John Donne’s and George Herbert’s Employment of Secular Language and Images in Their Religious Poetry

Sameer M. Al-Shraah


Recent studies in Herbert and Donne show that most critics focus on the study of theological or biblical aspects of Herbert’s and Donne’s poetry. This argument is more accurate as far as Herbert is concerned because he inspires the reader’s mind as he approaches spiritual life by means of pure simplicity of language and thought. But when it comes to Donne, this argument becomes less accurate, or needs a bit more investigation. Before he decides to write religious poetry, Donne wrote many secular poems mainly about love, yet secular images do not disappear completely in his religious poetry, but rather create a very controversial poet who struggles between his secular and religious character. However, Herbert uses many images, devices, and metaphors of popular love poetry. Herbert’s intermingling of secular love images with his serious divine theme does not affect his religious voice in his religious poetry. Rather, this excellent technique of intermingling helps express Herbert’s divine themes very effectively. The purpose of this paper is to examine the use of secular love images and devices in the religious poetry of Herbert and Donne. This should help us to decide whose poetry reveals a more religious view of life and more faith than the other.


Secular Language; Images; Religious poetry

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