A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Friday, March 5, 2010

Poem of the Day: George Herbert

The Collar 

     I struck the board and cried, "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, 
No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
                   All wasted? 
     Not so, my heart; but there is fruit, 
               And thou hast hands.
     Recover all thy sigh-blown age 
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,  
               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. 
               Away! take heed; 
               I will abroad. 
Call in thy death's-head there; tie up thy fears. 
               He that forbears 
     To suit and serve his need, 
               Deserves his load."
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild 
               At every word, 
Methought I heard one calling, Child!
               And I replied, My Lord.
--George Herbert

Say this about the "metaphysical poets": They, and especially Herbert, were skillful dramatists, who knew how to use meter, and even the spacing of lines on a page, to create tension, to evoke spiritual struggle. Wrangling his way toward self-discipline and the solace of commitment, Herbert twists and turns his words and images until the final quatrain eases into comfort.