Jordan I and Jordan II: Reading Herbert's The Temple "Synchronically" or "Vertically"

        Like Sidney's Astrophil and Stella, Herbert's The Temple contains poems separated from each other in the text but connected to each other because they address the same issue in different poetic strategies.  Because Herbert contemplated publishing these poems, unlike Sidney, he assigned each one a title, and titled related poems identically.  Modern editors, with their commitment to literature as a commodity they are selling to us, distinguish the identically titled poems by adding numbers.  The redundant titles suggest Herbert was trying to guide  his readers to associate the identically titled poems with each other "synchronically," outside the order in which The Temple presents them, as well as in "diachronic" association with the poems immediately before and after them.  Perhaps, to him, they were the same poem, or arose from a source with which he identified them.

Jordan. (I)

WHo sayes that fictions onely and false hair
Become a verse? Is there in truth no beauty?
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 no 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:1
I envie no mans nightingale or spring;
Nor let them punish me with losse of rime,
Who plainly say,
My God, My King.

Jordan (II).

WHen first my lines of heav’nly joyes made mention,
Such was their lustre, they did so excell,
That I sought out quaint words and trim invention;
My thoughts began to burnish, sprout, and swell,
Curling with metaphors a plain intention,
Decking the sense, as if it were to sell.

Thousands of notions in my brain did runne,
Off’ring their service, if I were not sped:
I often blotted what I had begunne;
This was not quick enough, and that was dead.
Nothing could seem too rich to clothe the sunne,
Much lesse those joyes which trample on his head.

As flames do work and winde, when they ascend,
So did I weave my self into the sense.
But while I bustled, I might heare a friend
How wide is all this long pretence!
There is in love a sweetnesse readie penn’d;
Copie out onely that, and save expense.


For theoretical background on "Reader-Response Criticism," from which the terms "diachronic" and "synchronic" are borrowed, click here.