3.6k
Virtue

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright!
The bridal of the earth and sky—
The dew shall weep thy fall to-night;
      For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angry and brave
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye,
Thy root is ever in its 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.

2.9k
Discipline

Throw away thy rod,
Throw away thy wrath:
O my God,
Take the gentle path.

For my heart’s desire
Unto thine is bent:
I aspire
To a full consent.

Not a word or look
I affect to own,
But by book,
And thy book alone.

Though I fail, I weep:
Though I halt in pace,
Yet I creep
To the throne of grace.

Then let wrath remove:
Love will do the deed;
For with love
Stony hearts will bleed.

Love is swift of foot;
Love’s a man of war,
And can shoot,
And can hit from far.

Who can ’scape his bow?
That which wrought on thee,
Brought thee low,
Needs must work on me.

Throw away they rod;
Though man frailties hath,
Thou art God:
Throw away thy wrath.

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
      Outsing the daylight 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.

1.4k
A Dialogue

Man.  Sweetest Saviour, if my soul
  Were but worth the having,
Quickly should I then control
  Any thought of waving.
But when all my care and pains
Cannot give the name of gains
To Thy wretch so full of stains,
What delight or hope remains?

Saviour.  What, child, is the balance thine,
  Thine the poise and measure?
If I say, ‘Thou shalt be Mine,’
  Finger not My treasure.
What the gains in having thee
Do amount to, only He
Who for man was sold can see;
That transferr’d th’ accounts to Me.

Man.  But as I can see no merit
  Leading to this favour,
So the way to fit me for it
  Is beyond my savour.
As the reason, then, is Thine,
So the way is none of mine;
I disclaim the whole design;
Sin disclaims and I resign.

Saviour.  That is all: if that I could
  Get without repining;
And My clay, My creature, would
  Follow My resigning;
That as I did freely part
With My glory and desert,
Left all joys to feel all smart——

Man.  Ah, no more! Thou break’st my heart!

1.3k
Prayer

Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgramage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;
Engine against th’Almightie, sinners towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.

1.3k
Sin
Sin

Lord, with what care hast Thou begirt us round!
Parents first season us; then schoolmasters
Deliver us to laws;—they send us bound
To rules of reason, holy messengers,
Pulpits and Sundays, sorrow dogging sin,
Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,
Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in,
Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,
Blessings beforehand, ties of gratefulness,
The sound of glory ringing in our ears;
Without, our shame; within, our consciences;
Angels and grace, eternal hopes and fears:
Yet all these fences and their whole array
One cunning bosom-sin blows quite away.

1.2k
The Pulley

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
Let us (said He) pour on him all we can:
Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie,
Contract into a span.

So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure:
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that alone of all His treasure
Rest in the bottom lay.

For if I should (said He)
Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore My gifts instead of Me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:
So both should losers be.

Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness:
Let him be rich and weary, that, at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to My breast.

1.2k
The Pearl

The Kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man,
seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one,
sold all that he had and bought it.—Matthew 13.45

I know the ways of Learning; both the head
And pipes that feed the press, and make it run;
What reason hath from nature borrowed,
Or of itself, like a good huswife, spun
In laws and policy; what the stars conspire,
What willing nature speaks, what forced by fire;
Both th’ old discoveries, and the new-found seas,
The stock and surplus, cause and history:
All these stand open, or I have the keys:
Yet I love thee.

I know the ways of Honour, what maintains
The quick returns of courtesy and wit:
In vies of favours whether party gains,
When glory swells the heart, and moldeth it
To all expressions both of hand and eye,
Which on the world a true-love-knot may tie,
And bear the bundle, wheresoe’er it goes:
How many drams of spirit there must be
To sell my life unto my friends or foes:
Yet I love thee.

I know the ways of Pleasure, the sweet strains,
The lullings and the relishes of it;
The propositions of hot blood and brains;
What mirth and music mean; what love and wit
Have done these twenty hundred years, and more:
I know the projects of unbridled store:
My stuff is flesh, not brass; my senses live,
And grumble oft, that they have more in me
Than he that curbs them, being but one to five:
Yet I love thee.

I know all these, and have them in my hand:
Therefore not sealed, but with open eyes
I fly to thee, and fully understand
Both the main sale, and the commodities;
And at what rate and price I have thy love;
With all the circumstances that may move:
Yet through these labyrinths, not my grovelling wit,
But thy silk twist let down from heav’n to me,
Did both conduct and teach me, how by it
To climb to thee.

1.2k
Aaron

Holiness on the head,
Light and perfections on the breast,
      Harmonious bells below, raising the dead
To lead them unto life and rest:
           Thus are true Aarons drest.

           Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
      A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest:
           Poor priest, thus am I drest.

