A Taste of George Herbert

Good poetry is hard to find, because it’s even harder to write.  These days most verse is trite and sentimental doggerel, and much of the more creative stuff is emotionally self-destructive.  Yet there is good poetry out there, which can bring us closer to God.

George Herbert is one of the best poets in the English language, and one of the most famous of the Metaphysical Poets of the 17th C.  Here is one of his more famous poems (taken from ccel.org):

Love. (III)

LOve bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
		                    Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
		                    From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
		                    If I lack’d any thing.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
		                    Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkinde, ungratefull?  Ah my deare,
		                    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, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
		                    My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
		                    So I did sit and eat.

One of the many things I love about this poem, in addition to its exquisite language, is the picture of the Lord Jesus Christ as gracious host of the heavenly banquet, to which none of us merit entry.  We so often respond to this situation, like the poem’s narrator, by seeking to justify our presence by working.  Then, we tell ourselves, our presence makes sense, because we see how God might want our work.  Service is an important part of the Christian life, but this is not its place or function.  God doesn’t want or need our work – he wants our very selves.  When it comes to the heavenly banquet, we can only accept the grace offered, and in a certain sense, we are told to “sit down and shut up” about our own justification.  We have been invited to God’s party, and it’s not for us to plan the party or dispute about the guest list.  Our task is to come and to enjoy.

(With prayers for DR, as requested.)

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