Sepulchre, by George Herbert
Oh blessed body! Whither art thou thrown?
No lodging for thee, but a cold hard stone?
So many hearts on earth, and yet not one
Sure there is room within our hearts good store;
For they can lodge transgressions by the score:
Thousands of toys dwell there, yet out of door
They leave thee.
But that which shows them large, shows them unfit.
Whatever sin did this pure rock commit,
Which holds thee now? Who hath indicted it
Where our hard hearts have took up stones to brain thee,
And missing this, most falsely did arraign thee;
Only these stones in quiet entertain thee,
And as of old, the law by heav’nly art,
Was writ in stone; so thou, which also art
The letter of the word, find’st no fit heart
To hold thee.
Yet do we still persist as we began,
And so should perish, but that nothing can,
Though it be cold, hard, foul, from loving man
Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.
Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.
I got me flowers to straw thy way:
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.
The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.
Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred3, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.
Yesterday in Lesser Feasts and Fasts, we remembered George Herbert (1593-1633). Herbert is chiefly known for his poetry, especially The Temple and The Country Parson, but neither appeared in print during his lifetime. Apparently he struggled with a call to the ministry and was only ordained a priest in 1630. The Country Parson seems to have been written as something of a guidebook for him to follow after he took up his cure, so it doesn’t reflect his practice of ministry. It has had a profound effect on Anglican priests over the centuries, and probably on laypeople as well. Several of his poems appear in The Hymnal 1982 and his poems continue to capture the imagination of readers today.
Among my favorites:
And in honor of the season of Lent:
|Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is compos’d of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev’ry Corporation.
The humble soul compos’d of love and fear
True Christians should be glad of an occasion
Besides the cleanness of sweet abstinence,
Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
It’s true, we cannot reach Christ’s forti’eth day;
Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast