My musick shall finde thee

The Composer as Theologian When Setting George Herbert’s Poetry


  • Lucinda Mosher Hartford International University for Religion and Peace



Calvinism, theology, sacramental, poetry, Herbert, anthem, antiphon, Book of Common Prayer, psalms, Psalter, ecclesiology


In this essay, I accept scholarly assessments of the theology of Renaissance poet George Herbert (1593–1633) as high sacramental ecclesiology melded with Synod of Dort (1618–19) Calvinism (which I describe briefly). This given, I consider what theological messages we can expect to find in lyrics drawn from Herbert’s poetry. I make the point that music can amplify the meaning of a text. I then describe in depth the doctrine taught in three well-known poems when set as a choral anthem.


Bloch, Chana. 1985. Spelling the Word: George Herbert and the Bible. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Charles, Amy. 1977. A Life of George Herbert. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Doerksen, Daniel W. 2011. Picturing Religious Experience: George Herbert, Calvin, and the Scriptures. Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press.

Dolan, Paul J. 1969. “Herbert’s Dialogue with God.” Anglican Theological Review 51: 125–32.

Ebner, Benjamin Todd. 2014. “A Soul Composed of Harmonies: George Herbert’s Life, Writings, and Choral Settings of His English Poetry.” PhD diss., University of South Carolina.

Herbert, George. 1974. The English Poems of George Herbert, edited by C. A. Patrides. London: Dent.

Hunter, Jeanne Clayton. 1988. “George Herbert and Puritan Piety.” Journal of Religion 68: 226–41. DOI:

Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer. 1979. Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Veith, Gene Edward, Jr. 1985. Reformation Spirituality: The Religion of George Herbert. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press.

Williams, Donald T. 1990. “‘Thou Art Still My God’: George Herbert and the Poetics of Edification.” Christian Scholar’s Review 19: 271–85.



How to Cite

Mosher, L. (2022). My musick shall finde thee: The Composer as Theologian When Setting George Herbert’s Poetry. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 13(2), 187–196.