Analysis of George Herbert’s Poem “Virtue”

This analysis of George Herbert’s "Virtue" highlights the sections of the poem that are pertinent to meaning, structure and feelings the poem creates within the reader.

Title of the poem: “Virtue” by George Herbert


1. First responses: (include line numbers) 




Line Number


Meaning of the poem:
That all things fade away and die except a virtuous soul. 

“Sweet day …thou must die”


“Sweet rose …thou must die”


“Sweet spring… all must die”


“Only a sweet and virtuous soul…though the whole world turns to coal,/ Then chiefly lives”


Feelings the poem produces in you:
Begins with a pessimistic view and ends on a optimistic note, thus allowing the reader to leave with a sense of hope.

“The dew shall weep thy fall tonight”


“Thy root is ever In its grave”


“My music shows ye have your closes”


“Only a sweet and virtuous soul, Like seasoned timber, never gives;/ But though the whole world turn to coal,/ Then chiefly lives”


Structural features:

Quatrains: Stanzas 1-4 “Sweet day…chiefly lives”


Rhyme: abab: “bright”, “sky”, “tonight”, “die” cbcb: “brave”, “eye”, “grave”, “die” dbdb: “roses”, “lie”, “closes”, “die” efef: “soul”, “gives”, “coal”, “lives”
(All stanzas include “b” except the last stanza)


Last line is shorter for each stanza (first three contain repetition):
“For thou must die
“And thou must die
“And all must die

“Then chiefly lives”







Repetition of the word “Sweet”

(1), (5), (9 twice) (10), (13)


Personification: “dew shall weep”

“rose… angry and brave”




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