Over the past several Easters I've posted a number of George Herbert poems, but I've never posted his longest and most moving Passion poem: “The Sacrifice.” It's the story of Jesus' capture and execution from his own lips, overlaid with his God's-eye view of myth and mystery. Every aspect of the episode is given its symbolic resonance, its echo through the law and the prophets and the long history of God's forbearance. Even now, I won't post the whole thing because it's immense, but here are a few stanzas. You can find the whole poem here - it's six times as long, and full of riches.
Arise, arise, they come. Look how they runne!Alas! what haste they make to be undone!How with their lanterns do they seek the sunne!Was ever grief like mine?
Judas, dost thou betray me with a kisse?Canst thou finde hell about my lips? and misseOf life, just at the gates of life and blisse?Was ever grief like mine?
All my Disciples flie; fear puts a barreBetwixt my friends and me. They leave the starre,That brought the wise men of the East from farre.Was ever grief like mine?
Ah! how they scourge me! yet my tendernesseDoubles each lash: and yet their bitternesseWindes up my grief to a mysteriousnesse:Was ever grief like mine?
And now I am deliver’d unto death,Which each one calls for so with utmost breath,That he before me well nigh suffereth:Was ever grief like mine?
Weep not, deare friends, since I for both have weptWhen all my tears were bloud, the while you slept:Your tears for your own fortunes should be kept:Was ever grief like mine?
O all ye who passe by, behold and see;Man stole the fruit, but I must climbe the tree;The tree of life to all, but onely me:Was ever grief like mine?
Lo, here I hang, charg’d with a world of sinne,The greater world o’ th’ two; for that came inBy words, but this by sorrow I must win:Was ever grief like mine?
But, O my God, my God! why leav’st thou me,The sonne, in whom thou dost delight to be?My God, my God ------Never was grief like mine.
But now I die; now all is finished.My wo, mans weal: and now I bow my head.Onely let others say, when I am dead,Never was grief like mine.