Though he never published any of his English poems during his lifetime, George Herbert (1593–1633) is recognized as possibly the greatest religious poet in the language. Few English poets of his age still inspire such intense devotion today. In this richly perceptive biography, John Drury for the first time integrates Herbert’s poems fully into his life, enriching our understanding of both the poet’s mind and his work.
As Drury writes in his preface, Herbert lived “a quiet life with a crisis in the middle of it.” Drury follows Herbert from his academic success as a young man, seemingly destined for a career at court, through his abandonment of those hopes, his devotion to the restoration of a church in Huntingdonshire, and his final years as a country parson. Because Herbert’s work was only published posthumously, it has always been difficult to know when or in what context Herbert wrote his poems. But Drury skillfully places readings of the poems into his narrative at biographically credible moments, allowing us to appreciate not only Herbert’s frame of mind while writing, but also the society that produced it. A sensitive critic of Herbert’s poems as well as a theologian, Drury does full justice to the spiritual dimension of Herbert’s work. In addition, he reveals the occasions of sorrow, happiness, regret, and hope that Herbert captured in his poetry and that led T. S. Eliot to write, “What we can confidently believe is that every poem . . . is true to the poet’s experience.”
Painting a picture of a man torn between worldly ambition and spiritual life, Music at Midnight is an eloquent biography that breathes new life into some of the greatest English poems ever written.
What has philosophy to do with the poor? If, as has often been supposed, the poor have no time for philosophy, then why have philosophers always made time for them? Why is the history of philosophy—from Plato to Karl Marx to Jean-Paul Sartre to Pierre Bourdieu—the history of so many figures of the poor: plebes, men of iron, the demos, artisans, common people, proletarians, the masses? Why have philosophers made the shoemaker, in particular, a remarkably ubiquitous presence in this history? Does philosophy itself depend on this thinking about the poor? If so, can it ever refrain from thinking for them?
Jacques Rancière’s The Philosopher and His Poor meditates on these questions in close readings of major texts of Western thought in which the poor have played a leading role—sometimes as the objects of philosophical analysis, sometimes as illustrations of philosophical argument. Published in France in 1983 and made available here for the first time in English, this consummate study assesses the consequences for Marx, Sartre, and Bourdieu of Plato’s admonition that workers should do “nothing else” than their own work. It offers innovative readings of these thinkers’ struggles to elaborate a philosophy of the poor. Presenting a left critique of Bourdieu, the terms of which are largely unknown to an English-language readership, The Philosopher and His Poor remains remarkably timely twenty years after its initial publication.