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But what, precisely, was Bunyan's attitude toward the Stuart government?

The answer to this question has been the subject of sharp disagreement among Bunyan specialists.
On the one hand, Bunyan's prominent Evangelical disciple and editor, George Offor,
was convinced that in his political views Bunyan was "a thorough loyalist"
and a proponent of "high monarchial principles."6

At the other extreme, William York Tindall has asserted that


"Bunyan cherished a deep and natural hatred of both king and government,
like any normal Baptist of the time. . . ."7

While Bunyan proclaimed his loyalty to the monarchy and disavowed sedition, such statements, Tindall
insisted, were required by both expediency and conformity to Baptist practice.
Although Particular and General Baptist confessions of faith typically contained articles professing
obedience to magistrates, Tindall has pointed to the treasonous activities of such Bunyan acquaintances as
Vavasor Powell, Hanserd Knollys, Henry Jessey, and Henry Danvers. 8

To mask his own seditious sentiments, according to Tindall, Bunyan used the oblique techniques of allegory
and biblical exegesis. Such "indirection relieved his feelings, communicated his ideas to the saints, and hid
them from all but the closest scrutiny of the authorities" (139). Despite the practice of this "politic duplicity,"
Tindall argues, Bunyan was telling the truth when he professed his innocence of sedition, for in his mind
those who were loyal to God's commands could not simultaneously be guilty of treason (142).

Christian

Allegory

in

the

Seventeenth

Century:

A Comparison of George Herbert and John Bunyan


by
Rebecca
Delivered
Baylor

Branham
at

the

Conference

on

Dimon
Christianity

and

Literature
University

October 1983

The purpose of this paper is to study the characteristics of Christian allegory in seventeenth-century poetry
and prose by examining selections from George Herbert and John Bunyan. In comparing the allegorical

works of these two men, I will concentrate primarily on their characters as personified abstractions or as
metonymic representations -- that is, the name of one thing for something associated with it -- by examining
their uses of dialogue and the pilgrimage motif to create the images of their characters.
Angus Fletcher describes metonymy in allegories in his book Allegory.
Our earlier view was that all agents in allegory are becoming so fixed in sense that they begin to constitute
images (that was indeed how they were introduced into the poem, for a personified abstraction is necessarily
a sort of image).
This remark is further explained in a footnote as follows:
The intermediate stage between an image and an agent is a name, i. e., a metonymy. To fix the agent into a
name is to bring it from motion to rest.
Fletcher further points out a classical source of substituting the name of one thing for something associated
with it:
When [the ancient Romans] made gods and goddesses out of Luck, Force, Success in Love, Success in War,
and the like, they were employing these metonymic terms in the same way a primitive employes the
metonymic objects of his cult.
Continuing this religious significance, medieval art also shows the allegorical concepts adhered to by the
Church as an incentive for the parishes to follow a strict code of behavior. The Church's desire to keep a tight
rein on its followers resulted in an excessive use of the applications of allegories. Percy Houston suggests
that this had a deadening effect on man's intellectual development:
And indeed allegory hung like a pall over the literature of the [Middle Ages], its indirect interpretation of
nearly everything through the personification of abstractions preventing men from getting to close grips with
reality.
This understandable popularity of allegory as a literary form spread through the Renaissance with Dante and
Spenser and into the seventeenth century. Throughout most of the period allegory maintained a respectable
level of appeal. Jack Lindsay theorizes that the medieval "popular pulpit" was responsible for the allegorical
traditions that emerged in the literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He states that "the trick of
personifying sins and virtues and states of mind was common to the whole period."
The emphasis of the Christian allegory, however, was primarily moral, supposedly "thought to convey the
wisdom of the ancients." George Herbert and John Bunyan were both involved in church-related vocations.
While Herbert was Anglican, Bunyan became a Dissenting Puritan. Both men felt a deep devotion to God
and spent their lives in His service. When these men began to turn to literature, it is not surprising that the
aim of their works would be religious in nature. George Herbert's devotion to God led him to use allegory in
his devotional poetry. His imagery and metaphors also give much emotion to his works, although he was
quite an intellectual. In his poems "Jordan [1]" and "Jordan [2]," Herbert applauds the simple language of
expresssion. This is not to say that Herbert used no figurative language. On the contrary, F. E. Hutchinson
writes:
His command of imagery serves him well. The experiences of the soul are not communicable by bare
statement; they can only be conveyed to other minds by a large use of comparison, metaphorical language,

and pictoral imagery.


