My thanks to William Slights and to Gary Kuchar for their comments on earlier versions of this essay.
Altar, Heart, Title-Page: The Image of Holy Reading [with illustrations]
Article first published online: 12 SEP 2013
© 2013 The Author(s). English Literary Renaissance © 2013 English Literary Renaissance Inc.
English Literary Renaissance
Volume 43, Issue 3, pages 541–571, September 2013
How to Cite
Dyck, P. (2013), Altar, Heart, Title-Page: The Image of Holy Reading [with illustrations]. English Literary Renaissance, 43: 541–571. doi: 10.1111/1475-6757.12017
- Issue published online: 12 SEP 2013
- Article first published online: 12 SEP 2013
George Herbert's shaped poem “The Altar” has been read as a contradiction of image and word (the perfect pagan altar of the Greek Anthology versus the broken Christian heart) and as a politically-charged reminder of Laudian church reforms (invoking the re-building of stone altars). This essay interprets the poem in light of a more common and arguably more generative referent: the biblical and devotional title-page. Herbert placed “The Altar” at the beginning of the main part of The Temple, “The Church,” so that it functions as its title-page. In so starting with a picture of an altar that turns out to be a picture of a heart, Herbert decidedly situates his book of poetry as a serious piece of devotional work, following the models of Bibles and devotional books that feature on their title-pages either hearts or altars or both (hearts on altars). This essay attends to several of these title-pages, asking how they speak and what they say about the act of holy reading, and then turns to “The Altar,” asking how it takes up the work of these title-pages, both transforming their messages and setting out the project of The Temple. (P. D.)