Tag Archives: George Herbert


A Chameleon. Ustad Mansur. 1612.
A Chameleon. Ustad Mansur. 1612.



George Herbert


Oh, what a thing is man! how far from power,

From settled peace and rest!

He is some twenty sev’ral men at least

Each sev’ral hour.


One while he counts of heav’n, as of his treasure:

But then a thought creeps in,

And calls him coward, who for fear of sin

Will lose a pleasure.


Now he will fight it out, and to the wars;

Now eat his bread in peace,

And snudge in quiet: now he scorns increase;

Now all day spares.


He builds  a house, which quickly down must go,

As if a whirlwind blew

And crushed the building: and it’s partly true,

His mind is so.


O what a sight were Man if his attires

Did alter with his mind;

And like a Dolphin’s skin, his clothes combin’d

With his desires!


Surely if each one saw another’s heart,

There would be no commerce,

No sale or bargain pass: all would disperse

And live apart.


Lord, mend or rather make us: one creation

Will not suffice our turn:

Except thou make us daily, we shall spurn

Our own salvation.


After the Drought. Eric Forster.
After the Drought. Eric Forster.



George Herbert


My stock lies dead, and no increase

Doth my dull husbandry improve:

O let thy graces without cease

Drop from above!


If still the sun should hide its face,

Thy house would still a dungeon prove,

The works night’s captives: O let grace

Drop from above!


The dew doth ev’ry morning fall;

And shall the dew out-strip thy Dove?

The dew, for which grass cannot call,

Drop from above.

Death is still working like a mole,

And digs my grave at each remove:

Let grace work too, and on my soul

Drop from above.


Sin is still hammering my heart

Unto a hardness, void of love:

Let suppling grace, to cross his art,

Drop from above.


O come! for thou dost know the way:

Or if to me thou wilt not move,

Remove me, where I need not say,

Drop from above.

Clasping of Hands

Hand. Tribute to Ingres, Abidin Dino. 1980.
Hand. Tribute to Ingres, Abidin Dino. 1980.


Clasping of Hands

George Herbert


Lord, thou art mine, and I am thine,

If mine I am: and thine much more,

Then I or ought, or can be mine.

Yet to be thine, doth me restore;

So that again I now am mine,

And with advantage mine the more

Since this being mine, brings with it thine,

And thou with me dost thee restore.

If I without thee would me mine,

I neither should me mine nor thine.


Lord, I am thine, and thou art mine:

So mine thou art, that something more

I may presume thee mine, then thine.

For thou didst suffer to restore

Not thee, but me, and to be mine,

And with advantage mine the more,

Since thou in death wast none of thine,

Yet then as mine didst me restore.

O be mine still! still make me thine!

Or rather make no Thine and Mine!


Apples on a Bough, Study Before Picking. Andrew Wyeth.
Apples on a Bough, Study Before Picking. Andrew Wyeth.



George Herbert


I bless thee Lord, because I GROW

Among thy trees which in a ROW

To thee both fruit and order OW.


What open force, or hidden CHARM

Can blast my fruit or bring me HARM,

While the inclosure is thine ARM?


Inclose me still for fear I START.

But to me rather sharp and TART,

Then let me want thy hand & ART.


When thou dost great judgements SPARE,

And with thy knife but prune and PARE,

Ev’n fruitful trees more fruitful ARE.


Such sharpness shows the sweetest FREND:

Such cuttings rather heal than REND:

And such beginnings touch their END.

The Invitation

Parable of the Wedding Feast. Russian icon.
Parable of the Wedding Feast. Russian icon.


The Invitation

George Herbert


Come ye hither All, whose taste

Is you waste;

Save your cost, and mend your fare.

Gd is here prepar’d and drest,

And the feast,

God, in whom all dainties are.


Come ye hither All, whom wine

Doth define,

Naming you not to your own good:

Weep what you have drunk amiss,

And drink this,

Which before ye drink is blood.


Come ye hither All, whom pain

Doth arraign,

Bringing all your sins to sight:

Taste and fear not: God is here

In this cheer,

And on sin doth cast the fright.


