The Temper (I)
George Herbert, The temple. Sacred poems and private ejaculations, edited by N. Ferrar (Cambridge: T. Buck and R. Daniel, 1633). STC 13183. Facs. edn. Menston: Scolar Press, 1968. PR 3507 T45 1633A. Also The Bodleian Manuscript of George Herbert's Poems: A Facsimile of Tanner 307, Introduced by Amy M. Charles and Mario A. Di Cesare. Delmar: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1984. PR 3507 T45 1984 ROBA.
2 Gladly engrave thy love in steel,
3 If what my soul doth feel sometimes,
4 My soul might ever feel!
5Although there were some forty heav'ns, or more,
6 Sometimes I peer above them all;
7 Sometimes I hardly reach a score;
8 Sometimes to hell I fall.
9O rack me not to such a vast extent;
10 Those distances belong to thee:
11 The world's too little for thy tent,
12 A grave too big for me.
13Wilt thou meet arms with man, that thou dost stretch
14 A crumb of dust from heav'n to hell?
15 Will great God measure with a wretch?
16 Shall he thy stature spell?
17O let me, when thy roof my soul hath hid,
18 O let me roost and nestle there:
19 Then of a sinner thou art rid,
20 And I of hope and fear.
21Yet take thy way; for sure thy way is best:
22 Stretch or contract me thy poor debtor:
23 This is but tuning of my breast,
24 To make the music better.
25Whether I fly with angels, fall with dust,
26 Thy hands made both, and I am there;
27 Thy power and love, my love and trust,
28 Make one place ev'rywhere.
1] The meaning of the title is especially indicated in lines 21-22; man is God's instrument to be stretched and tuned to make the music better. The Christian parallel is made in Herbert's poem "Easter": "His stretch'd sinews taught all strings what key/Is best to celebrate this most high day.'' See also "Aaron." Back to Line
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RPO poem Editors:
N. J. Endicott