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George Hebert's Plato

            Perhaps due to his primarily ecclesiastical lifestyle or to the quite intensity of his works in comparison to his contemporaries, George Herbert receives notably less attention as a metaphysical poet than others of the school such as Andrew Marvell or Herbert's famed patron, John Donne. The metaphysical poets came into prominence in the seventeenth century as a loosely defined group of artists who concerned themselves with the recondite experiences of human nature, such as love, sensual pleasure, and in Herbert's case especially, man's relationship to God. Herbert reserved his poems' subject almost entirely to the holy and within his work can been seen a deep understanding of the history of religious philosophy. Notably so is Herbert's debt to Saint Augustine of Hippo, whose late fourth century work, Confessions, had been at the time (and continually persists to be) a heavy influence on Christian, especially Catholic, doctrine. Augustine has enjoyed such longevity, and would have been particularly enticing to a metaphysic like Herbert, because his work is conceptually philosophic and personally unabashed in its attempts to discuss the scriptures. As the poem, Easter-Wings, will confirm, George Herbert was greatly informed by Augustine's conception of evil, use of Platonism, and practice of devotional humility.
             Herbert's Easter-Wings seems to be indebted and synchronous with Augustine's teachings, and this also includes the title itself. Easter-Wings is the verbal marriage of Augustine's overarching theological belief that combines Christian piety with Platonic ideals. The use of the word Easter connotes the Christian belief that Jesus Christ ascended from his earthly embodiment to into the realm of the Godly, while the positioning of "wings" in the title suggests the mode with which such ascendancy is possible. Herbert is not referring to the actual event of Christ's body rising from the tomb, but rather the concept that religion allows one to make the transgression from the material world into the spiritual.

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