This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 27 -- Feast of Saint George Herbet

The Lutherans celebrate George Herbert on March 1, the day he died.  I do not know why the Anglicans prefer February 27, but it was probably open space on the calendar.  March 1 is of course Saint David's Day, and if you don't have a leek in your hatband, well I won't account for you. The good English folks probably figured it would be better to give him is own day, even if it was a couple days prior to his dies mortalis, than to plant him in Saint David's shadow. 

Born in 1593, George was the son of Richard Herbert, Lord of Cherbury, and his wife Magdalen.  The lad when his dad died and his older brother Edward inherited the title.  Both Edward and Magdalen were friends with the poet John Donne (also an Anglican saint); Edward too wrote a little poetry, perhaps setting an example for his more enduring brother.  Edward, the father of English deism, was no doubt more famous than George during their lives.  Edward was a soldier, a diplomat, a member of the Parliament.  He even served in the Council of War and then did time for his Parliamentary criticism of the King during those troubled days of the Civil War.  But younger brothers get to skate through all that without much trouble if they want, and this post is about the younger brother. 

George was a scholar, graduating (BA, MA) from Trinity College, Cambridge.  He was appointed a Reader in Rhetoric there, and then University Orator.  In the 1620s, he also did a stint in Parliament, but it didn't seem to stick for him.  That's not a bad thing -- he got out of the business a couple decades before the troubles that got folks killed up and down the isle.  Of course, George's health was so poor that he didn't live to see the worst of the strife anyway.  He died about a month before his fortieth birthday. 

"The Altar" a shape or pattern poem
Starting in 1630, he became a parish priest in Wiltshire.  Although he probably wasn't as wealthy as his brother the Baron, he had sufficient resources to use his own money for the repair of his church.  He wrote some poetry as well as sermons, playing with different poetic forms like anagrams and shape poetry.  Some of his more traditional poems also became hymns.  He also wrote poems in Greek and Latin, including a response to Pope Urban VIII.  That one wants to be tracked down. 

"Easter Wings" another pattern poem
Shortly before his death in 1633, Hebert sent some of his poems to the religious reformer Nicholas Ferrar, who warrants a post of his own someday.  He told Ferrar to publish them if they might "turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul."  Otherwise, Ferrar could burn them.  Fortunately, Ferrar published them under the title The Temple: Sacred poems and private ejaculations; eight editions were printed by 1690.  [And while private ejaculations might make us giggle now, no one was expecting autoerotica back in the seventeenth century.]  Moreover, other works of Herbert's were posthumously published -- two volumes of proverbs (Jacula Prudentia and Outlandish Proverbs) seem like required volumes in any well-furnished bathroom. 

Here's a couplet he wrote on the anagram Mary / Army.  "How well her name an Army doth present, / in whom the Lord of Hosts did pitch his tent." 

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