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 heav’n and earth,
Engine against th’Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
Reversed 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 drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.
A Little Poetry—My birthday falls on a Sunday this year, and I am celebrating with a favorite poem by a favorite religious poet. George Herbert presents in this poem an almost rhapsodic cascade of images—sometimes startling—of Christian prayer; human language is overwhelmed by divine plenitude.
Malcolm Guite shares on his blog an excellent excerpt about Herbert’s sonnet, from the book Faith, Hope, and Poetry. <http://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/george-herbert-and-the-insights-of-prayer/>
A ‘plummet’ is a plumb line, used for measuring depth. An ‘engine’ is a mechanical device used in warfare.