Herbert: Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets)
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George Herbert (1593-1633) has come to be one of the most admired of the metaphysical poets. Though he is a profoundly religious poet, even secular readers respond to his quiet intensity and exuberant inventiveness, which are amply showcased in this selection.
Herbert experimented brilliantly with a remarkable variety of forms, from hymns and sonnets to pattern poems, the shapes of which reveal their subjects. Such technical agility never seems ostentatious, however, for precision of language and expression of genuine feeling were the primary concerns of this poet, who admonished his readers to “dare to be true.” An Anglican priest who took his calling with deep seriousness, he brought to his work a religious reverence richly allied with a playful wit and with literary and musical gifts of the highest order. His best-loved poems, from “The Collar” and “Jordan” to “The Altar” and “Easter Wings,” achieve a perfection of form and feeling, a rare luminosity, and a timeless metaphysical grandeur.
blood did make, which thou didst waste? When I behold it trickling down thy face, I never saw thing make such haste. O show thy, &c. When man was lost, thy pity lookt about To see what help in th’ earth or sky: But there was none; at least no help without: The help did in thy bosom lie. O show thy, &c. There lay thy son: and must he leave that nest, That hive of sweetness, to remove Thraldom from those, who would not at a feast Leave one poor apple for thy love? O show thy, &c. He
and turn thy book. If thou hadst lost a glove or ring, Wouldst thou not look? What do I see Written above there? Yesterday I did behave me carelessly, When I did pray. And should God’s ear To such indifferents chained be, Who do not their own motions hear? Is God less free? But stay! what’s there? Late when I would have something done, I had a motion to forbear, Yet I went on. And should God’s ear, Which needs not man, be ti’d to those Who hear not him, but quickly hear His
purpose long ago. But I will to my Father, Who heard thee say it. O most gracious Lord, If all the hope and comfort that I gather, Were from my self, I had not half a word, Not half a letter to oppose What is objected by my foes. But thou art my desert: And in this league, which now my foes invade, Thou art not only to perform thy part, But also mine; as when the league was made Thou didst at once thy self indite, And hold my hand, while I did write. Wherefore if thou canst fail, Then
choose: Only, though I you oppose, Say that fairly I refuse, For my answer is a rose. DISCIPLINE Throw away thy rod, Throw away thy wrath: O my God, Take the gentle path. For my heart’s desire Unto thine is bent: I aspire To a full consent. Not a word or look I affect to own, But by book, And thy book alone. Though I fail, I weep: Though I halt in pace, Yet I creep To the throne of grace. Then let wrath remove; Love will do the deed: For with love Stony hearts will bleed. Love
thee? My soul’s a shepherd too; a flock it feeds Of thoughts, and words, and deeds, The pasture is thy word: the streams, thy grace Enriching all the place. Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers Out-sing the day-light hours. Then we will chide the sun for letting night Take up his place and right: We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should Himself the candle hold. I will go searching, till I find a sun Shall stay, till we have done; A willing shiner, that shall shine as