George Herbert

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The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can never end.
Benjamin Disraeli
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George Herbert (1593-04-031633-03-01) was an English poet and orator.


The Temple (1633)

The Church Porch

A verse may find him, who a sermon flies.

  • Line 5

Drink not the third glass, which thou canst not tame,
When once it is within thee.

  • Lines 25-26

Dare to be true. Nothing can need a lie:
A fault, which needs it most, grows two thereby.

  • Lines 77-78

By all means use sometimes to be alone.

  • Line 145

By no means run in debt: take thine own measure.
Who cannot live on twenty pound a year,
Cannot on forty.

  • Lines 175-177

Wit's an unruly engine, wildly striking
Sometimes a friend, sometimes the engineer.

  • Lines 241-242

Be calm in arguing: for fierceness makes
Error a fault, and truth discourtesy.

  • Lines 307-308

Be useful where thou livest.

  • Line 325

Man is God's image; but a poor man is
Christ's stamp to boot: both images regard.

  • Lines 379-380

The Altar

A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with tears;
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman's tool hath touch'd the same.

A HEART alone
Is such a stone
As nothing but
Thy pow'r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy name.

That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.

  • Lines 1-16

The Sinner

Yet Lord restore thine image, hear my call:

And though my hard heart scare to thee can groan,
Remember that thou once didst write in stone.
  • Lines 12-14


I got me flowers to strew Thy way,
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But Thou wast up by break of day,
And brought'st Thy sweets along with Thee.

  • Lines 19-22

Easter Wings

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,

Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poor:
With thee
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:

Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
  • Lines 1-10

Easter Wings (II)

My tender age in sorrow did begin:

And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sin,
That I became
Most thin.
With thee
Let me combine,
And feel this day thy victory:
For, If I imp my wing on thine,

Affliction shall advance the flight in me
  • Lines 1-10

Prayer (I)

Prayer the Church's banquet, Angels' age,

God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,

The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;

Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tower,

Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days' world transposing in an hour,

A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;

Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,

Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,

The milky way, the bird of Paradise,

Church bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.
  • Lines 1-14


Let all the world in ev'ry corner sing,

My God and King.
  • Lines 1-2

The Temper (I)

Whether I fly with angels, fall with dust,

Thy hands made both, and I am there;
Thy power and love, my love and trust
Make one place ev'ry where.
  • Lines 25-28


Who says that fictions only and false hair
Become a verse? Is there in truth no beauty?
Is all good structure in a winding stair?

  • Lines 1-3

Employment (II)

Man is no star, but a quick coal

Of mortal fire:

Who blows it not, nor doth control

A faint desire,

Lets his own ashes choke his soul.

  • Lines 6-10


My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds

Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
  • Lines 17-18


Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky;
The dew shall weep thy fall tonight,

For thou must die.
  • Lines 1-4

Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like season'd timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,

Then chiefly lives.
  • Lines 13-16

Justice (I)

I cannot skill of these thy ways.

Lord, thou didst make me, yet thou woundest me;
Lord, thou dost wound me, yet thou dost relieve me:
Lord, thou relievest, yet I die by thee:
Lord, thou dost kill me, yet thou dost reprieve me.

But when I mark my life and praise,
Thy justice me most fitly praise:

For, I do praise thee, yet I praise thee not:
My prayers mean thee, yet my prayers stray:
I would do well, yet sin the hand hath got:
My soul doth love thee, yet it loves delay.

I cannot skill of these my ways.
  • Lines 1-12

Charms and Knots

Who goes to bed and does not pray,
Maketh two nights to every day.

  • Lines 7-8


Nothing wears clothes, but Man; nothing doth need
But he to wear them.

  • Lines 109-110

Most things move th' under-jaw; the Crocodile not.
Most things sleep lying; th' Elephant leans or stands.

  • Lines 139-140


I gave to Hope a watch of mine; but he

An Anchor gave to me.
  • Lines 1-2


Surely if each saw another's heart,

There would be no commerce,

No sale or bargain pass: all would disperse,

And live apart.
  • Lines 21-24


Do not beguile my heart,
Because thou art

My power and wisdom. Put me not to shame,

Because I am
Thy clay that weeps, thy dust that calls.
  • Lines 1-5


With sick and famish'd eyes,

With doubling knees and weary bones,

To thee my cries,
To thee my groans,

To thee my sighs, my tears ascend:

No end?

My throat, my soul is hoarse;

My heart is wither'd like a ground

Which thou dost curse.
My thoughts turn round,

And make me giddy; Lord, I fall,

Yet call.
  • Lines 1-12

Thou tarriest, while I die,

And fall to nothing: thou dost reign,

And rule on high,
While I remain

In bitter grief: yet I am styl'd

Thy child.
  • Lines 55-60

The Collar

I struck the board, and cry'd, No more.
I will abroad.
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?

