Wednesday, February 14, 2007

George Herbert and Bemerton

Father Dwight Longenecker has a posting on the poet George Herbert (April 3, 1593 – March 1, 1633).

Herbert took up his duties in Bemerton, a rural parish in Wiltshire, about 75 miles southwest of London in 1630. Here he preached and also wrote poetry. He also helped to rebuild the church out of his own funds.

Standing on My Head has some pictures of Bemerton. He also sets out the third poem about Love which Herbert wrote. I was first introduced to the poem about thirty five years ago. I was made to memorise it and glad that I did. It is a poem which stays which you. As time goes by, you learn more from it and see more in it each time.

It is deceptively simple: but simple it is not.

In a recent pre-Lenten message, Pope Benedict XVI repeated many of the themes in Part 1 of his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est. In the poem, Herbert touches on some of the same themes but in a much more economical manner.

Today, the word "Love" is overworked, and in such common and frequent use that one wonders if it has now become devoid of true meaning. Going back to Herbert`s poem can remind us of its true and proper meaning.

The poem is worth the repetition:

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

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the 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 marr'd 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. "


George Herbert & The Temple

Izaak Walton (1593–1683). The Lives of John Donne and George Herbert.
(The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.)
The Life of Mr. George Herbert