Monday, June 30, 2014

George Herbert*

George Herbert (1593—1633) had not published a book of poetry in his own lifetime, but his book The Temple did appear shortly after his death in 1633. He and John Donne are the most influential of what we today call the Metaphysical Poets —a group that also includes, Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvel and Thomas Traherne.

It seems that Herbert's ambition had nothing to do with fame, but with looking deeply into his own soul and seeking to be honest before God. Even so, his fame outstrips that of many who were seekers of a reputation. His influence is felt, not only in the poetry of the seventeenth century, but also in such writers as Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden.

Herbert's poetry is suitable for spiritual meditation—helpful as we seek to reflect on God's faithfulness, and on our own fickleness.

Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
-----------Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
-----------From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
-----------If I lacked anything.

“A guest," I answered, “worthy to be here”:
-----------Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
-----------I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
-----------“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
-----------Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not," says Love, “who bore the blame?”
-----------“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down," says Love, “and taste my meat.”
-----------So I did sit and eat.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about George Herbert: first post, third post, fourth post. You can also find a George Herbert poem that grew out of Isaiah 55 at: The 55 Project.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.