After George

383px-George_HerbertSo. Reading some poets is a dangerous business as they can drag your style to something closer to theirs. This week I was reading a review of a biography of George Herbert, not even a book of his poems, just a review. There was one poem quoted, but it was enough to ensnare me.

The first couplet erupted almost immediately, and the second – which rounds off the thought – came in the shower soon after (the shower can be a very good place for poetry, there’s something about concentrating on the physical sensations that lets the mind go a-wandering).

The central conceit – and George Herbert was one for conceits – is that our knowledge is like a bubble. As we learn something the bubble gets bigger, but at the same time, the boundry to the fluid of the non-known also gets bigger. That’s enough chat: here’s the Herbertised quatrain:

With every extra thing I know
so doth the great circumference grow
and thus each fact that I am shown
doth also swell the great unknown.


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