Monday, December 25, 2017

George Herbert*

George Herbert (1593—1633) is one of English literature's most influential poets — despite of, or because of, his unapologetic preoccupation with his relationship with Christ.

He was born in Montgomery Castle, in Wales. After his father's death, when he was three years old, his mother moved the family to England. She became a patron to the poet John Donne, and her son soon started developing his own poetic skill. He was elected Orator at Cambridge University in 1620, but eventually left that post to become an Anglican priest, serving in Wiltshire, England. He wrote about his experience in his book, The Country Parson, His Character and Rule of Holy Life (1630). He died of Tuberculosis.

The very first post in this Kingdom Poets blog — from February of 2010 — featured the poetry of George Herbert.


All after pleasures as I rid one day,
------My horse and I, both tired, body and mind,
------With full cry of affections, quite astray;
I took up the next inn I could find.
There when I came, whom found I but my dear,
------My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief
------Of pleasures brought me to him, ready there
To be all passengers' most sweet relief?
O Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,
------Wrapt in night's mantle, stole into a manger;
------Since my dark soul and brutish is thy right,
To man of all beasts be not thou a stranger:
------Furnish and deck my soul, that thou mayst have
------A better lodging, than a rack, or grave.

The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
------------------My God, no hymn for 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 will we 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 gladly,
------------------As frost-nipped suns look sadly.
Then will we sing, and shine all our own day,
------------------And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev'n His beams sing, and my music shine.

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

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest 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.