'The Collar' by George Herbert - Biography and Analysis

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In George Herbert 's poem "The Collar," published in The Temple (1633), the author/persona rebels against the casuistry that the Christian life imposes, only to be brought back finally into childlike submission when he hears (or thinks he hears) the "Lord 's" gentle rebuke. My argument is that, astoundingly, the poem 's elaborate, random-seeming rhyme scheme--itself "collar-like" because it edges the poem--encodes witty messages that force us to rethink the poem 's meaning, especially its serious tone.[1] The discovery explicated here belongs originally to Cary Ader, a Miami-Dade Community College student who proposed it in 1992 to his professor, Norbert Artzt, who passed it on to me because he knew of my investigations into runic…show more content…
The phonic explorations in the following diagrams (a) and (b)--"playthroughs" of a literate game--show meaning of a sort that can be generated when clever authorial manipulation consorts with the playful nature of language itself: (a) Rhyme Scheme A Codeline ABC BAD E A D CEF GF HHD LJD JIG KKGL B MML B NON O A busy body I deceive, give hid edged [aged] jig; cudgel be minimal, be none, O! A busy bee--I--dead see, if gift, hid edged [aged] jig, cudgel. Be m ' meal, be nun, O! A busy bee eye did see . . . . . . adag 'd jig, cage 'll be . . . . . . Male 8, Nun O A busy B.A. 'd aye [I/eye] deceive, give head, I judge. I giggle--be mammal, be none, O! Though "NON" of the readings in (a) is conclusive, the idea that the poet 's "hid edged [adaged] jig [i.e., device]" is a "cudgel" makes sense to any pummeled reader/player. Because "B" suggests "8," ML 8 NON 0 emerges as a "score" report, with the male coming out on top. Phallic and pudendal humor lurks here. Potentialities include "50 [= L] ate [= B = 8] male/meal, ate nun, O!" (b) Rhyme Scheme B Codeline ABC BAD EA DCEDFD GGD HID IH FJJ FK BLL K B MNMN A busy body I deceived -- good idea . . . . bulky be minim. End. "ABC" be a dead seed if digged. Hid, I fadge [bundle?], f -- k Bill, Kate -- m ' end, m ' end. A busy B.A., dead . . . . . God
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