The ideas that are received from the poems of John Donne and George Herbert present us with a very distinct view on God, and more generally, religion. Both were writing in the late 1500s and early 1600s; however the methodologies used by each are very distinct.
George Herbert (1593 - 1633), born later than John Donne (1572 - 1631), largely followed Donne’s poetic style, however incorporating slight changes: the diction that is evident in Herbert’s poetry is much simpler than Donne’s diction, and the metaphors are also easier to comprehend. What both have in common, is the colloquial manner, the logic arrangement of the poems argument and therefore the persuasive nature of the poetry. In Donne’s poetry, this logical arrangement especially aided the wooing of the subject of the poesie (usually God or a woman). Donne’s metaphors and extended conceits also present themselves in a different manner than those used by Herbert; the frequent use of conceits (the surprising and ingenious turn of ideas) establishes itself as the whole poem, and the final conceit arrives within the last two lines of the poem. These conceits and metaphors were taken from all domains of life, with an incomparable fondness to those ideas from the sciences, explained by Donne having established the idea of metaphysical poetry which was later taken on board by poets like Herbert, Andrew Marvell and Henry Vaughan. Although Herbert is commonly classed as a metaphysical poet, a poet who utilises clever conceits and paradoxes to explain intellectual and theological concepts, the conceits used by him are based less on crafts and sciences, and focus more on the everyday domestic experiences. This is another one of the drastic differences between Donne and Herbert - the highly sophisticated and complex conceits employed by Donne versus the simple, fairly commonplace imagery of Herbert. An example of this is Herbert’s looking towards the Bible for stylistic inspiration rather than to alien imagery and ideas of Donne. Another very important and distinctive characteristic of the poetry is Herbert’s introduction of two quiet final lines, resolving the previously mentioned argument within the poem, without answering any specific points mentioned. The doubts in faith and religion are expressed in intellectual terms by Donne, and the argument is answered in this intellectual style too. Herbert, although occasionally exploring the doubts in an intellectual manner, answers his doubts with emotion. In this specific way, Herbert conveys an explicit insight that one is unable to argue or reason with God; one is aware of God’s presence or one lacks this awareness and guidance.
This expression of doubt and the lack of emotion mitigated by Donne in his poetry can be seen as John Carey’s view on this topic. The different developments which their poetic works underwent throughout both poets career is also another point which must be considered.
Donne transformed the love poetry...