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The poetry of Herbert, Vaughan, and Traherne represents “an attempt to shape their lives and verse around the fact of divine presence and influence,” writes Sharon Seelig. The relationship between belief and expression in these three metaphysical poets is the subject of this deeply perceptive study.

Each of these poets held to some extent the notion of dual reality, of the world as indicative of a higher reality, but their responses to this tradition vary greatly—from the ongoing struggle between God and the poet of The Temple, which finally transforms the materials of everyday life and worship; to the more difficult unity of Silex Scintillans, with its tension between illumination and resignation; to the ecstatic proclamations of Thomas Traherne, whose sense of divine reality at first seems so strong as to destroy the characteristic metaphysical tension between this world and the next. Seelig’s study proceeds from individual poems to the whole work, exploring the relation of cosmology and religious experience to poetic form.

Sharon Cadman Seelig has taught English at Smith, Wellesley, and Mount Holyoke Colleges.

"A graceful, compact study which adds significantly to our appreciation of Herbert, Vaughan, and Traherne."—Seventeenth-Century News

"An impressive reading of Herbert....Seelig's work resonates with an erudite virtuosity, easily equal to its demanding subject."—Christianity & Literature

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






English poetry, George Herbert, Henry Vaughn, Thomas Traherne


Literature in English, British Isles

The Shadow of Eternity: Belief and Structure in Herbert, Vaughan, and Traherne
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