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The Dangers of Curiosity: George Herbert, an Enemy of Science?

Les dangers de la curiosité: George Herbert, ennemi de la science?
Christopher De Warrenne Waller

Résumés

Cet article démontre que le danger de la curiosité pour Herbert doit être compris en relation avec la culture intellectuelle émergente et dynamique de son époque – une culture qui, explicitement ou implicitement, menace la foi. Il commence par une brève discussion de la perturbation provoquée par l’impact de la nouvelle science (« new learning »), telle qu’elle est exprimée par John Donne, poète qui a beaucoup influencé Herbert. On examine ensuite l’attitude de Herbert vis-à-vis de la raison et sa relation avec la foi. Les chercheurs qui ont essayé de rendre compte de la dichotomie raison/foi chez Herbert insistent soit sur la disposition pro-scientifique de Herbert soit sur son attitude anti-scientifique. Comme on le verra, la poésie de Herbert navigue entre ces deux tendances. Néanmoins, en dépit de son attirance pour l’œuvre de Francis Bacon, une attitude plus nettement anti-scientifique est évidente dans The Temple, comme il apparaît au travers de l’analyse de l’ambivalence de la poésie de Herbert envers la science. Son admiration pour la science est fortement imprégnée de la condamnation traditionnelle de la curiosité : Herbert se positionne par rapport à la condamnation que l’on rencontre chez les Pères de l’Église.

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Texte intégral

1George Herbert’s work contains both admiration for intellectual innovation and anti-rationalist invective against curiosity. This inconsistency can best be understood by seeing Herbert’s work in relation to the emerging and dynamic intellectual culture of his day; a culture which, at its most pioneering, might threaten the basis of religious belief. This paper begins by briefly discussing the perturbing impact of new learning as expressed by John Donne, a poet who influenced Herbert. Since both poets share an interest in emerging Renaissance science it is instructive to compare the two. I show first how science inspires in Donne a mixture of playful intrigue and real anxieties. Donne’s ambivalence about learning helps elucidate Herbert’s own ambivalent attitude to intellectual curiosity. I then consider Herbert’s attitude to reason (and its application: learning) in relation to faith, examining how scholars have tried to make sense of the faith/reason distinction in Herbert’s work. Generally speaking, they either insist on Herbert’s pro-scientific (or, more specifically, pro-Baconian) disposition or highlight his anti-scientific stance. I argue that Herbert’s poetry attempts to negotiate both tendencies, while being aware that reason poses a potential threat to faith. His Latin poetry has an explicitly Baconian agenda in its celebration of Bacon’s overthrowing of an apparently moribund scholasticism. But Herbert’s Latin peon praises Bacon the renovator rather than endorsing an observation-based Baconian methodology. Indeed, there are good reasons for calling Herbert’s Baconian convictions into question. What is certain is that a more strongly anti-scientific spirit comes to the fore in The Temple. Then I examine Herbert’s conflicting attitudes to learning in his English verse. I explain how Herbert’s admiration for learning is strongly qualified by his overriding recourse to strictures against curiosity. Having laid bare Herbert’s reservations about scientific curiosity, I finally go on to elucidate the intellectual context and sources of those reservations. Herbert’s anti-rationalism is understood in relation to his era’s emerging rationalism with its implicit challenge to faith. Given that challenge, Herbert turns to the traditional warnings about curiosity of the kind expressed by Church Fathers. Just as the Church Fathers’ apologies were written in a context that contained formidable active rivals defending pagan philosophies, so Christians in the Renaissance might feel threatened by newly emerging views of the world that offered accounts which rivalled the explanations of Christian teaching.

I.

  • 1 Jorge J. E. Gracia and Timothy B. Noone (eds), A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages, London (...)
  • 2 On the innovative Renaissance intellectual scene see John Herman Randall Jr., The School of Padua a (...)

2Early Modern intellectual activity was shaking up inherited ideas ranging from those of Aristotle and Ptolemy to Medieval scholasticism in which philosophy was seen as ‘the handmaiden of theology’1 : intellectual curiosity was effectively venturing out onto new terrains that, potentially, left God behind. Thinkers such as Petrus Ramus, Bernadino Telesio, Francis Bacon and Paracelsians criticised old learning for its faulty epistemological foundations, its discrepancy vis-à-vis observations of the natural world, or its lack of practical application. New learning was increasingly worldly-orientated and thus challenged deeply rooted religious assumptions.2 John Donne’s ‘The First Anniversary’ eloquently articulates both the loss of confidence in reason and the perturbation issuing from the innovations of Renaissance inquiry:

  • 3 John Donne, Complete Poetical Works, ed. Herbert J. C. Grierson, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1 (...)

And new philosophy calls all in doubt,
The element of fire is quite put out.
The sun is lost, and th’earth, and no mans wit
Can well direct him where to look for it
[]
’Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone.
3

  • 4 Basil Willey claims that for Donne ‘new explanation explains nothing, but merely causes distress an (...)
  • 5 ‘The element of fire is quite put out’ might be read as comic hyperbole.

3The poem conveys a sense of the alarm and disorientation that occurs when century-old certainties begin to fall apart.4 New philosophy is portrayed as challenging the long-held view of the universe in which earthly imperfections were the exceptions in a perfectly harmonious cosmos. New philosophy threatens to extend sin, chaos, disorder and mutability from their confinement on earth to the universe as a whole. But if new philosophy startled Donne, in a somewhat lighter manner, it also provided fodder for his fanciful metaphors.5 In a verse letter he jocularly deploys reference to a heliocentric cosmos when comparing the mind to the stilled sun:

  • 6 Donne, ‘To the Countesse of Bedford’, Grierson, p. 173, ll. 37-40.

As new philosophy arrests the Sunne,
And bids the passive earth about it runne,
So wee have dull’d our minde, it hath no ends;
Onely the bodie’s busy.
6

4Here the body (figured as the earth) moves around the dulled mind (figured as a motionless sun) – whereas the mind is expected to control the body. The witty couplet of the first two lines quoted neatly explores novel Copernican astronomy and appropriates it for its amusing metaphorical purposes in such a way as to enable a kind of aloofness which dissipates the alarm associated with the profound revision of a long-established vision of a geocentric universe. Nevertheless, the poem’s comic wit may be masking discomfort at the erosion of certainties.

  • 7 For Donne’s positive attitude to science see Margaret Llasera, ‘New Science and New Poetry: The ‘Su (...)
  • 8 Donne, Grierson, p. 206-242.
  • 9 Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, ed. Anthony Raspa, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987, (...)

