In George Herbert's "The Collar," the speaker begins by voicing an intense resistance to divine authority. But by the end of the story the speaker has moved to a position of profound yielding. Post a message that responds to one or more of the following questions:

  • In what ways does the symbol of the collar appropriately represent the relationship depicted in the poem?
  • What is the paradox at the heart of the metaphor of the collar (the conceit)? How is the tension of the paradox resolved?
  • What things constrain the speaker? What's the speaker's attitude toward these constraints? Is his attitude consistent throughout the poem?
As a follow-up posting, state whether you agree or disagree, and why, with a classmate's interpretation of the poem.

 


Comments

Emily
09/11/2012 4:56pm

The collar is an appropriate symbol to represent the relationship in the poem because the speaker feels like a slave, and slaves wore metal collars. He feels like a slave. Another way it may have been meant is as a pun to choler, ehich means anger, because the speaker is also angry in the poem.

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Megan W.
09/11/2012 6:08pm

I love the interpretation of the pun! That is a great observation and way to bring in outside knowledge. I agree that the collar is an appropriate symbol, especially because I'm sure that there is a fancier term he could've called it but he chose "collar," like a prisoner or animal.

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Celeste
09/12/2012 10:47am

Emily, I really like what you thouhgt about the collar. It makes a lot of sense and I hadn't reallyt thought about it like that.

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Celeste
09/12/2012 10:49am

oops thought really

Mika
09/11/2012 5:38pm

The collar was a symbol to the public that meant priests followed the rules and knew the difference between right and wrong. But he perceived it to be controlling him and restricting him from living his life. The following quote from "The Collar" proves my point. "My lines and life are free... Shall i still be in suit?"

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Emily
09/12/2012 8:13am

I think that quote works perfectly for the point you were trying to make, and i agree with you.

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Megan W.
09/11/2012 6:04pm

Prompt #2: What is the paradox at the heart of the metaphor of the collar (the conceit)? How is the tension of the paradox resolved?

The conceit that makes up Collar, by George Herbert, is found within the first stanza, "What? Shall I ever sigh and pine? My line and life are free, free as the road, loose as the wind, as large as store. Shall I still be in suit?" This quote shows the inner angst that the Priest, who is also the narrator of the poem, is experiencing. It is almost as if by saying, "What Shall I ever sigh and pine?" he is saying, "Wait, I don't have any reason to whine..." And as the quote continues he says, "My lines and life are free, free as the road, loose as the wind, as large as store." I think by saying this he is following up his realization that he should not be complaining with a reason why he should not have that attitude. He proceeds to say that he is free and he has an abundance of life, which comes from God. However, after thinking, "Wait, I don't have any reason to whine, God has given me abundance of life..." he allows his "fleshly thinking" to win and continues in anger anyways with, "Shall I be still in suit?" This question is asking, "Do I still have to be a Priest?" This paradox is however, was resolved at the end of the poem when the narrator hears from God. After the Priest lashes out in anger in being fed-up he says, "MEthought I heard one calling, Child! And I replied, My Lord." Which settles the paradox, once and for all in the poem, with a peaceful and reverence that the Priest has for God, who calls him back to sanity.

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Brady
09/11/2012 8:32pm

I really didn't understand what he meant by "what shall I ever sigh and pine", but your explanation makes sense to me. I also agree with the paradox being resolved when he is called back to sanity by God.

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Brady
09/11/2012 8:27pm

The main constraint the speaker experiences is that of his priesthood. The title is an example of this. He compares the collar he wears on his neck to a prisoner's collar. He says "Sure there was wine before my sighs did dry it." Before he could sit and enjoy wine with his friends and have a grand old time, but now he is constrained by his priesthood to act a certain way. He says because of his priesthood he needs to "Recover all thy sigh-blown age on double pleasures." He means that he needs to make up for lost time and "double his pleasure" by doing things he hasn't been able to do. He needs and wants to just get away from it all and remember the life he once had.

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Kendall
09/11/2012 8:47pm

Brady, this was really well thought out and presented. I completely agree with you and i really think the quotes you chose to support your argument were a perfect fit. Great job!