Come ye hither All, whom joy

Doth destroy,

While ye graze without your bounds:

Here is joy that drowneth quite

Your delight,

As a flood the lower grounds.


Come ye hither All, whose love

Is your dove,

And exalts you to the sky:

Here is love, which having breath

Ev’n in death,

After death can never die.


Lord, I have invited all

And I shall

Still invite, still call to thee:

For it seems but just and right

In my sight,

Where is All, there All should be.


The Russian icon portrays the parable of the great banquet told by Jesus in Luke 14:15-24, and alluded to in George Herbert’s poem.


Giverny in Springtime. Claude Monet, 1900.
Giverny in Springtime. Claude Monet, 1900.



George Herbert


Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,

The bridal of the earth and sky,

The dew shall weep thy fall tonight;

For thou must die.


Sweet rose, whose hue angry and brave

Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye:

Thy root is ever in the grave,

And thou must die.


Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,

A box where sweets compacted lie;

My music shows ye have your closes,

And all must die.

Only a sweet and virtuous soul,

Like season’d timber, never gives;

But though the whole world turn to coal,

Then chiefly lives.



Seascape with Pines and Overhanging Clouds. Robert Julian Onderdonk. 1901.
Seascape with Pines and Overhanging Clouds. Robert Julian Onderdonk. 1901.



George Herbert


I cannot ope mine eyes,

But thou art ready there to catch

My morning-soul and sacrifice:

Then we must needs for that day make a match.


My God, what is a heart?

Silver, or gold, or precious stone,

Or star, or rainbow, or a part

Of all these things, or all of them in one?


My God, what is a heart,

That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo,

Pouring upon it all thy art,

As if thou hadst nothing else to do?


Indeed man’s whole estate

Amounts (and richly) to serve thee:

He did not heav’n and earth create,

Yet studies them, not him by whom they be.


Teach me thy love to know;

That this new light, which now I see,

May both the work and workman show:

Then by a sunbeam I will climb to thee.

H. Baptisme [II]

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Fra Angelico. 1433.
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Fra Angelico. 1433.

 H. Baptisme [II]

George Herbert


Since, Lord to thee

A narrow way and a little gate

Is all the passage, on my infancy

Thou didst lay hold, and antedate

My faith in me.

O let me still

With thee great God, and me a child:

Let me soft and supple to thy will,

Small to myself, to others mild,

Behither ill.

Although by stealth

My flesh gets on, yet let her sister

My soul bid nothing, but preserve her wealth:

The growth of flesh is but a blister;

Childhood is health.

The Windows

Saint Chapelle Church. Paris, France. 1250.


The Windows

George Herbert


Lord, how can a man preach thy eternal word?

He is a brittle crazy glass:

Yet in thy temple thou dost him afford

This glorious and transcendent place,

To be a window, through thy grace.


But when thou dost anneal in glass thy story,

Making thy life to shine within

The holy Preacher’s; then the light and glory

More rev’rend grows, and more doth win:

Which else shows wat’rish, bleak, and thin.


Doctrine and life, colors and ight, in one

When they combine and mingle, bring

A strong regard and awe: but speech alone

Doth vanish like a flaring thing,

And in the ear, not conscience ring.

Marie Magdalene

Forgiven. Daniel F. Gerhatz.


Marie Magdalene

George Herbert, 1633


When blessed Marie wip’d her Savior’s feet,

(Whose precepts she had trampled on before)

And wore them for a jewel on her head,

Showing his steps should be the street

Wherein she thenceforth evermore

With pensive humbleness would live and tread:


She, being stain’d her self, why did she strive

To make him clean, who could not be defil’d?

Why kept she not her tears for her own faults,

And not his feet? Though we could dive

In tears like seas, our sins are pil’d

Deeper than they, in words, and works, and thoughts.


Dear soul, she knew who did vouchsafe and deign

To bear her filth; and that her sins did dash

Ev’n God himself: wherefore she was not lothe,

As she had brought wherewith to stain,

So to bring wherewith to wash:

And yet in washing one, she washed both.