Tag Archives: George Herbert

You Must Sit Down, Says Love

Psalm 23 has an image which may help power one of George Herbert’s most beloved poems.

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Love Was with Me in the Night

May Sarton’s imagines love without weight in her poem “Christmas Light.”

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Let Me Not Love Thee If I Love Thee Not

George Herbert, never afraid to go toe-to-toe with God, grapples with his tormenting faith in “Affliction (1).”

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My Cries Cannot Pierce Thy Silent Ears

George Herbert poetry is admirable in the way he wrestles with his spiritual doubts. He may owe a debt to “The Book of Job,” where we also see such wrestling.

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A Guest Worthy To Be Here

Jesus learned to accept a Canaanite woman at his table and George Herbert learns that he belongs at that table. We can use them as models as we face refugees and immigrants.

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Herbert & Bronte on Spiritual Restlessness

St. Augustine, George Herbert, and Charlotte Bronte all write about spiritual restlessness.

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The God of Love My Shepherd Is

George Herbert rewrites the 23rd psalm in subtle ways, turning the Lord in the “God of Love” and filling the cup with the eucharist.

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A Divine Stairway of Sharp Angles

Levertov uses to story of Jacob’s Ladder to describe the miracle of poetry.

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Broken in Pieces All Asunder

Flannery O’Connor, like George Herbert, found her Christian faith regularly challenged by deep despair.

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Here Is No Water but Only Rock

Dry rocks have functioned as images of spiritual desolation throughout the history of Good Friday poetry.

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Becoming Intimate with God

As George Herbert and Fiona Sampson make clear, partaking in the eucharist feat is our way of becoming intimate with God.

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The Cleanness of Sweet Abstinence

Herbert paradoxically describes Lent as a “dear Feast” in which we can revel.

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Come, My Light, My Feast, My Strength

In “The Call,” George Herbert opens himself to God’s love with a confidence not found in many of his poems.

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When God’s Call Feels Like a Burden

“Collar” works as a triple pun—a clerical collar, a prisoner’s collar, and “choler.” Why, for all that I have done, am I only harvesting a thorn, George Herbert cries out in the poem by that name. Why am I still standing in suit to God when I could simply turn my back on it all?

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When God Doesn’t Seem to Be Listening

George Herbert’s frustrations at not communicating with God are understandable because the words we use to pray will always feel inadequate. Rather than this being bad, however, we should learn to be humble. It is good that we feel wounded by our words because it is in our brokenness where we most feel God’s presence.

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Let Me Not Love Thee If I Love Thee Not

In threatening God that he will find another master, George Herbert sounds like a five-year-old threatening to run away from his mother. Deep down, he is acknowledging that he has no choice but to love God.

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Rise, Heart, Thy Lord Is Risen

I write this the night before our sunrise Easter service where, as members of our church choir, Julia and I will arise before dawn to sing in the rising of the sun/son. No matter how early we get up, George Herbert’s “Easter” reassures us, the Lord is always there before us

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A Sweet and Virtuous Soul Chiefly Lives

Spiritual Sunday Last week I wrote about how my friend Alan, beset with cancer,  has beenexploring the meaning of love as his health fails. Here’s a beautiful George Herbert poem that captures Alan’s love for creation, his sadness that he must leave it, and (perhaps) his sense that his love may transcend death. Even though […]

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Looking to Poetry for Afterlife Evidence

Spiritual Sunday It has finally sunk in with me that my friend Alan will not recover from his cancer, and I find myself wrestling once again with the questions that arose after my son drowned.  The biggest question, of course, is whether death is the end. Every Sunday in my Episcopal Church I claim that […]

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Renegotiating Our Spiritual Mortgage

Spiritual Sunday Today’s poem, a fabulous sonnet by my favorite religious poet, is also very much in the spirit of the times given our mortgage foreclosure crisis. The latest news is that federal attempts to aid homeowners have been meeting with indifferent success and that people continue to lose their homes. George Herbert’s “Redemption” (1633) […]

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Praying to God to Tune Our Hearts

Spiritual Sunday There are those who think it an impiety to question God. I find more honest, and true, those people who wrestle with their doubts. That’s why I esteem so highly the poetry of George Herbert, the 17th –century Anglican rector. He is constantly searching for God. In some of his poems he struggles […]

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A Physicist and a Metaphysical Poet

The gifted nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer knew that his brilliance was not leading him to inner peace. Perhaps he appreciated George Herbert’s poem “The Pulley” for voicing his condition and was soothed by the poet’s vision of final rest.

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Becoming a Window through Thy Grace

Saint Chapelle in Paris Spiritual Sunday George Herbert is the author of this lovely 17th-century poem about stained glass windows.  As so often with this humble Anglican rector, he is filled with self doubts, seeing himself as “brittle crazy glass,”  and wonders how anyone can be worthy enough to preach God’s eternal word.  But he […]

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Butterfly Wings, Easter Transformation

Spiritual Sunday In the Episcopal church we are still in the season of Easter, which is coinciding this year with a particularly beautiful spring.  I’ve therefore chosen another Easter poem for “Spiritual Sunday.” This is an emblem poem by my favorite religious poet, George Herbert.  It is entitled “Easter Wings”: Lord, Who createdst man in […]

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A Poem for Those that Feel Unloveable

I can think of no better poet to move us into Holy Week than George Herbert, a 17th century Anglican rector who wrestled mightily with a sense of his unworthiness. In his poetry, Herbert is determined to be as honest about his doubts as possible.  He is not a facile Christian.  When he believes that […]

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Yes, Stanley, Lit Can Change Lives

  George Herbert I’m trying to figure out why Stanley Fish bothers me so.  Maybe it’s because I’m already worried that our society doesn’t take poetry seriously enough.  Then an English professor with a national forum comes along and confirms that people should consider the study of literature as an arcane study yielding satisfactions only to […]

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