George Herbert

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Born: 1593

Died: 1633


George Herbert (April 3, 1593 – March 1, 1633) was a Welsh poet, orator and a priest. Being born into an artistic and wealthy family, he received a good education which led on to him holding prominent positions at Cambridge University and Parliament. As a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, England, George Herbert excelled in languages and music. He went to college with the intention of becoming a priest, but his scholarship attracted the attention of King James I. Herbert served in parliament for two years. After the death of King James and at the urging of a friend, Herbert's interest in ordained ministry was renewed. In 1630, in his late thirties he gave up his secular ambitions and took holy orders in the Church of England, spending the rest of his life as a rector of the little parish of St. Andrew Bemerton, near Salisbury. He was noted for unfailing care for his parishioners, bringing the sacraments to them when they were ill, and providing food and clothing for those in need. Throughout his life he wrote religious poems characterized by a precision of language, a metrical versatility, and an ingenious use of imagery or conceits that was favored by the metaphysical school of poets. He is best remembered as a writer of poems and the hymn "Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life." He is commemorated on February 27 throughout the Anglican Communion and on March 1 of the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The Five Mystical Songs for Baritone, Chorus and Orchestra of Ralph Vaughan-Williams are set to poetry of Herbert. The most popular of these songs is probably No. 4: The Call, a.k.a. Come, my Way, my Truth, my Light, (solo only, chorus tacet), a adaptation of which appears in several hymnals.

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Settings of text by George Herbert


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