5Donne’s attitude to the learning of his day ranges from panicked apprehension to detached humour. He does not exclude a certain attraction to new learning;7 Donne, after all, styles himself as a scientific anatomist in his poem ‘An Anatomie of the World.’8 The speaker of his prose work, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, performs something akin to a self-anatomy: ‘I have cut up my own Anatomy, dissected myselfe, and they are gon to read upon me.’9 Donne views the cutting open of the corpus of ideas and self as analogous to the practice of dissecting corpses made famous by the sixteenth-century anatomist Vesalius, whose innovative inquiry disproved the traditional Galenic authority contained in books through empirical demonstration upon the dissection table. As we shall see, George Herbert’s attitude to new learning is also ambivalent, but in a different way. Herbert is not so much intellectually perturbed by new learning’s overturning of inherited knowledge as morally concerned about the negative impact that intellectual curiosity (and its fruition in Renaissance learning) might have on faith. Yet, Herbert, an accomplished Humanist, clearly admires erudition.

II.

  • 10 George Herbert, The English Poems of George Herbert, ed. Helen Wilcox, Cambridge, Cambridge Univers (...)

6In Herbert’s historical panorama, ‘The Church Militant’, which constitutes the final section of The Temple, religion and reason are at odds. The poem recounts the piecemeal westwards migration of Christianity for its preservation – a theme that was ‘relatively commonplace in the early modern period.’10 From Egypt,

  • 11 George Herbert, The Works of George Herbert, ed. F. E. Hutchinson, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1941; c (...)

Religion [] fled into Greece, where arts
Gave her the highest place in all mens hearts.
Learning was pos’d, Philosophie was set,
Sophisters taken in a fishers net.
Plato and Aristotle were at a losse,
And wheel’d about again to spell
Christ-Crosse.
Prayers chas’d syllogismes into their den,
And Ergo was transformed into Amen.11

7The heroine, ‘Religion’, deals with three kinds of learning: the praiseworthy, the respectable and the unrespectable. The laudable ‘arts’ are praised for giving Religion ‘the highest place in all mens hearts’; the ‘arts’ thus appear to be doing something similar to The Temple: making learning serve religion. This shows Herbert’s sympathy for one kind of learning. Unrespectable ‘Sophisters’, on the other hand, are caught in a net of rhetoric – since when Christianity arrived, reason was stagnating in the fruitless examination connoted by the word ‘pos’d’, which refers to both scholastic examination and, like ‘set’, denotes an intellectual impasse. Herbert’s ancient sophists resemble the Medieval scholastics criticised by many Protestants and proponents of new learning. The third type, respectable learning, is given an inferior place in its encounter with Religion: Plato and Aristotle’s intelligence manoeuvres within the boundaries of wit, turning back on its tracks. The crossings of these ratiocinating tracks metonymically connect to the cross of Christ, whose power towers over the capacities of Greek thought. The passage concludes with prayer driving syllogisms away and the transformation of the rationalizing Latin ‘Ergo’ into a pious Hebrew ‘Amen’. But it is significant that reason is not lost in this transformation: reason per se, although clearly limited, is not condemned (as sophistry is), and so is not irredeemably fallen. Moreover, the learning of arts is praised; a concession that leaves scope for the legitimisation of the very wit that the poem deploys in its celebration of reason’s defeat. In sum, if the poem sings the victory of faith over reason, it stops short of announcing reason’s annihilation.

  • 12 Herbert, The English Works of George Herbert, ed. George Herbert Palmer, Boston, Houghton, Mifflin (...)
  • 13 Harold Toliver, George Herbert’s Christian Narrative, Pennsylvania, The Penn State University Press (...)
  • 14 Richard Strier, Love Known: Theology and Experience in George Herbert’s Poetry, Chicago, University (...)
  • 15 Ibid, I would argue that Strier sometimes confuses universal Christian faith with Luther’s very spe (...)

8‘The Church Militant’ is not the only poem in which Herbert’s attitude to reason manoeuvres between acceptance and rejection. Such manoeuvring within this ambivalent space is reflected in the divergent observations made by Herbert scholars, who can be broadly divided into those who tend to emphasise Herbert’s hostility to intellectual curiosity and those who tend to highlight Herbert’s pro-scientific – or pro-Baconian – stance. George Herbert Palmer sees no Baconian influence in Herbert, claiming that the two lacked common ‘fundamental ideas.’12 Harold Toliver argues that the ‘Baconian enterprise is rejected in The Church’ because Herbert was ‘pursuing a strictly sacred’ course therein.13 Toliver’s insistence on Herbert’s sacred path can hardly be gainsaid. But that generality fails to take into account those occasions when the Herbert feels it necessary to deal with the scientific endeavour in The Temple. Richard Strier provides a theological explanation for the (as he puts it) ‘theological attack on reason [which] pervades Herbert’s poetry’; the source of that attack is to be found in Luther’s hostility to reason.14 It is certainly true that Luther’s criticism of scholasticism could lend a sectarian colouring to methodological issues: good Protestants might weaken their Papal rival by taking a shot at its scholastic infantry. Nonetheless, Strier arguably overstretches the link between Luther and Herbert. It is one thing to say that hostility to reason can be found both in Herbert and in Luther (as it can) and another to say that Herbert’s hostility to reason was inspired by Luther.15 Christian anti-rationalism existed before Luther and after Luther independently of his influence. Thus, this paper attempts to make sense of Herbert’s anti-rationalism in its own terms before investigating theological inheritance.

  • 16 Ronald W. Cooley, ‘Full of All Knowledg’: George Herbert’s Country Parson and Early Modern Social D (...)
  • 17 Summers goes on to claim that Herbert, ‘having accepted [Bacon’s theses] could devote himself to th (...)
  • 18Brutus Literarius, / Authoritatis exuens tyrannidem […] Atlas Physicus, / Alcide succumbente Stagi (...)
  • 19 W. A. Sessions, ‘Bacon and Herbert and an Image of Chalk’, in T-L. Pebworth and C. J. Summers (eds) (...)
  • 20 One major verbal Baconian echo from a poem in The Temple is the image of chalking a door found both (...)
  • 21 Greg Miller, George Herbert’s ‘holy patterns’: Reforming Individuals in Community, New York and Lon (...)
  • 22 William Sessions pertinently suggests that Herbert might have been motivated by potential ‘gain’ of (...)

