George Herbert: loving God “with open eyes”

The language of this poem by George Herbert, from The Temple (1633), while slightly archaic in spelling and vocabulary, is very readable, and I implore you to make the effort to read it. It beautifully describes my commitment to an informed faith that has had the effect of redirecting my focus away from things I’m required to believe without question – what is so often falsely called “faith” – and back toward the Subject of my faith, in whom my faith, hope, and love begin and end: a God who is supremely lovely.

The Pearl (Matthew 13)

I know the wayes of Learning; both the head
And pipes that feed the presse, and make it runne;
What reason hath from nature borrowed,
Or of it self, like a good huswife, spunne
In laws and policie; what the starres conspire,
What willing nature speaks, what forc’d by fire;
Both th’ old discoveries, and the new-found seas,
The stock and surplus, cause and historie:
All these stand open, or I have the keyes:
Yet I love thee.

I know the wayes of Honour, what maintains
The quick returns of courtesie and wit:
In vies of favours whether partie gains,
When glorie 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’re it goes:
How many drammes of spirit there must be
To sell my life unto my friends or foes:
Yet I love thee.

I know the wayes of Pleasure, the sweet strains,
The lullings and the relishes of it;
The propositions of hot bloud and brains;
What mirth and musick mean; what love and wit
Have done these twentie hundred yeares, and more:
I know the projects of unbridled store:
My stuffe is flesh, not brasse; my senses live,
And grumble oft, that they have more in me
Then 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 flie 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 groveling wit,
But thy silk twist let down from heav’n to me,
Did both conduct and teach me, how by it
To climbe to thee.

Many thanks to my friend Peter Smith for bringing this moving, insightful poem to my attention!

Tagged with:
Recent Posts: