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Day 10: Allusions

April 15, 2013

JORDAN. (I) by George Herbert

WHO sayes that fictions onely and false hair
Become a verse ?  Is there in truth no beautie ?
Is all good structure in a winding stair ?
May no lines passe, except they do their dutie
        Not to a true, but painted chair ?

Is it not verse, except enchanted groves
And sudden arbours shadow course-spunne lines ?
Must purling streams refresh a lovers loves ?
Must all be vail’d, while he that reades, divines,
        Catching the sense at two removes ?

Shepherds are honest people ;  let them sing :
Riddle who list, for me, and pull for Prime :
I envie no mans nightingale or spring ;
Nor let them punish me with losse of ryme,
        Who plainly say, My God, My King.

In the poem there are allusions throughout. In fact, the title is an allusion to the bible. In the bible, the river Jordan had to be crossed to get to the promise land. Jesus was also later baptized in the same river. So, the title alludes to the bible and represents a coming into a new environment and being renewed.

There is also a major allusion in the third stanza. Herbert uses the term shepherd which also alludes to the bible. In this instance, shepherd is used in two ways. One is to refer to the many shepherds in pastoral poetry which this poem is about. It also refers to a caretaker. Herbert is also a caretaker who takes care of people because he is a priest.

So, this poem uses many allusions to describe how poetry should be written and makes many references to the bible.


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