Reading and Analysing Non-African Poetry: “The Pulley” by George Herbert


Welcome to class! 

In today’s class, we will be talking more about reading and analysing non-African poetry: “The Pulley” by George Herbert. Enjoy the class!

Reading and Analysing Non-African Poetry: “The Pulley” by George Herbert

the pulley by george herbert litrature classnotesng


  1. The superiority of God, the all-knowing God, over man:

The main theme of the poem is God’s supremacy over man. “The Pulley” establishes the fact that God is in all ramifications superior to man. It is a fact that every human being must accept, that God, as Supreme Being, controls the destiny of each individual and that without Him, nothing that exists can subsist. Thus, the poem is a symbolic portrayal of the fact that man’s efforts are dependent on God, his creator. The poem asserts that God, in His infinite wisdom, knows that making man independent would lead to the abuse of that independence. Therefore, the tone of this poem shows God’s superiority over man. There is that master-subordinate relationship depicted in the poem where God, the master, has full authority over His creation. God requires respect from man hence, He withdraws one special gift which is that of emotional fulfilment and contentment. According to God, the lack of this gift will definitely draw man back to him to draw him under His feet. This tempo is made prominent in the last stanza of the poem: “Let him be rich and weary, that at least/if goodness lead him not, yet weariness/may toss him back to my breast”.

  1. The frailty of the human mind:

Another major theme depicted in the poem is the frailty of the human mind. God as Sovereign and the creator of mankind understands the nature of man. He knows that the mind of man is frail, that man is weak and easily susceptible to a myriad of negative, ungodly influences. God knows that man can easily be manipulated and that he could easily forget his maker if he has all he needs in life. This is why God decided to take rest from man to constantly remember man of his need to depend on God.

  1. God desires that man should look up to Him:

This poem reveals the facts that God desires to draw men unto Him because He created man for a purpose, to serve and worship Him. God desires that men depend on Him and seek His face at all times for everything. God also desires that men should worship and adore Him alone and not idolize the things he made. He, therefore, creates a way to make this possible by not giving man rest, which is synonymous with peace of mind.

  1. The reason for man’s restlessness:

The poem provides an answer for the restlessness of man. People often ask the question: why is man restless? Why is the need of man insatiable? This poem provides an answer to this philosophical question. God bestowed restlessness and weariness upon man so that man would always run to Him.


The following figures of speech and sound devices are apparent in the poem.

  1. Alliteration: This is found in expressions like “so strength” (l. 6), which alliterates the /s/ sound and “repining restlessness” (l. 17), which alliterates the /r/ sound.
  2. Assonance: This is found in line 8: “when almost all was out…”
  3. Contrast: One also notices the use of contrast in the poem. This is evident in the last stanza of the poem. There is a contrast between “rich” and “weary” in line 18.
  4. Dramatic Monologue: this is one prominent technique that runs through the poem. This technique encourages the dramatic mood of the poem by unfolding the relationship between the addresser and addressee. Thus, there is that position of an audience. This is exemplified by the use of dialogues in the poem. The phrase, “let us” unconsciously signifies the presence of an unseen audience. All these attest to the effectiveness of the dramatic monologue in the poem.
  5. Imagery: The presentation of mental images to express a central idea is seen in the poem. From the title of the poem, readers are prone to create a mental picture as they analyze the poem. The pulley is an image that embodies the idea the poem seeks to express.
  6. Inversion: In line 4, the normal order of words reversed towards the end of the line: “Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie” the normal order should be: “which lie dispersed” However, if this arrangement of words was the one used, “dispersed” would not rhyme with “by” in line 2
  7. Personification: Two things, goodness and weariness, are endowed with human attributes in lines 19-20: “if goodness leads him not, yet weariness/may toss him to my breast”.
  8. Synecdoche: There is an example of the use of synecdoche in line 20, the last line of the poem where the word “breast” is used as a metaphor for God. A synecdoche is a form of metaphor where a part is used to represent the whole of what is referred to.
  9. Biblical Allusion: the poem is an example of biblical allusion as all its contents allude to the creation of the world and man in Genesis 1-2
  1. Analyze the content of “The Pulley.”
  2. Discuss any two themes in the poem.
  3. Examine five poetic devices in the poem.


In our next class, we will be talking about Reading and Analyzing African Prose: Lonely Days by Bayo Adebowale.  We hope you enjoyed the class.

Should you have any further question, feel free to ask in the comment section below and trust us to respond as soon as possible.

Get more class notes, videos, homework help, exam practice etc on our app [CLICK HERE]

Upgrade your teaching with ready-made & downloadable class notes on our app [CLICK HERE]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Don`t copy text!