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The Altar

An AP English Literature Assignment for MHS describing a poem before the 1820s.

on 15 November 2013

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Transcript of The Altar

The Altar
The Altar
Herbert announces in his poem his intention to build an altar to the Lord. Herbert is building a sacrifice that is pleasing before God, an altar made of broken material, but the brokenness is from within, and the altar and offering are himself.
Speaker and Audience
The Speaker: George Hebert

The Audience: God

AP Prompt
The following poem of George Herbert is compacted with a variety biblical references and visuals. Explain and provide evidence (based off of George Herbert's personal relationship with God) on his view of man's dedication to God.
Meet the Poet
George Herbert
Born in Wales in 1593
Educated in Westminister, Trinity College, and Cambridge
1620-Public Orator. (Prestigious Position)
Took Holy Orders in 1630
Wrote poems/sonnets since the age of 7 years old to God
Written by: George Herbert
Analysis by: Jeffrey A. Ramos

A broken ALTAR, Lord thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with tears:
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman's tool hath touch'd the same
A HEART alone
Is such a stone,
As nothing but
Thy pow'r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy Name:
That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.

(Exodus 20:25 KJV)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). Such a humble life will be in fullest possible submission to God. The highest calling is to God.
Type of Poem-
Emblem(hieroglyphic) Poetry
Literary Elements
Allusion: Two biblical passages lie behind [the opening two] lines (and the rest of the poem):
Deuteronomy xxvii 2-6, where the Jews are instructed to "build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones" on "the day when ye shall pass into Jordan," and
Psalms li 17: "The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.

Literary Elements
"A broken Alter, Thy servant rears"

Herbert announces in his poem his intention to build an altar to the Lord, as was required of Moses in the Bible. The Lord told Moses he did not want an altar made of carved and perfected rock, but of natural stone, in broken and irregular shapes.
"And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it." (Exodus 20:25 KJV)
The altar Herbert is erecting to God in this poem is also made of "broken" material, not actually out of stone, but
"made of a heart, and cemented with tears"

"For thou desirest not sacrifice: else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Psalm 51:17-18 KJV)
Refers to Herbert's sacrifice of himself.
Literary Elements
Literary Elements
The altar represents God. A place of where respects are paid. A holy place. A place where sacrifices are taken
Placement of- Alter, God, and Servant in line 1. Since God commanded that an altar be made out of found stones. And not carved. This 'altar' is broken. Since no human is perfect. The altar is a 'true altar'.

Literary Elements
Starts from the story of Caine and Abel
"A heart alone
is such a stone"
A heart is tend to have characteristics of being soft while a stone is known to be hard

The tone of this poem appears to be through very compassionate. It can also be viewed as dedicated and religious. Tone shifts towards the end of the poem.
Poem Style
Contains Iambic Pentameter
Filled with Couplets (AABBCC Pattern)

Emblem(Hieroglyphic) Poetry- A poem that uses a visual shape that is incorporated with the message of the poem.
By providing a variety of biblical allusions and visuals George Herbert expresses his view that man's highest honor would be to devote their entire life to him.
Distinguish Major Literary Devices
Mr. Miller was right. Read the Bible
This poem is filled with biblical allusions, break down and see what is the most valuable evidence to you as a writer.
Don't take too long breaking an allusion down. It may hurt you more since some allusions are more specific than others.
Break down the plot
Breakdown the theme first. In this case devoting one's life to God is the highest honor.
Key words: "Wherefore each part,Of my hard heart" & Oh, let thy blessed sacrifice be mine, And sanctify this altar to be thine."
Notice if the title can provide any insight on the poem
If you have very limited biblical knowledge. Look at the date. Consider the world mindset at the time. The world knowledge and intellect.
Organize how you want to explain the allusions and what the main argument is
Breakdown the Prompt
"Based of his personal relationship" Leads to personal attachment
Man's dedication to God- What should man do for God? Should they care? Should they worship him
Reworded- Explain what George Hebert believed that people should do for God.
Personal Appreciation
This poem can be appreciated by the
various allusions which only the true bible reader could fully understand, along with having an overall theme
with the structure of the poem of being
symbolic. The combination of these
traits truelly make this poem
Full transcript