Thursday, November 18, 2010

George Herbert: thundering at goddess and god

Disclaimer:  I often cringe when I come across protestations of faith which assume rightness.  Nonetheless belief, life, death, life after life, the sublime, life before life, have always been been hobbies of mine. When I mention them I talking about myself as much as when I write on Mr. Movie Snack or politics. To hide my great interest would be dishonest. Okay, I'm not telling "all" but one size doesn't fit "all" so who tells the greater lie?

Yes, my choice of illustration (left) is whimsical and not necessarily referential or logical but, I suggest, charming, well, more likely weird. And who doesn't like weird? A related [R.S. Thomas, also Anglican priest and poet who admired Herbert]: [R.S. Thomas: I have heard...] is here.

I have no problem with atheism, but do think it's a belief and that belief is belief, even in reverse; right? My overstatement sweeps all the toy soldiers off the table--just like that; it's not going to win any mock battle. I did try atheism for two years. I was nineteen; edging twenty-one when I recommenced belief.

It took years and years, however, for me to sweep Sarah Sarai's ego off the table so I could deepen my sense of the divine. But that's a different story.

Yesterday I discovered this wildly famous sonnet by George Herbert, Anglican minister and poet; knew John Donne. I had to have heard it quoted; probably read it; don't remember at all and am simply happy to have it called out. "Church" is just a word as is "mosque" as is "temple." The greater container for divinity and expression of gratitude, the latter being the only true prayer, is the beauty, is mystery. "Reversed thunder"? Back at ya, divinity.

What I don't believe in is my ability to indent. If "Prayer" doesn't have proper indentations, just click here==George Herbert's "Prayer"==to see a closer facsimile.


PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods 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’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices, something understood.

Source: Herbert, George. The Poetical Works of George Herbert. New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1857. 61-62.

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