Advertisements

Blog Archives

A Short Analysis of George Herbert’s ‘Prayer (I)’

A close reading of a classic religious poem

‘Prayer (I)’ is one of George Herbert’s best-loved poems. Herbert (1593-1633), who sent his poems to a friend Nicholas Ferrar with the instruction that his friend should publish them or destroy them, depending on whether he thought they were any good, is now revered as one of the greatest poets of the Early Modern period. ‘Prayer (I)’ is a relatively straightforward poem, but its language and references require some analysis and unpicking.

Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood. Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

A Short Analysis of Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Prayer’

A reading of a modern sonnet

‘Prayer’ is one of Carol Ann Duffy’s most popular and widely-studied poems, and packs an impressive emotional punch in just fourteen lines. But how does Duffy create such a powerful poem out of some very ordinary things – practising piano scales, or the BBC Shipping Forecast? We’re going to offer some notes towards an analysis of ‘Prayer’, which can be read here.

In summary, ‘Prayer’ locates the mystical or numinous experiences and feelings to be found in our everyday lives, especially at times when we feel despair or emptiness: the musical sound of the wind through the trees, someone practising musical scales on a piano, or the name of a lost child. A man hearing the sound of a train chugging across the landscape is suddenly reminded, unexpectedly, of his childhood, and his Latin lessons (the repetition of Latin vocabulary lessons, such as learning how to conjugate the verb, often has its own rhythm: e.g. in the famous example of ‘love’, amo, amas, amat). Read the rest of this entry