9In contrast to critics who discern Herbert’s anti-rationalism, Ronald Cooley points out Herbert’s interest in the science of botany.16 Joseph Summers underscores Herbert’s endorsement of Baconianism: Herbert ‘accepted Bacon’s chief theses in so far as ‘learning’ was concerned.’17 Like Summers, William Sessions and Greg Miller highlight Herbert’s Baconianism. There is, indeed, no doubt that Herbert praised the Baconian project in his early Latin poetry (not included in The Temple). If one is to make sense of Herbert’s anti-rationalism, a key question arises about his Latin Baconian eulogy: how much are we to attribute this commendation of Bacon to Herbert’s personal and lasting opinion? Critics arguing for Herbert’s Baconianism appear to have indisputable evidence in Herbert’s ‘In Honorem Illustrem. D. D. Verulamij’, written after Bacon became Viscount of St. Albans. In this poem Bacon is the ‘literary / Brutus, casting off the yolk of books […] Atlas of Nature, champion over / The herculean Stagirite.’18 In the brazen idiom of Roman, anti-tyrannical Republicanism, Bacon-Brutus plays the archetypal rebel hero against a dictatorial, Aristotelian authority. Sessions aptly terms this lavish praise ‘excessive hyperbole’; arguing that the excess demonstrates that ‘Herbert went beyond the necessity of his position as Public Orator to praise the Magna Instaurio.’19 But it is by no means certain that the ‘going beyond’ he refers to is anything more than Herbert trying his hand at hyperbole à la John Donne in his capacity of Public Orator in a conventional discourse of acclaim. Although Herbert, in all probability, at this stage in his life (a young scholar) was impressed by Bacon’s reputation and intellectual achievements, one cannot deduce with any certainty Herbert’s deep personal commitment to the Baconian project from either his hyperbole or from Herbert’s allusions (in The Temple) to Bacon which are pointed out by Sessions.20 The poem does not appear to be interested in the details of the methodological issues at stake in Bacon’s work. Furthermore, there are circumstantial reasons for Herbert’s praise: in his Latin poetry, Herbert, as Orator at Cambridge, was writing to Lord Bacon in order to plead for more books for the library.21 The Bacon-Herbert relation at this stage was that of patron-client; Herbert may well also have had a careerist eye to self-betterment in his dealing with the Bacon, who was well positioned and influential at court.22

  • 23 Francis Bacon, ‘Preface’, The Advancement of Learning, ed. William Aldis Wright, Oxford, Clarendon (...)
  • 24 It is man’s sinfully ‘reserved and dark’ nature that prevents him accessing ‘Incarnation’, ll. 7-8, (...)

10Although the lavish acclaim for Bacon in ‘In Honorem’ is both occasional and conventional in its rhetoric acknowledging gratitude to a patron, Herbert does clearly associate his name with the affirmation of Baconian science. If that commitment to Baconianism had been profound and lasting, one would expect the same commitment to appear in The Temple – a work not tied to any patron-client relationship. However, in this personal, devotional-poetic project of a more mature and independent writer, who had given up the secular ambitions of his youth, Herbert’s reservations about science (including that of Bacon) resound louder than a commitment to science. That said, it would be over-simplistic to suggest that Herbert praised Bacon only for circumstantial reasons. Herbert contributed to the translation of Bacon’s works.23 Bacon’s dedication of his ‘Translation of Certaine Psalmes’ to Herbert testifies to a mutually respectful personal acquaintance which evolved from the original patron-client relation. This exchange is particularly apposite: Herbert lends a helping hand in the dissemination of Baconian worldly learning, while Bacon offers his spiritual literature to Herbert. Bacon and Herbert provide an Early Modern avatar of the traditional complimentary (although sometimes fraught) duality in Christendom between the secular sphere and the sacred sphere. Herbert does not dismiss the secular sphere of learning but insists that that knowledge is dwarfed by the sacred. No worldly learning could hope to grasp God’s mystery and majesty. Mystery surrounds some of the most central features of Christian doctrine, as is apparent in Herbert’s ‘Ungratefulness’. The poem mentions ‘two rare cabinets full of treasure, / The Trinity and Incarnation’, God has unlocked them but Trinity’s ‘sparkling light access denies’ to our intellectual curiosity – some mysteries are, paradoxically, too bright to enlighten.24 Bacon would have agreed; but he was less interested in the mysteries that are unavailable to curiosity than in those that are available, if we search for them in the right way.

11In sum, both critics who stress Herbert’s negative attitude to intellectual curiosity and those who focus on his pro-rationalist or pro-scientific attitude are to some extent standing on firm ground: Herbert is caught between endorsement and condemnation of learning. The challenge is to understand how endorsement and condemnation co-exist. So far, we have noted Herbert’s early positive attitude to Baconian science attenuated by the circumstances surrounding his encomium of Bacon. I have already suggested that The Temple is not Baconian (or pro-scientific). Nevertheless, even when its poems reject human intelligence, traces of admiration for intelligence remain.

III.

12The first stanza of Herbert’s ‘The Pearl’ makes the modest claim that secular science leaves something to be desired. That something, coming across somewhat like a nagging doubt, is signalled by the word ‘Yet’ appearing at the end of each stanza:

I know the wayes of Learning; both the head
And pipes that feed the presse, and make it runne;
What reason hath from nature borrowed,
Or of it self, like a good huswife, spunne
In laws and policie; what the starres conspire,
What willing nature speaks, what forc’d by fire;
Both th’old discoveries, and the new-found seas,
The stock and surplus, cause and historie:
All these stand open, or I have the keyes:
Yet I love thee. (ll. 1-10, p. 88; emphasis mine)

  • 25 The printing press, as Wilcox observes, is ‘an appropriate metaphor for the dissemination of ‘learn (...)
  • 26 The poem places the ‘wayes of Learning’ on a par with ‘the wayes of Honour’ and ‘the wayes of Pleas (...)