           Only another head
I have, another heart and breast,
      Another music, making live, not dead,
Without whom I could have no rest:
           In him I am well drest.

           Christ is my only head,
My alone-only heart and breast,
      My only music, striking me ev’n dead,
That to the old man I may rest,
           And be in him new-drest.

           So, holy in my head,
Perfect and light in my dear breast,
      My doctrine tun’d by Christ (who is not dead,
But lives in me while I do rest),
           Come people; Aaron’s drest.

1.1k
The Altar

A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart and cemented with tears;
      Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
      No workman’s tool hath touch’d the same.
            A HEART alone
            Is such a stone,
            As nothing but
            Thy pow’r doth cut.
            Wherefore each part
            Of my hard heart
            Meets in this frame
            To praise thy name.
      That if I chance to hold my peace,
      These stones to praise thee may not cease.
Oh, let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.

1.1k
Love (I)

Immortal Love, author of this great frame,
    Sprung from that beauty which can never fade,
    How hath man parcel’d out Thy glorious name,
And thrown it on that dust which Thou hast made,
While mortal love doth all the title gain!
    Which siding with Invention, they together
    Bear all the sway, possessing heart and brain,
(Thy workmanship) and give Thee share in neither.
Wit fancies beauty, beauty raiseth wit;
    The world is theirs, they two play out the game,
    Thou standing by: and though Thy glorious name
Wrought our deliverance from th’ infernal pit,
Who sings Thy praise? Only a scarf or glove
Doth warm our hands, and make them write of love.

I threaten’d to observe the strict decree
    Of my dear God with all my power and might;
    But I was told by one it could not be;
Yet I might trust in God to be my light.
“Then will I trust,” said I, “in Him alone.”
    “Nay, e’en to trust in Him was also His:
    We must confess that nothing is our own.”
“Then I confess that He my succour is.”
“But to have nought is ours, not to confess
    That we have nought.” I stood amaz’d at this,
    Much troubled, till I heard a friend express
That all things were more ours by being His;
    What Adam had, and forfeited for all,
    Christ keepeth now, who cannot fail or fall.

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
   Though foolishly he lost the same,
      Decaying more and more,
          Till he became
            Most poor:
            With thee
          O let me rise
        As larks, harmoniously,
    And sing this day thy victories:
  Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

    My tender age in sorrow did begin:
   And still with sicknesses and shame
      Thou didst so punish sin,
           That I became
            Most thin.
            With thee
           Let me combine
     And feel this day thy victory:
     For, if I imp my wing on thine,
   Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

1.1k
The Temper

How should I praise thee, Lord! how should my rhymes
Gladly engrave thy love in steel,
If what my soul doth feel sometimes
My soul might ever feel!

Although there were some forty heav’ns, or more,
Sometimes I peer above them all;
Sometimes I hardly reach a score,
Sometimes to hell I fall.

O rack me not to such a vast extent;
Those distances belong to thee:
The world’s too little for thy tent,
A grave too big for me.

Wilt thou meet arms with man, that thou dost stretch
A crum of dust from heav’n to hell?
Will great God measure with a wretch?
Shall he thy stature spell?

O let me, when thy roof my soul hath hid,
O let me roost and nestle there:
Then of a sinner thou art rid,
And I of hope and fear.

Yet take thy way; for sure thy way is best:
Stretch or contract me, thy poor debtor:
This is but tuning of my breast,
To make the music better.

Whether I fly with angels, fall with dust,
Thy hands made both, and I am there:
Thy power and love, my love and trust
Make one place ev’ry where.

1.1k
Love (III)

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered “worthy to be here”;
Love said “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

1.1k
The Collar

I struck the board, and cried “No more!
  I will abroad.
What, shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the road,
  Loose as the wind, as large as store.
    Shall I be still in suit?
  Have I no harvest but a thorn
  To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
        Sure there was wine
  Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
    Before my tears did drown it.
  Is the year only lost to me?
    Have I no bays to crown it?
No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted?
      All wasted?
  Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,
      And thou hast hands.
    Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not. Forsake thy cage,
      Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
  Good cable, to enforce and draw,
      And be thy law,
  While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
      Away; take heed:
      I will abroad.
Call in thy death’s head there: tie up thy fears.
      He that forbears
    To suit and serve his need,
      Deserves his load.”
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
      At every word,
Methoughts I heard one calling “Child!”
      And I replied “My Lord”.

When first thou didst entice to thee my heart,
      I thought the service brave;
So many joys I writ down for my part,
      Besides what I might have
Out of my stock of natural delights,
Augmented with thy gracious benefits.

I looked on thy furniture so fine,
      And made it fine to me;
Thy glorious household-stuff did me entwine,
      And ‘tice me unto thee.
Such stars I counted mine: both heav’n and earth;
Paid me my wages in a world of mirth.

