Language and tone in The Collar

Condensed language

The language, as is typical of Herbert, is simple but elliptical (condensed). For example: ‘To let me blood' or ‘as large as store' don't seem quite to make sense as they stand, even though the words in themselves are perfectly simple. We have to fill them out, to mean something like: ‘thorns are just bleeding me to death. ... I need some restorative fruit to put life back into me'; and ‘as large as the largest storehouse'.


The use of verbal echoes and assonance is strong. We have noted the long i-vowel sounds. ‘Abroad' is another word that gets echoed around in assonances: ‘board', ‘store', ‘restore', ‘corn', ‘law', ‘draw', and so on. ‘Abroad' particularly symbolises freedom, meaning ‘anywhere I choose to go'.

Irregular rhyme scheme

The rhyme scheme is irregular, again echoing the rambling, incoherent questions Herbert is asking. The rhymes have no pattern, any more than his present life has. Yet we are very aware of them. Only at the end, in the resolution, are the rhymes gently and unobtrusively patterned.

Investigating The Collar
  • ‘Only at the end … are the rhymes gently and unobtrusively patterned'
    • Do you notice any other verbal patterns in The Collar?
  • How does Herbert achieve the tone of complaint?
  • Does the poet's voice sound as if it ‘Raved and grew more fierce and wild'?
    • How does he achieve this effect?
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