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01 March 2011

Disordered clocks and an ebony box: Commemorating George Herbert

 George Herbert

 Blest be the God of love,
Who gave me eyes, and light, and power this day,
  Both to be busie, and to play.
  But much more blest be God above,

  Who gave me sight alone,
  Which to himself he did denie :
  For when he sees my waies, I dy :
But I have got his sonne, and he hath none.

  What have I brought thee home
For this thy love? have I discharg’d the debt,
  Which this dayes favour did beget?
  I ranne ; but all I brought, was some.

  Thy diet, care, and cost
  Do end in bubbles, balls of winde ;
  Of winde to thee whom I have crost,
But balls of wilde-fire to my troubled minde.

  Yet still thou goest on,
And now with darknesse closest wearie eyes,
  Saying to man, It doth suffice :
  Henceforth repose ; your work is done.

  Thus in thy Ebony box
  Thou dost inclose us, till the day
  Put our amendment in our way,
And give new wheels to our disorder’d clocks.

  I muse, which shows more love,
The day or night ; that is the gale, this th’ harbour ;
  That is the walk, and this the arbour ;
  Or that the garden, this the grove.

  My God, thou art all love.
  Not one poore minute 'scapes thy breast,
  But brings a favour from above ;
And in this love, more than in bed, I rest.

George Herbert (1593 – 1633), the author of "Evensong" above, was a Welsh born English poet, orator and Anglican priest. He is commemorated by Lutherans on March 1, and is represented by the hymn,"Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life" in most hymnals.

When last week I looked at the poem above, some of the imagery made me grin (our "disordered clocks" that need "new wheels"), but some of it made me cringe as well (namely that ebony box in which, the poet says, we are enclosed by God).

George Herbert pursued government early in life, but then changed course and studied for the ministry.  Much of his poetry was written when he was a priest in a small Anglican parish, where he was adored as a kind and loving shepherd of his sheep.

When on Saturday a friend's husband, Louis, passed away after a futile battle with cancer, all of a sudden some of the phrases that I had dismissed as baroque and dated gained new meaning. "My God, thou art all love. Not one poore minute 'scape thy breast, But brings a favour from above; And in this love, more than in bed, I rest."   

To rest in God's love is what counts -- it keeps our priorities on track and reminds us where home is. Louis has gone home, back to the source of all life, where pain and cancer and tears have no power any more.

"Come, my joy, my love, my heart: Such a joy as none can move;
Such a love as none can part; Such a heart as joys in love."  Amen.

May Louis rest in peace!

1 comment:

  1. I think the lines "Thy diet, care, and cost, Do end in bubbles, balls of winde;" is just plan funny! Thanks for the laughter.