In Herbert's poems "Time," "The Quip," and "The World," his pictoral imagery and metaphorical language
show a variation of allegorical characterization. However, as his imagery develops, his use of dialogue
diminishes: from one simple personification and extensive dialogue in "Time," through several tempting
personalities and a good bit of dialogue in "The Quip," and finally to a world of personified abstractions but
no dialogue whatsoever in "The World."
In "Time" Time meets with the persona of the first poem to listen to his argument almost without comment,
displaying little characterization of the abstraction, and where there is some development, it is very simple.
This debate revolves around the idea of hastening Christ's second coming to earth in order to usher in
eternity. Time observes that most people want him to slow down to give them more time on earth. Irony is
involved in that this persona wants his "more time" in the form of eternity, while Time becomes impatient
because eternity is his enemy since Time will cease at Christ's return. At any rate, the poem's allegorical form
is quite simple: there is little personality developed; it is mostly argument.
A more developed allegorical use of abstractions and dialogue is seen in "The Quip." There are several
negative personalities involved in this poem, each of them tempting the persona to leave his religious
devotion to God and follow after him. Beauty sneakily forms herself into a rose -- "crept" much like Satan's
disguise in Paradise Lost -- but the persona refuses to pick the rose because his hands belong to God, as the
refrain, "But thou shalt answer, Lord, for me," implies. The second tempter is Money, who jingles his tune
without success because the man's ears belong to God. With an echo of Polonius in Hamlet, Wit-andConversation come next to appel to the persona's reason, but again they are rejected as the persona clings to
God without leaning to his own understanding. The final stanza contains the "quip" in the statement, "say, I
am thine." The double entendre is the answer since the persona belongs to God, and thus God belongs to the
persona. In reference to this poem, T. S. Eliot quotes from L. C. Knight's book, Exploration: Essays in
Literary Criticism as follows:
the personifications here have nothing in common with Spenser's allegorical figures or with the capitalised
abstractions of the eighteenth century: "brave Glorie puffing by in silks that whistled" might have come
straight from The Pilgrim's Progress.
This type of characterization goes beyond mere personification to the novelistic detail that B. Ifor Evans
praises in Bunyan:
Bunyan was endowed with a gift for detail and anecdote, for the description of scenery and the invention of
conversation. This he combined with his allegory, so that his narrative, despite all its spiritual meanings, is a
realistic story, contemporary and authentic.
To compare Herbert's poetry with Bunyan's prose is a difficult task. Bunyan was only five years old when
Herbert died, and there is little chance that his work was affected by Herbert. And while Herbert uses
allegory often in his poems, John Bunyan was the master. Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress does not merely
contain allegory, as Herbert's poems contain it. It is allegory, even though the story does break down at times.
Bunyan, too, was extremely sincere in his religious conversion. Although he was neither an intellectual nor a
literary genius, in his allegories Bunyan has excelled where none of his contemporaries, including Herbert,