My lines and life are free; free as the road,

Loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore

What I have lost with cordial fruit?

Sure there was wine

Before my sighs did dry it: there was corn

Before my tears did drown it;
Is the year only lost to me?
Have I no bays to crown it?
  • Lines 1-14

Thy rope of sands,

Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee

Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
  • Lines 22-26

Call in thy death's head there: tie up thy fears.

  • Line 29

But as I rav'd and grew more fierce and wild

At every word,

Methought I heard one calling, Child!

And I reply'd, My Lord.
  • Lines 33-36

The Pulley

He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:

So both should losers be.
  • Lines 13-15

Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to my breast.
  • Lines 18-20

The Flower

Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
  • Lines 5-7

Who would have thought my shrivel'd heart

Could have recovered greenness?

  • Lines 8-9

And now in age I bud again,

After so many deaths I live and write;

I once more smell the dew and rain,

And relish versing: O my only light,

It cannot be
That I am he
On whom thy tempests fell all night.
  • Lines 36-42

A True Hymn

Whereas if the heart be moved,
Although the verse be somewhat scant,
God doth supply the want.
  • Lines 16-18


Throw away thy rod,
Throw away thy wrath:

O my God,

Take the gentle path.

  • Lines 1-4

Then let wrath remove;
Love will do the deed:

For with love

Stony hearts will bleed.

  • Lines 17-20

Throw away thy rod;
Though man frailties hath,

Thou art God:

Throw away thy wrath.

  • Lines 29-32

The Elixir

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see

And what I do in any thing,

To do it as for thee.
  • Lines 1-4

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:

Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,

Makes that and th' action fine.
  • Lines 17-20


O who will show me those delights on high?

Echo. I.
  • Lines 1-2

Love (III)

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 lacked any thing.
  • Lines 1-6

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:

So I did sit and eat.
  • Lines 17-18

The Church Militant

Religion stands on tip-toe in our land,
Ready to pass to the American strand.

  • Lines 235-236

Jacula Prudentum (1651)

  • Love, and a cough, cannot be hid.
    • No. 49
  • Ill ware is never cheap. Pleasing ware is half sold.
    • No. 61
  • When a dog is drowning, everyone offers him drink.
    • No. 77
  • Deceive not thy physician, confessor, nor lawyer.
    • No. 105
  • Well may he smell fire, whose gown burns.
    • No. 138
  • Love your neighbor, yet pull not down your hedge.
    • No. 141
  • Good words are worth much, and cost little.
    • No. 155
  • Hell is full of good meanings and wishings.
    • No. 170
  • Where the drink goes in, there the wit goes out.
    • No. 187
  • Whose house is of glass, must not throw stones at another.
    • No. 196
  • Go not for every grief to the physician, nor for every quarrel to the lawyer, nor for every thirst to the pot.
    • No. 290
  • The best mirror is an old friend.
    • No. 296
  • When you are an anvil, hold you still; when you are a hammer, strike your fill.
    • No. 338
  • He that lies with dogs, riseth with fleas.
    • No. 343
  • He that is not handsome at twenty, nor strong at thirty, nor rich at forty, nor wise at fifty, will never be handsome, strong, rich, or wise.
    • No. 349
  • The buyer needs a hundred eyes, the seller not one.
    • No. 390
  • Trust not one night's ice.
    • No. 453
  • For want of a nail the shoe is lost, for want of a shoe the horse is lost, for want of a horse the rider is lost.
    • No. 499
  • Pension never enriched young man.
    • No. 515
  • Living well is the best revenge.
    • No. 520
  • One enemy is too much.
    • No. 523
  • Thursday come, and the week is gone.
    • No. 587
  • Time is the rider that breaks youth.
    • No. 615
  • Show me a liar, and I'll show thee a thief.
    • No. 652
  • One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.
    • No. 686
  • Reason lies between the spur and the bridle.
    • No. 711
  • One sword keeps another in the sheath.
    • No. 725
  • God's mill grinds slow, but sure.
    • No. 747
  • He that lends, gives.
    • No. 787
  • Words are women, deeds are men.
    • No. 842
  • Poverty is no sin.
    • No. 844
  • None knows the weight of another's burden.
    • No. 880
  • One hour's sleep before midnight is worth three after.
    • No. 882
  • He hath no leisure who useth it not.
    • No. 897
  • Half the world knows not how the other half lives.
    • No. 907
  • Life is half spent before we know what it is.
    • No. 917
  • Every mile is two in winter.
    • No. 949
  • The eye is bigger than the belly.
    • No. 1018
  • His bark is worse than his bite.
    • No. 1090
  • There is an hour wherein a man might be happy all his life, could he find it.
    • No. 1143
  • Woe be to him that reads but one book.
    • No. 1146

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