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Trevor
09/11/2012 10:29pm

I enjoyed reading your response. It is very straightforward and the quotes add a lot.

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Kendall
09/11/2012 8:44pm

The symbol of the collar appropriately represents the relationship decribed in the poem, because the narrator feels that he is being choked by his position as a priest. When I picture a collar, I think of a collar on a tuxedo which always seems to be choking its victums. The narrator states in to story, "The Collar", "My lines and life are free, free as the road, loose as the wind, as large as store. Shall I be still in suit?" This quote describes that the llife that sits in front of the him consist of what he wants, freedom, but he ponders whether his faith is that collar or chain that holds him back. The collar represents that link he has with God and how although temptations and hard times will arise his link with God is not a collar to choke him but a road to bring him back to his true sainity and his faith.

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Mary Sine
09/12/2012 10:21am

I think your response to the question was well thought out and written. The quote helps get your point across well.

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Mackenzie
09/12/2012 6:32pm

I enjoyed reading your response to this poem. I didn't really think about the tuxedo..interesting. I agree that the collar is to bring him back to "his true sanity and his faith" and to keep him on the right path in life.

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Trevor
09/11/2012 10:23pm

The collar represents the relationship between God and this pastor very appropriately. The author needed to come up with a symbol that would represent limitations, and the collar works exceptionally well because pastors like Herbert are required to wear a collar as part of his uniform. The collar represents the fact that he is being held back by only one thing; God. If the author would have used a cage, it would mean that he feels like he is being held in place by multiple objects, or bars.

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Hannah H.
09/12/2012 10:59am

I like that your take on the relationship was a little different than the previous ones. I would have to disagree with you though, because I do not think God is the thing holding him back, and I do not think that is what the collar represents. In the end when he says "My Lord!", that is when he finds his peace. He comes to his senses when talking to God, therefor God is not the thing holding him back. What is holding him back is peoples quickness to judge him when he slips up and is tempted to fall into tempation, if that makes sense.

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09/12/2012 3:40pm

I would have to agree with Hannh H. on this point. I don't think that it is God who holds him back from doing these things that he reminisces about -- after all, the priestly collar is a choice that he has made. The collar, I think, is more the priestly duties or right and wrong. For instance, the line that says "Sure there was wine/ Before my sighs did dry it..." Wine, while associated with happiness is also associated with drunkeness, which makes men fools. The speaker's choice to acknowledge that this is wrong is what acts as a collar.

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Kelti
09/12/2012 9:45pm

Both Hannah's I would as well agree with your comments. Ms. Cox, I think you explained that exceptionally well! Becoming a priest is not only his own choice, but a very dedicated choice to make. The many wordly temptations mentioned in the poem, such as wine and harvest, things that many men squander large portions of their life on, are not easy things to give up. Yet he has made his decision carefully. It is no doubt that life will be very hard at timess; hence his complaint of "the collar". Yet in the end, like Hannah H said, he can always come back to peace through God, and remember what is his duty in the world.

Celeste Yahr
09/12/2012 10:44am

Question1- In the beginning of the poem it is as if the writer is frustrated with something he is working on, possibly a section of the Bible. Also it might just be a hard time in his life that he doesn’t understand. "I Struck the board, and cry’d, No more. I will abroad." He leaves it abruptly and starts to talk about all the things he can do now. From the poem you can gather that he has been a Priest for a while and it is all he has really known in his adult life. “Me thoughts I heard one calling, Childe: And I reply’d, My Lord.” This quote shows that he realizes that God will always be there. He realizes that even if it hard to understand or life gets difficult God will be there. So he turns back to God and back to the collar. The collar is like an anchor for him. It is always around his neck reminding him of who he is.

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Lacayah
09/12/2012 10:23pm

I agree. I especially liked when you said "The collar is like an anchor for him. It is always around his neck reminding him of who he is."

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Hannah H.
09/12/2012 10:47am

#1-
The title of this poem, "The Collar", is an appropriate symbol that represents the relationship depicted in the poem, in many ways. The symbol creates this allusion that the minister's collar is choking him like a prison collar, implying that he is restricted from the joys of life do to his current job. The quote- "My lines and life are free, free as the road, loose as the wind, as large as store. Shall I be still in suit?" expresses that this life of freedom is one that he wants to live but he is held back by the image of how people expect him to be, being a minister. This relationship of wanting to have fun and enjoy life is being suffocated or choked by the realization that there is a reputation that has to be kept up.

