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Entries in George Herbert (17)

Sunday
Feb172019

Virtue

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky,
The dew shall weep thy fall tonight;
For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angry and brave
Bids the rash grazer wipe his eye,
Thy root is ever in its grave,
And thou must die.

Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie,
My music shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.

Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like seasoned timber, never gives;
But wonder thou the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.

George Herbert (1593-1633)

Sunday
Feb102019

Prayer

Prayer, the church's banquet, angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heaven and earth;
Engine against the Almighty, sinner's tower,
Reversèd thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six days' world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well dressed,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood 

-- George Herbert (1593-1633)

Sunday
Feb032019

Redemption

Having been tenant long to a rich Lord,
Not thriving, I resolved to be bold
And make a suit unto him, to afford
A new small-rented lease, and cancel the old.
In heaven at his manor I him sought;
They told me there that he was lately gone
About some land which he had dearly bought
Long since on earth, to take possession.
I straight returned, and knowing his great birth,
Sought him accordingly in great resorts,
In cities, theatres, gardens, parks, anad courts.
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth
Of thieves and murderers; there I him espied,
Who straight, "Your suit is granted," said, and died.

-- George Herbert (1593-1633)

Saturday
Jan192013

A little George Herbert

H. Scriptures I
OH Book !  infinite sweetness!  let my heart 
     Suck ev’ry letter, and a honey gain, 
     Precious for any grief in any part ; 
To clear the breast, to mollify all pain. 
Thou art all health, health thriving, till it make 
     A full eternity:  thou art a mass
     Of strange delights, where we may wish and take. 
 
Ladies, look here;  this is the thankfull glass, 
That mends the lookers eyes:  this is the well 
     That washes what it shows.  Who can indear 
     Thy praise too much?  thou art heav’ns Lidger here, 
Working against the states of death and hell. 
     Thou art joys handsell:  heav’n lies flat in thee, 
     Subject to ev’ry mounters bended knee. 
Saturday
Apr212012

A Year With George Herbert - April 21, 2012

This week's poem is "The Temper (I)."  We have a particular idea of what "temper" means,  i.e., being angry.  It is related, but that's not what Herbert is talking about here.  The process of "tempering" something is to heat it to make it more or less hard, depending on what you want to use it for.  For example,  steel is heated and then plunged into cold water or oil so that it is hard enough for specific use.  This tempering process is what Herbert likens to his emotional highs and lows.  God is "tempering" him, trying him, for whatever use he needs.

HOW should I praise thee, Lord !  how should my rhymes 
    Gladly engrave thy love in steel, 
    If what my soul doth feel sometimes, 
            My soul might ever feel! 

Although there were some forty heav’ns, or more, 
    Sometimes I peere above them all ; 
    Sometimes I hardly reach a score, 
            Sometimes to hell I fall. 

O rack me not to such a vast extent; 
    Those distances belong to thee: 
    The world’s too little for thy tent, 
            A grave too big for me. 

Wilt thou meet arms with man, that thou dost stretch 
    A crumme of dust from heav’n to hell ? 
    Will great God measure with a wretch ? 
            Shall he thy stature spell ? 

O let me, when thy roof my soul hath hid, 
    O let me roost and nestle there : 
    Then of a sinner thou art rid, 
            And I of hope and fear. 

Yet take thy way;  for sure thy way is best: 
    Stretch or contract me thy poore debter: 
    This is but tuning of my breast, 
            To make the music better. 

Whether I flie with angels, fall with dust, 
    Thy hands made both, and I am there. 
    Thy power and love, my love and trust, 
            Make one place ev’ry where. 

Jim Scott Orrick comments on the fifth stanza.  The poet is saying:

If you will just keep me  heaven-high emotionally, you will no longer be pestered with sinful me, and I will not be tortured with these emotions that vacillate between hope and fear.

I love the last stanza.  Here the poet says:

You have the power to love and to do what is best for me.  If I only love you and trust you then my emotional location is irrelevant to my ultimate well-being.