succeeded. Bunyan's work is unique in its communicative power, as Rev. George B. Cheever points out:
Bunyan was as great a master of Allegory as Edwards was of Logic and Metaphysics; but not artificially so,
not designedly so, not as a matter of study . . . . It is not like the allegorical friezes of Spenser or of Dante, or
like those on a Grecian Temple, . . . . Bunyan's Allegory is a universal language.
In The Pilgrim's Progress Bunyan has created a very complex work. His use of dialogue between the
abstractions and personified characters is vital to his work. T. R. Glover remarks that the dialogue "is one of
the most charming features of his allegories." More recently, in The Pilgrim's Progress: Critical and
Historical Views, edited by Vincent Newey, David Seed discusses the abundance of Bunyan's dialogue. He
begins his article, "Dialogue and Debate in The Pilgrim's Progress with the following:
Dialogue accounts for most of both parts of The Pilgrim's Progress in terms of sheer bulk. It is surprising
that it has not received more critical attention . . . . In fact, Bunyan's use of dialogue shows an extremely
sophisicated awareness of different levels of discourse and considerable skill at characterization . . . . His
regional colloquialisms suggest that he wrote directly from life, but it is essential also to insist on his artistry.
The use of dialogue in a book given to Bunyan by his father-in-law became a great source of inspiration to
him in his own writings. Roger Sharrock comments on this book in the following passage:
The most outstanding example of [the use of dialogue] was Arthur Dent's The Plaine Man's Path-way to
Heaven (1601), which was one of the two books Bunyan's first wife brought him as her marriage
portion . . . . but the dialogue form clearly influenced Bunyan in these conversations [in Pilgrim's Progress]
and later in Mr. Badman.
I will now read an excerpt from a dialogue in Part II of The Pilgrim's Progress as an example of the
metonymic personification Bunyan gives even to a minor character. In this portion Great-heart is descrining
to Old Honest anoter pilgrim, Mr. Fearing, who had earlier been described as one who had a "Slough of
Despond in his mind."
But when he was come to the entrance of the Valley of the shadow of death, I thought I should have lost my
man; not for that he had any inclination to go back, that he always abhorred, but he was ready to died for
fear. "O, the hobgoblins will have me, the hobgoblins will have me," he cried; and I could not beat him out
on't. He made such a noise, and such an outcry here, that had they but heard him, 'twas enough to encourage
them to come and fall upon us.
This use of personified abstractions is secondary to Bunyan's use of metonymic personifications. The use of
these abstract forms in The Pilgrim's Progress seems to delineate negative characters, while in Part II of the
book, Old Honest particularly insists that his name is not in the abstract, but in the adjective form. Taking the
name of one thing for something associated with it, similar to taking the part to represent the whole, Bunyan
names his "good" characters with good qualities. In the same way, we can see in the scene at Faithful's trial
in Vanity Fair, the negative characters are the witnesses against Faithful: Envy, Superstition, and Pickthank,
whi mentions anothr group of abstractions: Lord Old Man -- referring to the fallen nature of man, Lord
Carnal Delight, Lord Luxurious, Lod Desire of Vain-glory, Lord Lechery, and Sir Having-Greedy. Bunyan
again insists these are abstraction rather than adjective names.
One warning given by Roger Sharrock compliments Bunyan's ability with his characterization of

abstractions. Sharrock submits:


