George Herbert 's Poem, The Windows

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George Herbert 's Poem, "The Windows"
Word Count Includes Poem

A key theme found throughout the Bible is that of God being glorified through the actions of people who are full of imperfections. One such example is King David, the greatest of the Israelite kings. He sinned against God in sleeping with Bathsheeba and then having her husband killed on the battlefield. (II Samuel 11) Yet he is still commonly seen as a champion of the Jewish faith. George Herbert took this theme of God glorifying Himself through human frailty and incorporated it into his poem, "The Windows." As a metaphysical poet, Herbert puts most of the meaning of the poem into a deeper level. Herbert does this by choosing words that contain several different meanings, all of which serve to further exemplify the theme, in such areas as human imperfection, God’s love and finally, the effect upon people of God showing Himself to them through the lives of others.

Herbert begins by asking God the question of how it is possible that man can "preach thy eternal word." He is not asking how it is possible for the words to form, or for the thoughts to be put together. The reason that he asks is because of his awareness of his own human imperfections. He calls man "a brittle, crazy glass." On the surface level, he is saying that a perfect man, such as Adam, would be like a smooth pane of glass, but each sin man commits, is like putting another crack into it. Herbert chose these words specifically though, in order to re-emphasize the point of man’s complete inadequacy for the job of preaching God’s Word. This is most prominent in "brittle," which, according to the OED, not only means frail and weak, but is also "that which breaks faith; inconsistent, fickle." This is placed ...

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...e twice as long. Instead, Herbert models his diction after that found in the Bible so that there are multiple layers of meaning and understanding. Only when one takes the time to fully research and delve into it will they truly be able to appreciate what is written.

The Windows

By: George Herbert

Lord, how can man preach thy eternal word?
He is a brittle, crazy glass,
Yet in thy temple thou do him afford
This glorious and transcendent place,
To be a window, through thy grace.

But when thou dost anneal in glass thy story,
Making thy life to shine within
The holy preachers, then the light and glory
More reverent grows, and does win
Which else shows watr’ish, bleak, and thin

Doctrine and life, colors and light, in one
When they combine and mingle, bring
A strong regard and awe; but speech alone
Doth vanish like a flaring thing,
And in the ear, not conscience ring.
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