Synopsis of The Collar

A punning title

The subject matter of The Collar is very similar to Herbert's Affliction I in its autobiographical tone and its sense of frustration barely resolved at the end. Unlike that poem, however, the object of the complaint is not at all clear. Only at the very end is there both reversal and revelation, to give a suitable surprise ending.

Codex in a collarThe title is a play on words. Most obviously a collar is something you put on an animal to restrain it, just as Herbert feels restrained by an unknown master. Collars are also used as part of harness for animals pulling heavy loads. The word sounds like another word ‘choler', which is an old medical term for anger, or that which produces anger in the body, as in the word ‘choleric'. It certainly is an angry poem, written before Herbert did seek ordination, but maybe at a time when that seemed the only career still open to him, as it did to John Donne. (Modern readers might also appreciate the unintended pun on the 'dog collar' worn since the 19th century by the clergy.)

Investigating The Collar
  • Whom does Herbert seem to be addressing in The Collar?
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