The modern reader who reads [The Pilgrim's Progress] after a thousand novels about "real people" must
remember that the many personages whom Christian meets along the road stand for states of mind, however
much Bunyan's skill at sketching in features and manners, and reproducing salty colloquial speech, has
turned them into lively minor characters.
The lively characters in Herbert's poem "The World" are involved as personified abstractions interacting
upon the allegorical house of a human being. Love built the house, possibly referring to God's creation of
man. Fortune spread fantasies around, and Pleasure added Balconies and Terraces that weakened the house,
but Wisdom, Laws and a Proclamation were able to compensate for this damage by forced "menaces" of
controlled behavior and temperance. When Sin is not able to infiltrate the house alone, it combines with
Death in an attempt to "raze" the house. Again we have irony in the word "raze." Herbert intended both the
meaning of demolishing the house and also the meaning of resurrection. To continue this idea of resurrection,
Herbert's last stanza combines Love, Grace, and Glory to combat Sin and Death. They do not simply repair
or clean out the old house, but they completely regenerate the man and build a perfect Palace -- a soul
transformed into perfection after death.
Even though there is no dialogue involved in this poem, the abstractions are performing simple tasks which
characterize them in the allegorical style. Here Herbert's narrative form concentrates on description rather
than dialogue, as Herbert seems unable to combine the two as artistically as Bunyan. Fletcher's theory of
metonymic abstractions that I mentioned earlier continues in application to The Pilgrim's Progress when he
states that "especially with Bunyan, major allegorical heroes can have a range of human weakness and
strength. They may live through many adventures, in which, different trials occur." My understanding of
these principles leads me to conclude that Bunyan's characters are not mere abstractions whom a main
character addresses in conversations, as Herbert's appear to be, but Bunyan takes an abstract name and
identifies a character by a particular trait. Fletcher goes on to speculate that "the more the allegorist can
circumscribe the attributes, metonymic and synecdochic, of his personae, the better he can shape their
fictional destiny."
The pilgrimage motif used by Bunyan and Herbert gives the fictional destiny of their characters a direction.
John Steadman generalizes that "The majority of allegorical representations of the world, in fact, are not
concerned with its proportions, but with its moral significance . . . ." Both Herbert and Bunyan adhered to
high moral behavior, and the rejection each shows toward "worldly" things in his work is strong. John
MacQueen describes the role of the pilgrimage as follows:
The action [of extended narrative] came to turn not so much on the battle as on the objective for which the
battle was fought. That objective inevitably was salvation, and, almost equally inevitably, the dominant
narrative device came to be the pilgrimage or quest -- the Pilgrim's Progress from this world to that which is
to come, as John Bunyan still put it in the latter part of the seventeenth century. Where common humanity
received the greater allegorical emphasis, . . . the metaphor of the pilgrimage dominated.
The archetype of a pilgrimage has filtered through the Middle Ages, though Bunyan's work remains unique
as T. R. Glover describes:

Many allegories of pilgrimages are now known to have existed before his day, but it is supremely unlikely
that [Bunyan] could ever have heard of many of them . . . . No allegory known to Europe has any hint of
such life as those of Bunyan . . . . And the mode enabled him to give the fullest expression to the whole of
himself, gaiety and seriousness at once.
Herbert's poem "The Pilgrimage" again uses this archetypal journey pattern, often employing the allegory he
used in "The World." Traveling on the road of life, the persona is looking for a particular hill, Gladsome Hill.
He has come a long way past the Cave of Desperation and the Rock of Pride without much trouble, but we
do not know from whence his journey began. Herbert uses the in medias res technique possibly to signify the
idea that our consciousness of life as a journey may not always surface when we are young. At any rate,
danger confronts the persona as he progresses from Fancy's Meadow (compare Fortune's fancies in "The
World"), through Care's Copse, to the Wild of Passion (compare Pleasure of "The World"). When he arrives
at a hill, he is initially deceived into thinking he has arrived, but he soon realizes he must press on.
He hears a warning of certain death, and rejoices that his hill will bring ease from his journey, fulfilling his
hopes. Herbert's persona, however, never actually reaches Gladsome Hill in the poem.
In Bunyan's book, the story of Christian begins at the time of his awareness of the problem: he is living in the
City of Destruction and feels a great need to "Fly from the wrath to come." It is not until much later that
Christian learns of the Celestial City, while Herbert's persona has a definite goal. Eventually Christian sets
out to arrive at the city, and his adventures along the way, much like those of Herbert's persona, are
hazardous: he falls into a Slough of Despond, Herbert's Cave of Desperation; climbs the Hill of Difficulty,
Herbert's mistaken hill; and passes through the River of Death before he can enter the Celestial City,
Herbert's cry, "None goes that way and lives." The major difference between the two is that in Herbert's
poem the persona neither has an allegorical name, nor does he meet any other allegorial characters, as he did
in "The World," whereas Christian's story is permeated with both.
The obvious differences between poetry and prose determine to what extent allegory may be used in a work.
While Herbert was naturally limited by his genre, Bunyan used his advantage to great lengths. Instead of
merely creating abstract personages, Bunyan used metonymic personification to transcribe a dominant
feature of a character as the particular name by which the character is identified -- representing something
associated with it, adjective rather than abstraction, showing perhaps that all good comes from God, and
there is no good other than in God.