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Mary Sine
09/12/2012 10:54am

Question 3: At first, it seems to me that the speaker's occupation as a priest is what constrains him. He laments that the world is open to him to enjoy, but he can't because as a priest he is supposed to set an example and follow the Bible. At the beginning he is angry with these constraints, the first lines being "I struck the board and cried, 'No more; I will abroad! What? shall I ever sigh and pine? My lines and life are free, free as the road, Loose as the wind, as large as store. Shall I still be in suit?" He doesn't seem to see why he should still be a priest, which constrains him, when he has his whole life ahead of him to live. But, as the poem continues, his attitude toward the constraints of the life of a priest change. He becomes less angry about it and seems to accept it. At the end, he becomes content and at peace with his life, and is no longer angry about the constraints on his choices in life.

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Carley
09/12/2012 11:03am

I completely agree with your thoughts, Mary. The evidence from the text that you used really conveyed the priest's emotions toward his life. Nice job

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Sam Farmer
09/12/2012 9:26pm

Mary I love the quote you used to describe his anger. He indeed was upset with his job and saddened that he could not enjoy the world as he wished. As God called out to him toward the end, peace did seem to wash over him. Sometimes people bottle things up, explode, then come back to their senses-- just as he did.

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Carley C.
09/12/2012 11:17am

3. I had the same thoughts as Mary here, I too thought at first that the priest felt that his job and "duty" as a priest was what constrained him because he felt like he had to give up so much of the life he wanted in order to serve God. For instance, in the beginning of the poem, it says "I struck the board and cried, 'No more. I will abroad!" Those first lines alone show the reader how unsatisfied he is with his life. The constraints of being a priest make him want to just pack up and leave. However, the further you get into the poem, it becomes more apparent that the priest's constraints are more materialistic. The reader can see this where he says, "Have I no bays to crown it? No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted? All wasted?" He's basically saying he has nothing to show and he's gotten nothing out of his life of being a priest. However, towards the end of the poem, his outlook on his life change and he is ultimately called back to his life in the last two lines where it says, "Methought I heard one calling, 'Child'. And I replied 'My Lord.'" And to this he realizes that he really isn't too angry about his life and those constraints become nothing compared to God.

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09/12/2012 4:11pm

Question 2: I fear I may echo some of Megan's ideas here. The paradox that appears in this poem seems to be the constraint that the speaker's priestly duties place on him and the speaker's subsequent comparison to a collar or, at one point in the poem, a cage. Like a bird looking at the outside world through the bars of a cage, the speaker seems to be looking at all he has lost in becoming a priest: "Is the year only lost to me? Have I no bays to crown it,/ No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted? All wasted?" In this way, the speaker compares these "flowers," "garlands," and "bays" to all the self-gratifying things that most people indulge in. Then, becoming even more infuriated by his realization that he is being left out of all the fun, he says, "Recover all thy sigh-blown age/ On double pleasures; leave thy cold dispute of what is fit and not." Here he is speaking about returning to his former life, before he became God-fearing. He portrays his work as a priest as a "cold dispute of what is fit and not." This refers to the priests observance of rules and duties that they believe distinguishes a person who follows God from one who does not. They would most likely have had disputes over how God's law could be interpreted, thus "dispute." The paradox continues, comparing priesthood to a cage, rope, and "Good cable, to enforce and draw,/ And be thy law..." Finally, the speaker becomes so infuriated that he bursts out, "He that forbears/ To suit and serve his need,/ Deserves his load." At that point, very abruptly, the paradox is resolved with, "Methought I heard one calling, Child! And I replied, My Lord." The tension completely leaks out with those closing words. The speaker lets go of his need to find "double pleasures" and instead shifts back to remembering why he chose to become a priest in the first place.

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Ariana
09/12/2012 5:34pm

Hannah, you brought up really good points and you had the evidence to back it up. I especially agree with your last two lines. Good job!

