Hundreds flock for a weekend with Herbert

by
11 July 2014

by Paul Figg

Houghton Library, Harvard University

After life: drawing of Herbert by Robert White, thought to be copied from a painting, now lost

After life: drawing of Herbert by Robert White, thought to be copied from a painting, now lost

THE retiring 17th-century priest-poet George Herbert will be celebrated by hundreds of people this weekend in Wiltshire.

Herbert spent the final years of his life as the priest of a parish that is now part of Fuggleston St Peter with Bemerton. By Wednesday, more than 2200 tickets had been sold for the 2014 George Herbert Festival.

Bemerton, Salisbury, and Wilton will host presentations, poetry readings, discussion groups, and musical events to commemorate the life of the poet, described by the organisers as "the archetypal country parish priest".

Among the contributors are several North American professors of literature, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams.

Lord Williams will take part in a programme designed to bring Herbert's poems to a wider audience, particularly among young people, who are no longer set the poems as part of their A-level syllabus. He will address 50 Year 12 pupils from Bishop Wordsworth's School and South Wilts Grammar School, besides speaking on "Why Herbert Matters", and leading a poetry discussion group.

Before the festival, Lord Williams described Herbert's poetry as "a resourceful vehicle for thinking (and feeling) through some of the most difficult areas of human experience".

Several junior schools have entered a competition that challenges pupils to create a card inspired by Herbert's poem "The Flower" or write an original poem of their own. The winning entries will be displayed in Salisbury Library.

On Saturday, a musical concert is due to take place at Wilton House. Visitors will also be able to take part in guided walks to Bemerton from Salisbury and Wilton, following routes that Herbert may have taken in his time as parish priest.

Herbert's poetry has experienced a revival since the publication of a collection of his poetry in the 1940s by Canon F. E. Hutchinson. Hymns based on his poems remain popular. Many of the events are free.

www.georgeherbert.org.uk/News/festival.html

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