Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
The popularity of the frequently anthologized pattern poems, "Easter-Wings," and "The Altar," is such that readers not well-versed in George Herbert's larger body of poems could associate him solely with that genre. Although Herbert's "A Wreath" has not been identified as a pattern poem per se, it nevertheless frequently suffers from the same dismissal that most critics apply to pattern poetry in general, that is, of being simply playful and technically quaint. This study will offer a formalist reading of "A Wreath," to show how the poet uses existing pattern poetry forms to weave a complex garland that conceals aesthetic, devotional, and theological rewards. We will place the poem within the tradition of pattern poetry, extending its definition to include not just those poems in which the text on the printed page suggests a particular shape, but also those poems in which rhyme schemes or repeated terminal words of lines convey a shape - that is, poems in which the language suggests a shape not fully realized by the layout.
The form of the poem demands that we understand it within the context of existing pattern poetry forms; in order to elucidate the theological meaning, we must look to the Bible, as well as the writings of Jèrôme Savonarola and Saint Augustine. By studying both the poem's elaborate artistic form and its pious matter, this study will consider whether Herbert fulfills the poem's stated intention of praising God.
D'Souza, Neil Alan, ""Straight as a Line": Simplicity in George Herbert's "A Wreath"" (1998). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7193.
McMaster University Library