13The speaker is familiar with a range of the fruits of human curiosity (‘All these’): his exploration of that range leads him to assess his experience. The imagery of printing press ‘pipes’ points to the ability of mechanical printing to produce large quantities of texts at speed (‘runne’) to satisfy or stoke curiosity.25 Of note is the contrast between a more Baconian curiosity borrowing from nature and a quasi-scholastic – implicitly futile – intelligence abstractly spinning problems ‘of it self’ (cf. the unrespectable learning of ‘The Church Militant’). Bacon would have concurred with this contrast. But the poem expresses reservations about Baconian (or scientific) interests in its muted critique of the observation of ‘the stares’, experiment ‘by fire’, studying ‘old discoveries’, exploring ‘new-found seas’ and the writing of ‘historie’ (a genre Bacon practiced). These products of human intelligence are put in a somewhat demeaning list – like items in an inventory of material goods – and cut short by something pure and simple which renders all else irrelevant: ‘love’. The laconic, stanza-ending line ‘Yet I love thee’ places two trochees against the previous iambic flow and, consequently, changes the tone. In so doing it has the effect of making the previous lines seem over wordy. The force of this irksome ‘Yet’ is amplified by the refrain’s repetition at the end of three stanzas.26 The refrain expresses a nagging doubt insofar as it represents a persistent element that cannot be chased away by reason. And yet, it is not a sceptical doubt – for scepticism is the questioning intellectual certainty – rather it is a fideistic doubt. It is a doubt stemming from the speaker’s faith in the mystery of love that cannot be apprehended by reason, but ought to be embraced by the heart.

  • 27 Beads-planets analogy is ‘familiar metaphor’, according to Mary Ellen Rickey, ‘originating, probabl (...)

14‘The Pearl’ refrains from a severe critique of science; in this, it recalls the critique in ‘The Church Militant’ of Aristotle and Plato’s respectable learning. ‘Vanitie (I)’, by contrast, gives us an idea of what Herbert’s unsuppressed berating of curiosity looks like: a case of Amen banishing Ergo with a bellicose vengeance. The poem begins by denigrating astronomy (which could include astrology in Herbert’s day): ‘The fleet Astronomer can bore / And thread the spheres with quick-piercing mind’ (ll.1-2, p. 85). There is already a curious mixture of accusation and admiration in this phrasing. The stargazer has a sharp and lively intelligence (‘quick-piercing’). However, such praise is double-edged: the astronomer violently pierces the planets (‘spheres’). This violent penetration has hubristic overtones, suggesting that the astronomer meddles with something he should not approach, like speculation of God’s design. If Herbert is not directly taking a geocentric line here, there is nonetheless a palpable sense of something awry about post-Copernican astronomy – a worry that Herbert has in common with Donne. Furthermore, planets are conceived as beads,27 thus making the association with vain jewellery and tacitly accusing astronomers of both vanity (in their curious searching) and the trivialising the cosmos: bringing God’s majestic creation down to the level of a trinket. The trivialising theme is pursued in the following lines where the astronomer:

[] views their stations, walks from doore to doore,
Surveys, as if he had design’d
To make a purchase there: he sees their dances,
And knoweth long before
Both their full-ey’d aspects, and secret glances. (ll. 3-7)

15The astronomer treats the cosmos like a property to be purchased if deemed, after rational assessment, a good bargain. With the contemptuously ringing ‘as if’ Herbert does not simply manifest Christian (or aristocratic) scorn of finance, he deplores the idea of nature being used as commodity. And yet, on the other hand, the poem’s wording betrays traces of empathy with the captivated curious observers who, ‘full-ey’d’, contemplate the planets’ ‘dances’ – a word that evokes the grace of celestial movements.

  • 28 This Humanist current culminated in Bacon’s view that human effort can help mankind recover from th (...)
  • 29 Pride pertains not only to the diver but also to the lady, whose neck the peals are destined to ado (...)

16A similar ambivalence is found in the following stanza which turns the reader’s attention from figurative beads (heavenly bodies) to literal pearls: ‘The nimble Diver […] Cuts through the working waves’ in search of ‘His dearely-earned pearl’ (ll. 8-10). The pearl is, ambivalently, ‘dearely’ gained in two senses of the word: through much effort and at much moral cost for the diver. While the human effort involved might elicit admiration, the ultimate price of that effort is negative. Moral condemnation of initiatives of the mind transpires in the epithet ‘ventrous wretch’. But, again, there is an intimation of praise for the diver in the imagistic and alliterative line ‘Cuts through the working waves’, which conveys the diver’s dexterity, resolve and athletic grace in his struggle against the forces of nature that are immense but – unlike man – lacking in intelligence. Herbert is writing against the background of the Humanist celebration of man’s reason28. A discourse along these lines might see the pearl’s inaccessibility as a trial for man’s ingenuity; but any such Humanist influence is overridden by a more traditional explanation: ‘God did hide’ the pearl ‘On purpose from the ventrous wretch / That he might save his life’ (ll.10-12). God put the pearl at a distance as a moral trial. The extolling of curiosity and intelligence is drowned out by the censure of pride, lechery and greed.29

The third stanza discusses al/chemical curiosity:
The subtil Chymick can devest
And strip the creature naked, till he finde
The callow principles within their nest:
There he imparts to them his minde,
Admitted to their bed-chamber, before
They appeare trim and drest
To ordinarie suitours at the doore. (ll. 15-21)

  • 30 G. Miller, George Herbert’s ‘holy patterns’, op. cit., p. 84. For other critics’ (less accurate) co (...)

17The ‘creature’ is both a natural substance (created thing) and a woman. This sexual imagery, as Greg Miller observes, alludes to the brothel.30 The creature is ‘strip[ed…] naked’. Her ‘nest’ is inseminated with the Chymick’s ‘minde’. The freshly initiated creature then becomes alchemist-bawd’s prostitute and is told to go and spruce up in her ‘bed-chamber’ in preparation for her service to ‘ordinarie suitours’. Miller uses this poem in support of his thesis that The Temple criticises the science that Bacon disapproved of. However, Herbert’s chemist does not impose but ‘finde[s] / The callow principles’ in his object to which his mind then applies its focus. So Herbert’s inductive chemist is too Baconian (and certainly not anti-Baconian enough) to exempt Bacon’s methodology from the poem’s censure of scientific curiosity.

18The speaker of ‘The Discharge’ also associates the vanity of his curiosity with lasciviousness:

Busie enquiring heart, what wouldst thou know?
Why dost thou prie,
And turn, and leer, and with a licorous eye
Look high and low;
And in thy lookings stretch and grow? (ll. 1-5, p. 144)

  • 31 Grierson, l. 1, p. 10.

