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From Perfection to the Elixir: How George Herbert fashioned a famous poem
Ben de la Mare (1938-2009) was the grandson of Walter de la Mare; prior to his death, he lived in retirement in Durham, where he had served for over twenty years as a parish priest. Living within reach of the cathedral and the university library helped to nourish his study of the poetic and pastoral art of George Herbert.
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Ben de la Mare’s deep understanding of poetry is shown in this sensitive examination of the spiritual journey and conversion reflected in George Herbert’s development and revision of his poem ‘Perfection’ to become the final version, ‘The Elixir’. This poem is best known in the hymn version, ‘Teach me my God and King ...’ In his work of revision and his quest for perfection, George Herbert has created an inspired image for that transformation of the human heart which only God can accomplish.