Monday, February 27, 2006

February 27: Give thanks to God for George Herbert

Today the Church thanks God for the life and witness of George Herbert, one of my favorite seventeenth-century poets. When in England years ago I spent the best part of a day visiting his little parish church near the Salisbury Cathederal. If you've got a good traditional hymnal, you'll find that some of the lyrics of your favorite songs were written by him. Take a look, for example, at The United Methodist Hymnal's "Let All the World in Every Corner Sing" (No. 93) and "Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life" (No. 164). Aren't those wonderful words! As a university English professor, I've had the privilege of reading and writing about Herbert's poetry for many years. And this morning, I'll say this prayer slowly--and with a grateful heart--during Morning Prayer:

Our God and King, who called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in your temple: Give us grace, we pray, joyfully to perform the tasks you give us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Blogger Mason Smith said...

Here is a sonnet by Herbert that I found recently:

Sonnet II

Sure Lord, there is enough in thee to dry
Oceans of Ink; for, as the Deluge did
Cover the Earth, so doth thy Majesty;
Each Cloud distills thy praise, and doth forbid
Poets to turn it to another use.
Roses and Lillies speak thee; and to make
A pair of Cheeks of them, is thy abuse.
Why should I Womens eyes for Chrystal take?
Such poor invention burns in their low mind,
Whose fire is wild, and doth not upward go
To priase, and on thee Lord, some Ink bestow.
Open the bones, and you shall nothing find
In the best face but filth, when Lord, in thee
The beauty lies, in the discovery.

Of course, I don't mean to imply by quoting this poem that women have "low minds," etc. Except for the sexist bit, I loved the imagery here. Herbert sent this sonnet to his mother in 1610 as a New Year's present. It appears in "The English Poems of George Herbert," C.A. Patrides, ed.

Monday, 27 February, 2006  

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