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
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
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
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.