Personal freedom

George Herbert:

Henry Vaughan:

Andrew Marvell:

Richard Lovelace:

The few poems directly on this theme point to a major difference between modern poetry and the Metaphysicals. It was not really till the Romantic poets that this became a major concern, either at a personal or a political level.

Herbert's The Collar is about how he found personal freedom in submission to God's will. This is a basic religious paradox which states that only in submission to God is true human freedom to be found. This is one of the most difficult things non-believers find about religion: how this paradox can be true.

Lovelace deals with a parallel paradox: how he can be free whilst in prison? The answer is obviously in the mind, but Lovelace is more specific: he is still free in prison to love and to have values. We might argue that Lovelace's prison experience was fairly minor, but it nevertheless does address a core issue of human freedom and dignity.

Marvell and Vaughan both address the issue through meditation. It is only by withdrawal from the world that they feel it is possible to achieve freedom. This is essentially an inner spiritual freedom, though it has had, in history, a political outworking, for example in the emancipation of slaves.

Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.