What pleasures could I want, whose King I serv’d,
      Where joys my fellows were?
Thus argu’d into hopes, my thoughts reserv’d
      No place for grief or fear.
Therefore my sudden soul caught at the place,
And made her youth and fierceness seek thy face.

At first thou gav’st me milk and sweetnesses;
      I had my wish and way;
My days were straw’d with flow’rs and happiness;
      There was no month but May.
But with my years sorrow did twist and grow,
And made a party unawares for woe.

My flesh began unto my soul in pain,
      “Sicknesses cleave my bones;
Consuming agues dwell in ev’ry vein,
      And tune my breath to groans.”
Sorrow was all my soul; I scarce believ’d,
Till grief did tell me roundly, that I liv’d.

When I got health, thou took’st away my life,
      And more, for my friends die;
My mirth and edge was lost, a blunted knife
      Was of more use than I.
Thus thin and lean without a fence or friend,
I was blown through with ev’ry storm and wind.

Whereas my birth and spirit rather took
      The way that takes the town;
Thou didst betray me to a ling’ring book,
      And wrap me in a gown.
I was entangled in the world of strife,
Before I had the power to change my life.

Yet, for I threaten’d oft the siege to raise,
      Not simp’ring all mine age,
Thou often didst with academic praise
      Melt and dissolve my rage.
I took thy sweet’ned pill, till I came where
I could not go away, nor persevere.

Yet lest perchance I should too happy be
      In my unhappiness,
Turning my purge to food, thou throwest me
      Into more sicknesses.
Thus doth thy power cross-bias me, not making
Thine own gift good, yet me from my ways taking.

Now I am here, what thou wilt do with me
      None of my books will show;
I read, and sigh, and wish I were a tree,
      For sure then I should grow
To fruit or shade: at least some bird would trust
  Her household to me, and I should be just.

Yet, though thou troublest me, I must be meek;
      In weakness must be stout;
Well, I will change the service, and go seek
      Some other master out.
Ah my dear God! though I am clean forgot,
Let me not love thee, if I love thee not.

1.1k
Peace

Sweet Peace, where dost thou dwell? I humbly crave,
Let me once know.
I sought thee in a secret cave,
And ask’d, if Peace were there,
A hollow wind did seem to answer, No:
Go seek elsewhere.

I did; and going did a rainbow note:
Surely, thought I,
This is the lace of Peace’s coat:
I will search out the matter.
But while I looked the clouds immediately
Did break and scatter.

Then went I to a garden and did spy
A gallant flower,
The crown-imperial: Sure, said I,
Peace at the root must dwell.
But when I digged, I saw a worm devour
What showed so well.

At length I met a rev’rend good old man;
Whom when for Peace

I did demand, he thus began:
There was a Prince of old
At Salem dwelt, who lived with good increase
Of flock and fold.

He sweetly lived; yet sweetness did not save
His life from foes.
But after death out of his grave
There sprang twelve stalks of wheat;
Which many wond’ring at, got some of those
To plant and set.

It prospered strangely, and did soon disperse
Through all the earth:
For they that taste it do rehearse
That virtue lies therein;
A secret virtue, bringing peace and mirth
By flight of sin.

Take of this grain, which in my garden grows,
And grows for you;
Make bread of it: and that repose
And peace, which ev’ry where
With so much earnestness you do pursue,
Is only there.

1.1k
Easter

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.

Yet though my flowers be lost, they say
  A heart can never come too late;
Teach it to sing Thy praise this day,
  And then this day my life shall date.

After all 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?

Oh 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.

1.0k
The Quip

The merry world did on a day
With his train-bands and mates agree
To meet together where I lay,
And all in sport to jeer at me.

First, Beauty crept into a rose,
Which when I plucked not, “Sir,” said she,
“Tell me, I pray, whose hands are those?”
But thou shalt answer, Lord, for me.

Then Money came, and chinking still,
“What tune is this, poor man?” said he,
“I heard in music you had skill.”
But thou shalt answer, Lord, for me.

Then came brave Glory puffing by
In silks that whistled—who but he?
He scarce allowed me half an eye.
But thou shalt answer, Lord, for me.

Then came quick Wit and Conversation,
And he would needs a comfort be,
And, to be short, make an oration.
But thou shalt answer, Lord, for me.

Yet when the hour of thy design
To answer these fine things shall come,
Speak not at large: say, I am thine;
And then they have their answer home.

I joy, dear mother, when I view
Thy perfect lineaments, and hue
    Both sweet and bright.
Beauty in thee takes up her place,
And dates her letters from thy face,
    When she doth write.

