Monday, March 25, 2024

George Herbert*

George Herbert (1593–1633) is an English poet, priest, and orator, who was a member of Parliament briefly during 1624 and 1625.

The two most influential of the seventeenth century English metaphysical poets are George Herbert and John Donne. These poets are significant to the legacy of Christian poetry in the English language, and their influences stretches into other languages as well. Some of the other metaphysical poets include Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvell, Thomas Traherne, Richard Crashaw, and Joseph Beaumont.

The work of these poets has influenced my own poetry, and the work of so many of the other poets I admire. The very first post here at Kingdom Poets, from back in 2010, is one about George Herbert.

One of the poems in my forthcoming collection Pride Be Not Death (& Other Poems) is a response to Herbert’s poem “Love (3),” another comes from his “Perirrhanterium,” another is after “Denials,” and a fourth arises from a line in the following Herbert poem.

The Cross

---------What is this strange and uncouth thing?
To make me sigh, and seek, and faint, and die,
Until I had some place, where I might sing,
---------And serve thee; and not only I,
But all my wealth and family might combine
To set thy honour up, as our design.
---------And then when after much delay,
Much wrestling, many a combat, this dear end,
So much desired, is giv’n, to take away
---------My power to serve thee; to unbend
All my abilities, my designs confound,
And lay my threat’nings bleeding on the ground.
---------One ague dwelleth in my bones,
Another in my soul (the memory
What I would do for thee, if once my groans
---------Could be allowed for harmony):
I am in all a weak disabled thing,
Save in the sight thereof, where strength doth sting.
---------Besides, things sort not to my will,
Ev’n when my will doth study thy renown:
Thou turnest th’ edge of all things on me still,
---------Taking me up to throw me down:
So that, ev’n when my hopes seem to be sped,
I am to grief alive, to them as dead.
---------To have my aim, and yet to be
Further from it then when I bent my bow;
To make my hopes my torture, and the fee
---------Of all my woes another woe,
Is in the midst of delicates to need,
And ev’n in Paradise to be a weed.
---------Ah my dear Father, ease my smart!
These contrarieties crush me: these crosse actions
Do wind a rope about, and cut my heart:
---------And yet since these thy contradictions
Are properly a crosse felt by the Sonne,
With but four words, my words, Thy will be done.

*This is the fourth Kingdom Poets post about George Herbert: first post, second post, third post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.