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Ariana
09/12/2012 5:32pm

# 3: The collar is an appropriate symbol to represent the relationship in the poem because the narrator feels as if he is being restrained or cut off from the items that used to make him happy and enjoy life. “Sure there was wine before my sighs did dry it.” In this case the wine represents the happiness and good times that he used to have before having to lead by example and by the rules. Another quote, “ Have I no harvest but a thorn to let me blood.” continues to describe his sufferings and how he can't enjoy life.

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Mackenzie Cyr
09/12/2012 6:27pm

The symbol of the collar appropriately represents the relationship in the poem because the collar represents an "iron collar" that prisoners wear in jail. Prisoners follow the rules and do what they are told, just like the speaker in this poem. He is a faithful man who does as God tell him to, but is also bound to this lifestyle because of the life he chose; in a way he doesn't feel like he has a choice whether or not to obey God. Like a prisoner doesn't get any awards for his good acts, niether does the speaker in this poem. However, if a prisoner is being good in jail, obeying rules and such, sometimes he will get to return to his free life early; his chains are broken. I believe this is maybe one of the only things that the speaker is looking forward to (in this case heaven) and that is why he becomes more accepting to the thought of death at the end of the poem.

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Sam Farmer
09/12/2012 9:22pm

The speaker in “The Collar” is a priest who feels a sense of restriction in the Church. Being in that position requires great responsibility and excellent example setting. The speaker expresses his feelings toward his job and readers are able to picture his situation. The people of the Church seem to set the stage for how they want him to live. The quote, “leave thy cold dispute of what is fit and not,” is a perfect example of the congregation having control over the priest’s life. He is similar to that of a puppet. These constraints affect his attitude in a negative manner, causing him to be upset with God. Throughout the whole poem, the speaker’s attitude remains bitter until the last line. After his emotions were calmed he seemed to hear God call “Child!” for which he called back, “My Lord”.

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Kelti
09/12/2012 9:50pm

#3: In the poem "The Collar", life's many temptations are reaching to the speaker, inviting him to give up his priestly duties and indulge in their sinful ways. He is constrained against such things by his goal to remain pure and walking strong in his faith. However, through much of the poem he is angry and perhaps bitter at being forced to keep these promises, and wants to live a little without being judged or reprimanded. However, in the last few lines we see him speak to God, where he is suddenly reminded of his passions, and comes to peace in the Lord. His wants leave him, and he is able to focus on the important things in life.

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Lacayah
09/12/2012 10:17pm

The title "The Collar" appropriately depicts the relationship in the poem as an overall metephor. The collar could very well be simmilar to an animal collar. Because a human's instinctual desires are far from godly, as a priest should be. They're more like that of an animal. And then when an animal feels like he can't stand this life he grows fierce and tries to run. This is evident in the poem when Herbert writes "No more; I will abroad!". Then, just as the animal thinks he's free, he's called back. Just as, in the poem, he is addressed as "Child!". And, because he has that collar on, he knows that that's where he really belongs and replies "My Lord."

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Tristan Rude
10/08/2012 9:55pm

The symbol of the collar accurately and appropriately represents the relationship described in the poem because the speaker feels bound by the white collar he wears. This collar also parallels an imaginary collar that binds him as if with chains. He cannot do certain things that most men can do and he also has to watch these other men do them while he can't. Things such as fall in love, get married, have a family, and stand up aggressively for themselves. These are all thing that men naturally wan to do and his collars bind him and keep him away from them. He fights against it for the majority of the poem, then he surrenders to it, just as baby elephants do to the rope that binds them. The speaker doesn't surrender out of defeat however, but out of acceptance and perceived divine calling.

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Kim
10/09/2013 11:25am

The title of this poem is interesting because the Collar represents a sense of restriction at first, hence the tone of the poem is that of anger and the speaker is clearly frustrated. He is determined to take charge of his own life as he struggles with his loss of faith.
But, he later regains his composure when he realizes that constantly beating himself up and remaining in a state of doubt and self pity is of no use. Therefore, towards the end the "cage" and "rope of sands" (images of restraint) he refers to are those of self pity. Towards the end, the Collar represents his own free will of choice. The very restriction that he resents in the beginning becomes a form of salvation, which he gladly chooses.

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