Questions and Answers from George Herbert’s poem “Virtue”

1. What is the central idea of the poem Virtue?

“Virtue” is a metaphysical poem where Herbert deals with a simple but fundamental truth of existence. Here he sings the glory of a virtuous soul which survives all the transient objects in the world. Every beautiful object is subjected to decay with the passing of time. Only a truly virtuous soul is able to overcome the onslaught of time and it remains unchanged through eternity.

2. What metaphysical elements do you find in the poem “Virtue”?

The poem”Virtue” is a gentle manifestation of divinity. The metaphysical elements that are present in the poem are metaphysical conceit, concentration, learnedness and unification of sensibility. Herbert here uses the typical metaphors or conceits used by the Metaphysical poets. The theme of the poem is ‘virtue’ which is also a metaphysical quality.

3.. What Christian morality is presented in “Virtue “?

“Virtue” stands for Christian ethics. Virtue means the right ways of living. In this mortal world, everything is transient and has no connection with spirituality. The only truth that only a virtuous soul can have, remains forever. Only virtue can elevate our souls.

4. “Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,/ The bridal of the earth and sky.”-Explain the imagery?

The poet Herbert visualizes a pleasant day that is cool, calm and bright. The poet goes to fancy that it marks the wedding festivity of the earth and the sky’, two natural elements. The term ‘bridall of the earth and sky’ has a metaphorical character and compares the day to a bridal. It is a somewhat drastic metaphysical conceit.


5. “The dew shall weep thy fall to night;/ For thou must die.”-Why shall the dew *weep’?

This line clearly brings out the theme of transience in this earth. He says that the sweet day with the cool, calm and bright sun will die with the passing of time and at the fall of night. The ‘dew’ is personified and it is weeping for the passing of the day. The end of the day is inevitable and unfavorable also.

6.  Thy root is ever in its grave,/ And thou must die.”-Whose root is referred to here? What does the line signify?

This line refers to the root of the plant of a red rose. The poet says that although the rose has the power to dazzle one’s eyes, it has a very early end. It blooms only to fade away ere long. Herbert deeply feels the tragic transience of this lovely flower that finds its end on the very ground wherefrom it has bloomed.

7. Sweet spring, full of sweet dayes and roses,/ A box where sweet compacted lie;”- How does the poet describe the Spring?

Spring is, no doubt, a pleasant season, enriched with color and calmness, brightness and fragrance. Bright and quiet days and colorful and fragrant flowers make this season truly lovely. To describe the beauty of spring the poet takes the help of an analogy. He says that like a box with compact sweets spring is a storehouse of all that is beautiful, bright and brilliant in nature.