19The opening lines recall Donne’s ‘The Sunne Rising’ whose speaker chides the sun with the memorable incipit: ‘Busie old, foole, unruly Sunne.’31 However, while Donne’s poem (like much of his libertine verse) celebrates sexuality as a positive force, Herbert deploys the semantic field of sexuality to reinforce his moral condemnation of curiosity. The absurdity of scolding the sun lends Donne’s poem a humour which is alien to Herbert’s. The word taking the place of Donne’s terse, Germanic ‘old’ is the long, Latinate ‘enquiring’, making Herbert’s opening sound less spontaneous than that of Donne’s Falstaffian speaker, whose braggadocio invites tongue-in-cheek sympathy. Herbert’s speaker chides from the moral high ground leaving no room for laughter. The poem reinforces the tone of moral disapprobation by sexualising curiosity. The heart’s sin of enquiry is equated with the sin of lechery – a moral gesture reminiscent of Saint Augustine (see Part IV below). The poem’s sexual language includes accusations of voyeurism: The heart ‘prie[s]’, ‘turn[s]’, ‘leer[s]’. The heart is represented as ‘looking high and low’ with a ‘licorous’ eye; – the word ‘licorous’ connoting lechery and greed. The poem evokes a voyeur trying to glimpse a naked woman through gaps in a wall; the result of which is the male voyeur’s anatomical reaction described: ‘stretch and grow’; words which also conjure swelling of pride in overbold curiosity.

  • 32 A reservation that Bacon shared – Bacon disapproved of inquiring into Providence; see John Channing (...)

20The speaker’s same heart once had total commitment to his spiritual vocation: ‘Did not thy heart / Give up the whole, and with the whole depart…?’ (ll. 7-8). Stanzas 5-7 warn of delving into ‘future depths’ (l. 28);32 suggesting astrology – the standard means of curiously ‘enquiring’ into the future. The speaker would do better to focus on the present: ‘For death each hour environs and surrounds us’ (l. 36). This reminder of death in life initiates the poem’s vanitas motif:

He that would know
And care for future chances, cannot go
Unto those grounds,
But through a Church-yard which them bounds. (ll. 37-40)

21Those curious about the possible future should contemplate the certain future of death in the memento mori of a graveyard stroll.

22The Agonie’ also emphasises the limits of intellectual curiosity, against which the speaker pits ineffable Christian mysteries. The poem begins by contemplating the achievements of worldly leaning, which are limited by the word ‘But’:

Philosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love. (1-6, p. 37; emphasis mine)

23Considered in spatial terms learning is impressive, reaching from high altitudes and beyond to the oceans’ depths. But to praise in spatial terms is a backhanded compliment because the criterion of appraisal is limited to a quality pertaining to the inferior being of matter. Sin and Love swallow worldly knowledge because they are only metaphorically spatial; conceptually they exist beyond material space. The natural philosopher may benefit from the ‘measur[ing]’ tools of cartography and the historiographical analysis of ‘states’ and ‘kings’, but his gaze falls upon merely ‘spacious things’, which reminds us that he cannot see what lies beyond matter. Material ‘things’ offer themselves with ease to man’s capacity to ‘measure’ but that capacity is all but useless when trying to apprehend the higher mysteries, upon which the Christian has no epistemological hold. Recognising that trust is worth more than curiosity, the Christian must fall back on faith and, more specifically, turn to the eucharist. The mystery of ‘Love is’ a ‘liquour sweet and most divine, / Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine’ (ll. 17-18).

24‘Divinitie’ also insists on the importance of the eucharist which, along with Jesus’ basic moral message, is contrasted with the curiosity of the science of the stars and abstruse theological disputation. It begins by mocking those who put too much store by knowledge of the heavens:

As men, for fear the starres should sleep and nod,
And trip at night, have spheres suppli’d;
As if a starre were duller then a clod,
Which knows his way without a guide. (ll. 1-4, p. 134)

  • 33 Hutchinson notes that spheres are globes illustrating celestial bodies, The Works of George Herbert(...)

25The speaker describes men who have recourse to model ‘spheres’33 because they are worried that if they are deprived of them the stars will sleep or stray. He thus reverses the causal relation posited by astrology, which deals with the causal effects of heavenly bodies upon earthly phenomena. Herbert’s satirical attack also alludes to astronomers’ efforts to account for the anomalies in existing theories that their observations threw up such as wandering stars. The poem sarcastically and unjustly attributes absurd beliefs to such astronomers, namely that they ‘fear’ that the stars would wander off course without their models. Herbert’s deliberate distortion (for the purpose of censure) betrays an unmistakable hostility to the stargazer’s curiosity – whether the stargazer’s interest is astrological or astronomical.

26The poem then establishes a parallel between the stargazer’s knowledge of the heavens (the physical universe) and the theologian’s misguided knowledge of Heaven. Herbert’s description of theologians’ attempt to ‘cut and carve’ at Heaven with their sharp ‘wit’ (l. 7) leads to the deplored result that ‘Reason triumphs, and faith lies by’ (l. 8). The language of cutting warns that dispute is divisive or schismatic (a word deriving from the Greek for ‘to split’): the speaker worries that argumentative theology might have ‘jagg’d’ (i.e. sliced) the ‘seamlesse coat’ of Christ’s message (l. 11). Theologians’ ‘curious questions’ lead to doctrinal ‘divisions’ (l. 12) that threaten Church unity and impact negatively on the religious life of the community. This propensity to create divisions, more than any epistemological objection (of the kind that the Baconian critique of ‘Sophisters’ alludes to in ‘The Church Militant’), is what makes theological curiosity particularly dangerous for Herbert. In a back-to-basics rhetorical manoeuvre, Herbert hopes to unite the diversity of interpretation under the fundamentals of Christianity:

all the doctrine, which [Jesus] taught and gave,
Was cleare as heav’n, from whence it came.
At least those beams of truth, which onley save,
Surpass[ing] in brightnesse any flame. (ll. 13-16)

27The ensuing teaching gives exclusive (suggested by the word ‘onley’) access to salvation: ‘Love God, and love your neighbour. Watch and pray. / Do as ye would be done unto’ (ll. 17-18). But such ‘cleare’ and simple truths are also opaquely profound: ‘O dark instructions; ev’n as dark as day!’ (l. 19). This oxymoron – reminiscent of the paradoxical language of ‘Ungratefulness’ – denotes a message so mysteriously simple that curiosity will never comprehend the whys and wherefores of faith.

