Lingering book

Malk

Member
Portuguese Brazil
What's a "lingering book"? Is it a book hard to put aside, a book that keeps the reader so interested that he/she will not stop reading? Or is it merely "a book that takes a long time to be read"? Thanks for any help. This is the context: a 16th century poem by George Herbert.


Whereas my birth and spirit rather took
The way that takes the town;
Thou didst betray me to a lingering book,
And wrap me in a gown.
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Excess quoted text deleted - see
HERE - lines 37-40
 
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  • Monkey F B I

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    While I research, I need to warn you about poetry...

    I read a very large amount of poetry and sometimes the language really doesn't make sense. The poets have done this on purpose to make the reader think, rather than just read. Poetry comes from the heart, not from the dictionary. What do you think he meant? Does it pertain to the meaning of the poem? If not, there's no real point in spending too much time trying to figure it out.

    Sorry, moderators...I got off topic :(

    After looking it up a bit, it really seems he made the phrase up (there's only 403 hits on Google). I'd guess that a lingering book is a book that can't be put down, though.

    Time for me to get more off topic in my rambles about poetry...The point isn't what the exact meaning of "lingering book" is, as happens with poetry often. You could spend ages trying to figure this out and you might come up emptyhanded -- But it's not hard to figure out what the book does, right? Regardless of what "lingering" means in this context, whether it be a book that can't be put down or a very long book, one can tell that the book is distracting the poet from what he should be doing.
     
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    emma42

    Senior Member
    British English
    This must be a typo. It must be "lingering look", surely?

    Edit: Well, I've Googled it, and it appears that it is, in fact, "lingering book"!
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It's a book, for sure.

    The reference here is the contrast between his personal ambitions to "town" - the city, the royal court - and his actual occupation in church and academia - "gown" .
    I read the betrayal to a "lingering book" as representing lots of time spent in study.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Judging from the OED, "lingering poison" was a common collocation at the time the poem was written.

    I rather suspect this is a play on words, and Herbert is likening books to a slow-acting poison.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    George Herbert was related to the Earls of Pembroke, and his elder brother was a peer (as the first Baron Herbert); Herbert himself had, before he was ordained, been a member of Parliament. His "birth and spirit" are thus those of noblemen, politicians, courtiers, and soldiers -- those who "take the town" either literally (by military siege) or figuratively (by secular success.) However, God (to whom the whole poem is addressed) has led him in an entirely different direction: to reading and study (which would include lingering over a book; notice that it is a poetical device to transpose the modifier "lingering" from himself to the book that he is lingering over), and to the world of academics and clergy (who are those who wear "gowns"; you might consider the word to be a synonym of sorts for "cassock".)
     

    nichec

    Senior Member
    Chinese(Taiwan)/English(AE)
    Judging from the OED, "lingering poison" was a common collocation at the time the poem was written.

    I rather suspect this is a play on words, and Herbert is likening books to a slow-acting poison.
    Which consumes all his time, and eventually his life?
     

    Malk

    Member
    Portuguese Brazil
    Monkey FBI, emma42, panjandrum, Loob, GreenWhiteBlue, and nichec, the rich knowledge you all share is a blessing for which I cannot be grateful enough. Thank you so much for your time!
     
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