Today a sonnet from George Herbert, who was dubbed “Holy Mr Herbert” in the seventeenth century, and whose work was used as a devotional aid well into the eighteenth. The nice thing about Herbert is how many readers he has outside the church. People who would never dream of ‘using’ his poems still find them lovely. Indeed Aldous Huxley praised his “lyrics unexcelled for flawless purity of diction and appositeness of imagery” and conceded that “within his limits he achieves a real perfection.” (I would argue that limitation is almost the definition of art, but I won't quibble with Huxley since he's been so charming about Herbert.) Anyway, here's “Christmas”:
After all pleasures as I rid one day,
My horse and I, both tired, body and mind,
With full cry of affections, quite astray;
I took up the next inn I could find.
There when I came, whom found I but my dear,
My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief
Of pleasures brought me to Him, ready there
To be all passengers' most sweet relief?
Oh Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,
Wrapt in night's mantle, stole into a manger;
Since my dark soul and brutish is Thy right,
To man of all beasts be not Thou a stranger:
Furnish and deck my soul, that Thou mayst have
A better lodging, than a rack, or grave.