  • 34 Joseph Summers, by contrast, suggests that The Temple leaves scientific concerns behind, see above (...)
  • 35 ‘[T]he day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night’, 1 Thessalonians, 5: 2 (King James Bible)

28Ultimately, central Christian truths must be both simple and mysterious. But, crucially, Herbert’s speaker does not want their sacred mystery to illicit intellectual curiosity. After the Christian’s initial curiosity has been satisfied, he or she must simply do the right thing without thinking about it. After laying claim to a foundational Christian doctrine, the speaker goes on to harangue the curious astronomer: ‘burn thy Epicycles, foolish man / Break all thy spheres, and save thy head’. He demands that the natural philosopher wreak violence on the instruments of his mind in order to save his soul. This emotive exhortation demonstrates that Herbert in his religious poetry had not so much forgotten about the innovative science he once celebrated as piously turned against it.34 Herbert’s sympathy for intellectual curiosity (manifest in his early verse), his love of learning in general, and of language in particular contrast with his realisation that all intellectual endeavour is rooted in human vanity, is extremely limited when concerned with theological fundamentals and is inevitably tainted with sin. ‘The Quip’ accords the final answer to all that human intelligence can muster to God: ‘thou shalt answer, Lord’. This plane utterance is effectively an anti-quip: a prediction stripped of the slightest flash of wit. God’s answer is unknown to human beings in the present because it is deferred to a future Judgement day (the like and date of which only God can know)35, when human knowledge will be of an entirely other, non-worldly sort.

IV.

  • 36 Alexander Pope, Pope: Poems, selected by Angus Ross, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1971, p. 121.
  • 37 A textual variant of Pope’s Essay echoes the concerns of ‘Divinitie’, thus suggesting Pope was insp (...)
  • 38 Isaac Kramnick believes that Pope’s poem portrays ‘a characteristic Enlightenment vision of human n (...)
  • 39 ‘Epitaph Intended for Sir Isaac Newton’, Pope, Poems, op. cit, p. 92.

29We have now seen how two conflicting attitudes coexisted in Herbert’s work. Herbert was capable of admiring and supporting the active curiosity of learning in his day; but he was also keenly aware of the limits of curiosity and had recourse to strong moralising, sexualised or obscurantist discourse to evoke its dangers. Yet even when Herbert condemns the vanity of intellectual pursuits, he cannot help but deploy the heights of his poetic intelligence to do so. Herbert instantiates the ambivalence of an age both strongly attached to a theocentric worldview and undergoing the intensification of Renaissance curiosity, which was about to give birth to the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century and the secular and deistic worldview that would triumph in the Enlightenment and eventually marginalise God from areas of cultural life (notably from political life, as exemplified by the American Revolution). That Enlightenment triumphalism is eloquently expressed by Alexander Pope’s ‘An Essay on Man’, whose speaker (addressing mankind) commands ‘Go, wondrous creature! / Go measure earth […] Instruct the planets in what orbs to run, / Correct old Time, and regulate the sun.’36 Pope’s poem contains a satirical caveat against certain forms of intellectual hubris that, in some respects, resembles Herbert’s critique of curiosity.37 However, Pope bears witness to the increasingly optimistic vision of learning characteristic of many intellectuals in the century after Herbert.38 Such optimism transpires in Pope’s admiration for Newton: ‘Nature and Nature’s Laws lay hid in Night / God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.’39 This tribute to the man who revolutionised our understanding of the universe is far from the spirit of the critique of piercing planets in ‘Vanitie (I)’ and the censure of astronomy/astrology in ‘Divinitie’. Moreover, Pope’s allusion to the Creation in Genesis involves a rhetorical gesture that Herbert would hardly have ventured for Bacon. Although there are similarities in Pope and Herbert’s caution about science, the areas of contrast between the two poets reveal a change in intellectual history and mentality in which reason was gradually attaining publicly acknowledged hegemony among intellectual elites while faith was increasingly being seen as a private affair.

  • 40 Tertulliani, Liber De Praescriptione Haereticorum; ‘Let curiosity give place to faith’, translation (...)

30Herbert’s intuition about the direction that learning was taking led him to articulate traditional reservations about curiosity that go back to the foundation of Christianity as articulated by the Church Fathers Tertullian and Augustine. Tertullian commands ‘Cedat curiositas fidei’40. If curiosity risks conflicting with Christian faith, Tertullian provided a laconic and memorable directive for future Christians reaching the point where curiosity should be swept aside in a fideistic and, perhaps, impatient gesture. Similarly, Augustine warns that

  • 41 The Confessions of Saint Augustine, trans. by Edward Bouverie Pusey, (1909-1914), at sacred-texts.c (...)

besides that concupiscence of the flesh which consisteth in the delight of all senses and pleasures, wherein its slaves [] the soul hath, through the same senses of the body, a certain vain and curious desire, veiled under the title of knowledge and learning, not of delighting in the flesh, but of making experiments through the flesh. The seat whereof being in the appetite of knowledge, and sight being the sense chiefly used for attaining knowledge, it is in Divine language called the lust of the eyes.41

  • 42 See Blaise Pascal, Pensées, ed. Michel Le Guern, Paris, Gallimard, 1977, p. 467; Lafuma, no. 617.
  • 43 John Milton, ‘Paradise Lost’, Book I, l. 3, The Complete Poems, ed. B. A. Wright, London, J. M. Den (...)

31The curiosity that Augustine condemns here is indirectly enslaved to sensual pleasure. This ‘lust of the eyes’ recalls Herbert’s association of curiosity with lasciviousness in ‘The Discharge’, as well as the strongly sexualised language of accusation in ‘Vanitie (I)’. Lust of the eyes, like lust of the flesh, is sinful for both Herbert and Augustine. The association of desire and knowledge would be taken up by another deeply Christian fideist writer: Blaise Pascal.42 Christians were well aware that the condemnation of the sin of curiosity was intimately bound with the central Christian narrative of the Fall. In Genesis curiosity led to the disobedient act which had Adam and Eve expelled from Eden as recounted in the Old Testament; the beginning of, as John Milton puts it, ‘all our woe.’43

32As a bulwark against the threat of the intellectual curiosity of his day Herbert turns to the traditional Christian suspicion of learning articulated by Church Fathers who were writing at a time when Christianity still had serious non-Christian intellectual enemies. In that respect they are closer in spirit to Herbert than the Christian intellectuals of the Middle Ages who, unlike the Church Fathers, did not share an intellectual scene with active pagan competitors. In Herbert’s era, the threat did not come from pagans, but it did come from the revived interest in various strands of thought articulated by pagans in Antiquity and from the secularising path that the most fertile and dynamic element of Humanist learning was taking: Renaissance intellectuals’ exploration of ideas from Antiquity (such as scepticism and materialism) had, in effect, inadvertently resurrected some old, pagan ghosts that Christianity had hitherto laid to rest. The threat from this revitalised learning which opposed or slighted much of Christian thought, combined with potentially divisive doctrinal bickering, underlies The Temple’s insistence on the limits of intellectual curiosity. Hence the morally reproaching questions in ‘The Discharge’: ‘what wouldst thou know? [...] Hast thou not made thy counts, and summ’d up all?’ (ll. 1 and 6). These rhetorical questions imply that important matters simply cannot yield to human intelligence’s capacity to reckon (the focus of Herbert’s attack seems to be quantitative science in these lines) and to understand affairs of the world and beyond. Herbert, as he got older, found a sense of security in the traditional advice to curtail curiosity precisely because he could see how far intellectual curiosity in the hands of Bacon or his deistically inclined brother, Edward Herbert, was beginning to stride. Herbert’s worry was that ‘Man’ (as the poem of that name has it), for all his admirable qualities, achievements and fortune is missing a vital sense of spiritual purpose and divine proximity. Thus, the poem’s speaker calls on God to ‘dwell in’ his human creature (l. 50, p. 90). Although reason was often thought of as a divine quality in man, it is clearly not sufficient to bring Herbert’s speaker a sense of God’s dwelling within.

