An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Herbert, George

(Apr. 3, 1593-Mar. 1, 1633). A priest considered to be one of the chief devotional poets of the Anglican Communion. Herbert was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was public orator at Cambridge in 1620. This position could have led to high public office. However, he subsequently studied divinity and was ordained priest in 1630. His turning away from a secular career followed the death of James I, who had shown him favor. His new direction in life may also have reflected the influence of his friend, Nicholas Ferrar, the founder of the religious community at Little Gidding. Herbert ended his days as priest at Bemberton (1630-1633), outside Salisbury, England. He was devoted to his parish work and came to be known as the "holy Mr. Herbert."

Herbert's poems reflect a faith that is heartfelt, passionate, and expressed with grace. His collection of poems, The Temple (1633), includes his most beloved poems such as "Prayer," "Love III," "The Altar," and "Easter Wings" in the section called "The Church." Several of Herbert's poems have been set to music and are included in The Hymnal 1982, including "King of glory, King of peace" (382), "Let all the world in every corner sing" (402-403), and "Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life" (487). Shortly before his death, Herbert sent his English poems to Ferrar to be published or burned. Herbert's best known prose work is A Priest to the Temple; or the Country Parson (1652). His life is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Feb. 27. Herbert's mother, Lady Herbert, was John Donne's patron.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.