Poet's Pick April 3
George Herbert: "The Collar"
Selected by Frank Ormsby
National Poetry Month 2018

Letter from the Editors

Dear Readers,

Our thanks to Frank Ormsby for today's Poet's Pick!

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Don Selby & Diane Boller
Editors


Frank Ormsby's Poetry Month Pick, April 3, 2018

"The Collar"
by George Herbert (1593–1633)

I struck the board, and cried, "No more;
                         I will abroad!
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free, free as the road,
Loose as the wind, as large as store.
          Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
          Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
    Before my tears did drown it.
      Is the year only lost to me?
          Have I no bays to crown it,
No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
                  All wasted?
Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,
            And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,
             Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
          And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
          Away! take heed;
          I will abroad.
Call in thy death's-head there; tie up thy fears;
          He that forbears
          To suit and serve his need
          Deserves his load."
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
          At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, Child!
          And I replied My Lord.

         

 

* Frank Ormsby Comments:
I love the dramatic qualities of Metaphysical poetry and 'The Collar' by George Herbert  is one of the most intense and engaging examples. The reader is made to live the speaker's frustration and rebellious urge and moved at the end by faith and emotional surrender that are not in the least abject.

Is this a religious poem about the relationship between man and god or a secular poem featuring a lord and a courtier?

The form of the poem is consistently memorable. How effectively those lines of varying length and the use of short questions, rhyme and imagery convey the speaker's mood and catch the  drama of the moment. The punning use of 'collar' images provides a breathtaking focus for the poem's themes. We have the 'collar' as worn by a slave, we have the anger ('choler') of the speaker and we have the modulation into the  gentle voice of the lord ('caller'). Emotional power, technical brilliance!


About Frank Ormsby:
Frank Ormsby was born in 1947 in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, and was educated at Queen’s University in Belfast. His published volumes include Ripe for Company (1971), A Store of Candles (1977), A Northern Spring (1986), The Ghost Train (1995), Fireflies (2009), Goat’s Milk: New and Selected Poems (2015), and The Darkness of Snow (2017). He served as the editor of The Honest Ulsterman from 1969-1989 and currently co-edits the poetry journal The Yellow Nib.


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