  • 44 Jeremy Taylor, Holy Living, Selected Writings, ed. C. H. Sisson, Manchester, Carcanet, 1990, p. 87.

33Warnings against curiosity were also articulated by Herbert’s younger contemporary, Jeremy Taylor, who counselled believing ‘everything which God hath revealed to us: and, when once we are convinced that God hath spoken it, to make no further inquiry, but humbly to submit; ever remembering that there are some things which our understanding cannot fathom, nor search out their depth.’44 Herbert and Taylor share the same ideological reservations about intellectual curiosity even though they did not use the same means to express that common outlook. Paradoxically, Herbert’s highly sophisticated poetry explores the limits of literary intelligence in his caveats about the limits of intelligence in general. His readers, who themselves participated in the rich but disorientating intellectual culture of their day, may well have been seeking out the reassuring, well-wrought reminders about the limits of curiosity that Herbert provides. In this regard, both Herbert and his readers participate in a deep tension in Early Modern culture between its energetic thirst for the fruits of the mind and its anxieties about what those fruits might entail.

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Notes

1 Jorge J. E. Gracia and Timothy B. Noone (eds), A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages, London, Blackwell, 2003, p. 35.

2 On the innovative Renaissance intellectual scene see John Herman Randall Jr., The School of Padua and the Emergence of Modern Science, Padua, Editrice Antenore, 1961; Yvon Belaval, Histoire de la philosophie, 2 vols. Vol. 1. La Renaissance, l’âge classique, Paris, Gallimard, 1973; Charles B. Schmitt, et al., (eds), The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988; Peter French and Howard K. Wettstein (eds), Midwest Studies in Philosophy: Renaissance and Early Modern Philosophy, Vol. XXVI, Oxford, Blackwell, 2002; James Hankins (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007, and Paul Richard Blum (ed.), Philosophers of the Renaissance, trans. Brian McNeil, Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America Press, 2010.

3 John Donne, Complete Poetical Works, ed. Herbert J. C. Grierson, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1929, ‘The First Anniversary’, ll. 205-213, p. 213-4; hereafter cited as ‘Grierson’.

4 Basil Willey claims that for Donne ‘new explanation explains nothing, but merely causes distress and confusion’, The Seventeenth-Century Background, London, Ark, 1986, p. 12-13. Leonard Barkan’s discussion of Donne evokes a ‘tension about man’s place in the cosmos and a terror of doubt that suggests all the fears inspired by the new philosophy’, The Human Body as Image of the World, Yale, Yale University Press, 1975, p. 53-54.

5 ‘The element of fire is quite put out’ might be read as comic hyperbole.

6 Donne, ‘To the Countesse of Bedford’, Grierson, p. 173, ll. 37-40.

7 For Donne’s positive attitude to science see Margaret Llasera, ‘New Science and New Poetry: The ‘Subtle Knot’’, in Innovations et Tradition de la Renaissance aux Lumières, François Laroque and Franck Lessay (eds), Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2002, p. 149-163.

8 Donne, Grierson, p. 206-242.

9 Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, ed. Anthony Raspa, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 45-46.

10 George Herbert, The English Poems of George Herbert, ed. Helen Wilcox, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 664.

11 George Herbert, The Works of George Herbert, ed. F. E. Hutchinson, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1941; corrected reprint 1945, ll. 49-56, p. 191. All unreferenced citations of Herbert’s works, appearing in parentheses, are from this edition.

12 Herbert, The English Works of George Herbert, ed. George Herbert Palmer, Boston, Houghton, Mifflin & Company, 1915, p. 74, cited in William A. Sessions, ‘Bacon and Herbert and an Image of Chalk’ in Ted-Larry Pebworth and Claude J. Summers (eds), ‘Too Rich to Clothe the Sunne’: Essays on George Herbert, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980, p. 165-178, p. 176.

13 Harold Toliver, George Herbert’s Christian Narrative, Pennsylvania, The Penn State University Press, 1993, p. 21.

14 Richard Strier, Love Known: Theology and Experience in George Herbert’s Poetry, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1983, p. 31.

15 Ibid, I would argue that Strier sometimes confuses universal Christian faith with Luther’s very specific faith alone.

16 Ronald W. Cooley, ‘Full of All Knowledg’: George Herbert’s Country Parson and Early Modern Social Discourse, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2003, p. 67.

17 Summers goes on to claim that Herbert, ‘having accepted [Bacon’s theses] could devote himself to the problems of religion and poetry with comparative freedom’, Joseph H. Summers, George Herbert: His Religion and Art, London, Chatto & Windus, 1954, p. 197.

18Brutus Literarius, / Authoritatis exuens tyrannidem […] Atlas Physicus, / Alcide succumbente Stagiritico’, George Herbert, The Latin Poetry of George Herbert: A Bilingual Edition, trans. Mark McCloskey and Paul R. Murphy, Athens, Ohio University Press, 1965, ll. 14-18, p.169.

19 W. A. Sessions, ‘Bacon and Herbert and an Image of Chalk’, in T-L. Pebworth and C. J. Summers (eds), op. cit., p. 170.

20 One major verbal Baconian echo from a poem in The Temple is the image of chalking a door found both in ‘The Forerunners’ and Bacon’s Advancement of Learning. While Sessions points to possible similarities, he does not underscore differences: Herbert focuses on the chalk’s whiteness to allude to grey hair, while Bacon ignores colour in his analogy comparing chalking a door to peaceful argument and military occupation to pugnacious argument; W. Sessions, ‘Bacon and Herbert and an Image of Chalk’, in T-L. Pebworth and C. J. Summers (eds), op. cit., p. 172-174.

