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Reading The Book Of Stars Essay

1143 words - 5 pages

Reading the Book of Stars

Herbert emphasizes the gratification that comes from reading, and the opportunity for self-discovery that is given to those who read the Bible within his sonnet “The Holy Scriptures II.” He captivates his audience with the use of celestial imagery in relation to Scripture and provides a personal example in order to establish his credibility. Yet in order to fully appreciate this poem one must take the time to paraphrase it, analyze its form, and finally, one must consider the poem in relation to Tesauro’s idea of metaphor.

In “The Holy Scriptures II” Herbert uses each quatrain as a precursor to the message of the last two lines. The first quatrain serves to define the relationship between separate parts of the text of the Bible. Here Herbert asserts that the verses of the Bible are like individual stars and that the book itself is similar to the constellations that fill the night sky. Also established in this quatrain is the relationship that exists between parts of a text. In the second quatrain, Herbert underscores this relationship by mentioning that each part of a text, or verse rather, has the potential to build on other parts. Herbert further states that these combinations of verse serve to support parts of the text that follow when he writes, “This verse marks that, and both do make a motion/ Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie.” While in the first and second quatrains Herbert emphasizes the interconnectedness of a text, especially the Bible, the third quatrain serves to create a relationship between the text and the reader. Here the significance of the number “three” from the second quatrain is discovered because Herbert suggests that Scripture assists him in three ways. He writes “for in ev’ry thing/ Thy words do find me out, and parallels bring,/ And in another make me understood,” meaning that the words of the Bible serve as a guide by which he tries to live his life, that he sees parallels between the words and lessons of Scripture and his own life, and finally, that the text enables him to gain a better understanding of himself. Although the third quatrain is significant because it develops the relationship between text and reader, the terminal couplet is crucial because it acts as a conclusion to the poem. By writing that “Stars are poor books, and oftentimes do miss” Herbert seems to suggest that a verse which stands alone is not as meaningful as the Scriptures in their entirety. However, it must also be noted that a certain ambiguity exists within this line so that another meaning exists within it, that being the idea that prophecy and divination are false arts; the stars cannot be read as indicators of the future. Either reading of the line, however, serves to support the final line of the poem which asserts that the text of the Bible serves as a guiding light for those who seek entrance into heaven. Thus it is through paraphrase that the reader can truly begin to grasp...

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