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The Altar

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Textual Differences in The Altar

Shortly after his death in March 1633, George Herbert¡¯s poems were first published in, The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. Full of biblical references his images are often liturgical. Notably, George Herbert is known for his poems ¡°Easter Wings¡± and ¡°The Altar¡±, which are shaped to resemble the object evoked by its title. A pattern or concrete poem is the visual text imitating the title of the poem. In fact Herbert¡¯s poem ¡°The Altar¡± is part of a continuation of the poem, ¡°The Church-porch¡± and proceeds to a section called ¡°The Church¡± from which the poem is taken. From its original manuscript and first publication in 1633 to present time, the poem ¡°The Altar¡± has been subjected to and endured numerous editing processes. This paper will focus on the different editions of the poem, ¡°The Altar¡± and explain the textual features of the earlier representation(s) of the text in relation to the recent representation(s) of the text.
Shaped in the form of an altar the poem, ¡°The Altar¡± is formed in a couplet; aabbccdd ¡­ in the earliest edition (Appendix A) the poem does not completely mimic the image or shape of an altar. Actually the indentation of certain lines adds to that observation. Lines three to sixteen are indented some more than others, whereas lines one and two are the only exception. The retype of the poem from the original manuscript does not exactly mimic the shape of an altar, especially in the middle portion, lines five to twelve. However, it does remain true to the textual words and indentation. Though the poem begins to take shape in the form of an altar in later editions as seen in Appendix B, C, and D.
The textual features of the poem in later editions begin to resemble an altar according to western and modern images. In the eebo, 1975, and 1996 editions the shape of the poem is emphasized by various...

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