21 Greg Miller, George Herbert’s ‘holy patterns’: Reforming Individuals in Community, New York and London, Continuum, 2007, p. 80.

22 William Sessions pertinently suggests that Herbert might have been motivated by potential ‘gain’ of ‘position and power’, W. A. Sessions, ‘Bacon and Herbert and an Image of Chalk’, in T-L. Pebworth and C. J. Summers (eds), op. cit., p. 170.

23 Francis Bacon, ‘Preface’, The Advancement of Learning, ed. William Aldis Wright, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1891, p. xliii.

24 It is man’s sinfully ‘reserved and dark’ nature that prevents him accessing ‘Incarnation’, ll. 7-8, 14, 25, p. 82.

25 The printing press, as Wilcox observes, is ‘an appropriate metaphor for the dissemination of ‘learning’’, H. Wilcox, English Poems of George Herbert, op. cit., p. 323.

26 The poem places the ‘wayes of Learning’ on a par with ‘the wayes of Honour’ and ‘the wayes of Pleasure’, which are described in stanzas two and three respectively – that is, the poem rejects three vain temptations in three stanzas. The speaker, desirous to look beyond these misguided worldly ways, ‘flie[s] to thee [God], and fully understand[s]’ the ‘price I have thy love’ (ll. 33-35). That price is the renunciation of Matthew’s parabolic merchant, alluded to in the title, who sold everything for the pearl of Christ’s message. The speaker’s ‘understand[ing]’ involves renunciation of intellectual curiosity, honour and pleasure.

27 Beads-planets analogy is ‘familiar metaphor’, according to Mary Ellen Rickey, ‘originating, probably, in diagrams’, Utmost Art: Complexity in the Verse of George Herbert, Lexington, University of Kentucky Press, 1966, p. 62.

28 This Humanist current culminated in Bacon’s view that human effort can help mankind recover from the Fall. See John Channing Briggs, ‘Bacon’s Science and Religion’, in Markku Peltonen (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 172-199, p. 176.

29 Pride pertains not only to the diver but also to the lady, whose neck the peals are destined to adorn: her ‘excessive pride / Her own destruction and his danger wears’ (ll. 13-14). Feminine adornment leads to hers and the male diver’s ruin: she gives way to vanity, he to sexual temptation.

30 G. Miller, George Herbert’s ‘holy patterns’, op. cit., p. 84. For other critics’ (less accurate) commentaries on the sexual aspects of the poem’s imagery see, M. E. Rickey, Utmost Art, op. cit., p. 63; Richard Strier, Love Known, op. cit., p. 48; and Michael Carl Schoenfeldt, Prayer and Power: George Herbert and Renaissance Courtship, Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 1991, p. 246.

31 Grierson, l. 1, p. 10.

32 A reservation that Bacon shared – Bacon disapproved of inquiring into Providence; see John Channing Briggs, ‘Bacon’s Science and Religion’, in M. Peltonen, The Cambridge Companion to Bacon, op. cit., p. 172-199, p. 187.

33 Hutchinson notes that spheres are globes illustrating celestial bodies, The Works of George Herbert, ed. F. E. Hutchinson, op. cit., p. 524.

34 Joseph Summers, by contrast, suggests that The Temple leaves scientific concerns behind, see above Note 16.

35 ‘[T]he day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night’, 1 Thessalonians, 5: 2 (King James Bible).

36 Alexander Pope, Pope: Poems, selected by Angus Ross, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1971, p. 121.

37 A textual variant of Pope’s Essay echoes the concerns of ‘Divinitie’, thus suggesting Pope was inspired by Herbert: ‘Show by what rules the wandr’ing planets stray’, Alexander Pope, The Works of Alexander Pope with Notes and by Himself and Others, ed. William Roscoe, London, Gilbert & Rivington, 1847, p. 61.

38 Isaac Kramnick believes that Pope’s poem portrays ‘a characteristic Enlightenment vision of human nature’, Isaac Kramnick, The Portable Enlightenment Reader, New York, Penguin, 1995, p. 255.

39 ‘Epitaph Intended for Sir Isaac Newton’, Pope, Poems, op. cit, p. 92.

40 Tertulliani, Liber De Praescriptione Haereticorum; ‘Let curiosity give place to faith’, translation cited in ‘Tertullian’ The Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14520c.htm; for Latin text see http://www.tertullian.org/latin/de_praescriptione_haereticorum.htm (both consulted 10 April 2015).

41 The Confessions of Saint Augustine, trans. by Edward Bouverie Pusey, (1909-1914), at sacred-texts.com: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/augconf/aug10.htm (consulted 10 April 2015); ‘praeter enim concupiscentiam carnis, quae inest in delectatione omnium sensum et voluptatum, cui servientes depereunt qui longe se faciunt a te, inest animae per eosdem sensus corporis quaedam non se oblectandi in carne, sed experiendi per carnem vana et curiosa cupiditas, nomine cognitionis et scientiae palliata. quae quoniam in appetitu noscendi est, oculi autem sunt ad noscendum in sensibus principes, concupiscentia oculorum eloquio divino appellata est’, Augustine of Hippo, Confessiones, Liber X, http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/jod/latinconf/10.html (Consulted 10 April 2015).

42 See Blaise Pascal, Pensées, ed. Michel Le Guern, Paris, Gallimard, 1977, p. 467; Lafuma, no. 617.

43 John Milton, ‘Paradise Lost’, Book I, l. 3, The Complete Poems, ed. B. A. Wright, London, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1980. The New Testament warns ‘Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth’, 1 Cor. 8.1 and also posits an ideal beyond intellectual curiosity; as Paul put it: ‘the peace of God, which passeth all understanding’, Philippians, 4: 7, (King James Bible).

44 Jeremy Taylor, Holy Living, Selected Writings, ed. C. H. Sisson, Manchester, Carcanet, 1990, p. 87.

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Christopher De Warrenne Waller, « The Dangers of Curiosity: George Herbert, an Enemy of Science? », Études Épistémè [En ligne], 27 | 2015, mis en ligne le 22 avril 2014, consulté le 13 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/460 ; DOI : 10.4000/episteme.460

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Christopher De Warrenne Waller

Christopher De Warrenne Waller termine son Ph.D. à l’Université de Bristol sur « Distance and Dealings between the Christian and God in the Poetry of George Herbert: ‘Wilt Thou Meet Arms with Man » et il est chargé de cours à l’université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée. Sa recherche porte sur la poésie religieuse de la période moderne, de John Donne à Andrew Marvell. 

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