Virtue By George Herbert

Introduction of the Poem

George Herbert’s poem entitled “Virtue” is a poem from his collection of poems under the title of the “Death and Mutability”. The poems of this collection convey the idea that all beautiful, sweet, pleasant and good looking things in the world are mortal and it is certain that they will come to an end.

Our lives are short and they are not going to please us for long.” Virtue” is a beautiful short lyric comprising only sixteen lines in four stanzas of four lines each. In this poem, Herbert gives voice to his conviction that everything in this world — days, life, or even spring — is subject to destruction. Yet the virtuous soul is mortal and eternal.

Summary of the Poem

The poem deals with the theme of the ever-beginning nature of this world. All things that seem lovely and good in nature do not stay so forever; they die very soon. The day is very cool, sweet, light, and a symbol of the marriage of the earth to the sky; but it is doomed to die as soon as the night approaches. Dewdrops express sorrow and sadness at the death of the day. Just like the fate of the day, the fate of rose is also in its ultimate death. Rose is a beautiful flower with bold and attractive colour even a passerby is forced to wipe his eyes and have a careful glance of it and admire its beauty. But it is also short-lived and soon its roots would become its grave when it sheds its petal to the ground.

A day lasts for only eight-ten hours only and a rose may last for two-three days but the spring season seems to last for a longer period. In this season the days are very sweet; beautiful flowers bloom everywhere. But even this pleasant season also is not long-lasting and soon it would give way to the cold, harsh and unruly winter. IT is a bitter truth that this pleasant spring too would come to its and like all other things.

The poet is quite annoyed with the mortality of all-natural things and thinks over it – then what lives in the world forever. He concludes in the last stanza that all things in the world are destined to die but the only sweet and virtuous soul would never die. Though the whole world may come to an end, yet the virtue would survive forever and would never decay.

Style and Structure

“Virtue” is a four-quatrain lyric, each of which contains three iambic tetrameter lines and a final iambic dimeter line. Each quatrain’s shift line has a great effect. The same fundamental pattern also follows each stanza. And throughout the first three stanzas, some rhyme sounds and words are repeated. However, it is possible to formulate the structural analysis of the poem as 4a 4b 4a 2b, 4c 4b 4c 2b, 4d 4b 4d 2b, 4e 4f 4e 2f. The poet has skilfully used line groupings, rhyme scheme, and repetitive phrases in the poem.

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