tune to thepoet's experience.') His Herbert is not the saintly figure who hascome down to us from John Aubrey, but a man torn for much of hislife between worldly ambition and the spiritual life shown to us soclearly through his writings. The result is the most satisfyingbiography of this exceptional English poet yet written.