  A fine aspect in fit array,
Neither too mean nor yet too gay,
    Shows who is best.
Outlandish looks may not compare,
For all they either painted are,
    Or else undress’d.

  She on the hills which wantonly
Allureth all, in hope to be
    By her preferr’d,
Hath kiss’d so long her painted shrines,
That ev’n her face by kissing shines,
    For her reward.

  She in the valley is so shy
Of dressing, that her hair doth lie
    About her ears;
While she avoids her neighbour’s pride,
She wholly goes on th’ other side,
    And nothing wears.

  But, dearest mother, what those miss,
The mean, thy praise and glory is
    And long may be.
Blessed be God, whose love it was
To double-moat thee with his grace,
    And none but thee.

Hark, how the birds do sing,
And woods do ring!
All creatures have their joy, and man hath his.
Yet if we rightly measure,
Man’s joy and pleasure
Rather hereafter than in present is.

To this life things of sense
Make their pretence;
In th’ other angels have a right by birth.
Man ties them both alone,
And makes them one,
With th’ one hand touching heaven, with th’ other earth.

In soul he mounts and flies,
In flesh he dies.
He wears a stuff whose thread is coarse and round,
But trimmed with curious lace,
And should take place
After the trimming, not the stuff and ground.

Not that he may not here
Taste of the cheer;

But as birds drink and straight lift up their head,
So must he sip and think
Of better drink
He may attain to after he is dead.

But as his joys are double,
So is his trouble.
He hath two winters, other things but one:
Both frosts and thoughts do nip
And bite his lip,
And he of all things fears two deaths alone.

Yet even the greatest griefs
May be reliefs,
Could he but take them right, and in their ways.
Happy is he whose heart
Hath found the art
To turn his double pains to double praise.

Teach me, my God and King,
      In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
      To do it as for Thee.

      Not rudely, as a beast,
      To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
      And give it his perfection.

      A man that looks on glass,
      On it may stay his eye;
Or it he pleaseth, through it pass,
      And then the heav’n espy.

      All may of Thee partake:
      Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture—”for Thy sake”—
      Will not grow bright and clean.

      A servant with this clause
      Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
      Makes that and th’ action fine.

      This is the famous stone
      That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
      Cannot for less be told.

903
Jordan

Who says that fictions only and false hair
Become a verse? Is there in truth no beauty?
Is all good structure in a winding stair?
May no lines pass, except they do their duty
Not to a true, but painted chair?

Is it no verse, except enchanted groves
And sudden arbours shadow coarse-spun lines?
Must purling streams refresh a lover’s loves?
Must all be veiled, while he that reads divines,
Catching the sense at two removes?

Shepherds are honest people: let them sing:
Riddle who list, for me, and pull for prime:
I envy no man’s nightingale or spring;
Nor let them punish me with loss of rhyme,
Who plainly say, My God, My King.

How fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! ev’n as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
Grief melts away
Like snows in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.

Who would have thought my shrivelled heart
Could have recovered greenness? It was gone
Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
Where they together
All the hard weather,
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.

These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quick’ning, bringing down to hell
And up to heaven in an hour;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell.
We say amiss,
This or that is:
Thy word is all, if we could spell.

O that I once past changing were,
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Off’ring at heav’n, growing and groaning thither:
Nor doth my flower
Want a spring shower,
My sins and I joining together.

But while I grow in a straight line,
Still upwards bent, as if heav’n were mine own,
Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? What pole is not the zone,
Where all things burn,
When thou dost turn,
And the least frown of thine is shown?

And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my only light,
It cannot be
That I am he
On whom thy tempests fell all night.

These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide;
Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.

860
Love (II)

Immortal Heat, O let Thy greater flame
    Attract the lesser to it; let those fires
    Which shall consume the world first make it tame,
And kindle in our hearts such true desires.
As may consume our lusts, and make Thee way:
    Then shall our hearts pant Thee, then shall our brain
    All her invention on Thine altar lay,
And there in hymns send back Thy fire again.
Our eyes shall see Thee, which before saw dust,
    Dust blown by wit, till that they both were blind:
    Thou shalt recover all Thy goods in kind,
Who wert disseized by usurping lust:
All knees shall bow to Thee; all wits shall rise,
And praise Him Who did make and mend our eyes.

Sweetest of sweets, I thank you: when displeasure
Did through my body wound my mind,
You took me thence, and in your house of pleasure
A dainty lodging me assigned.

Now I in you without a body move,
Rising and falling with your wings:
We both together sweetly live and love,
Yet say sometimes, “God help poor Kings”.

Comfort, I’ll die; for if you post from me
Sure I shall do so, and much more:
But if I travel in your company,
You know the way to heaven’s door.

— The End —

The Complete English Poems by George Herbert