The Affliction (I)

Original Text: 
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.
1When first thou didst entice to thee my heart,
3So many joys I writ down for my part,
4      Besides what I might have
5Out of my stock of natural delights,
6Augmented with thy gracious benefits.
7I looked on thy furniture so fine,
8      And made it fine to me;
9Thy glorious household-stuff did me entwine,
10      And 'tice me unto thee.
11Such stars I counted mine: both heav'n and earth;
12Paid me my wages in a world of mirth.
13What pleasures could I want, whose King I serv'd,
14      Where joys my fellows were?
15Thus argu'd into hopes, my thoughts reserv'd
16      No place for grief or fear.
17Therefore my sudden soul caught at the place,
18And made her youth and fierceness seek thy face.
19At first thou gav'st me milk and sweetnesses;
20      I had my wish and way;
21My days were straw'd with flow'rs and happiness;
22      There was no month but May.
23But with my years sorrow did twist and grow,
24And made a party unawares for woe.
26      "Sicknesses cleave my bones;
27Consuming agues dwell in ev'ry vein,
28      And tune my breath to groans."
29Sorrow was all my soul; I scarce believ'd,
30Till grief did tell me roundly, that I liv'd.
31When I got health, thou took'st away my life,
32      And more, for my friends die;
33My mirth and edge was lost, a blunted knife
34      Was of more use than I.
35Thus thin and lean without a fence or friend,
36I was blown through with ev'ry storm and wind.
38      The way that takes the town;
39Thou didst betray me to a ling'ring book,
40      And wrap me in a gown.
41I was entangled in the world of strife,
42Before I had the power to change my life.
43Yet, for I threaten'd oft the siege to raise,
44      Not simp'ring all mine age,
45Thou often didst with academic praise
46      Melt and dissolve my rage.
47I took thy sweet'ned pill, till I came where
48I could not go away, nor persevere.
49Yet lest perchance I should too happy be
50      In my unhappiness,
51Turning my purge to food, thou throwest me
52      Into more sicknesses.
53Thus doth thy power cross-bias me, not making
54Thine own gift good, yet me from my ways taking.
55Now I am here, what thou wilt do with me
56      None of my books will show;
57I read, and sigh, and wish I were a tree,
58      For sure then I should grow
59To fruit or shade: at least some bird would trust
60  Her household to me, and I should be just.
61Yet, though thou troublest me, I must be meek;
62      In weakness must be stout;
63Well, I will change the service, and go seek
64      Some other master out.
65Ah my dear God! though I am clean forgot,
66Let me not love thee, if I love thee not.


2] the service: to be servant to.
brave: splendid. Back to Line
25] began: began to complain in the words which follow. Back to Line
37] As one of the great Herbert family (his father belonged to a collateral branch of the family of the Earls of Pembroke), George Herbert had town or court ambitions even when made lecturer in rhetoric and then "public orator" of Cambridge. Although he had taken deacon's orders in 1626, he was not ordained priest until 1630; gown presumably has both an academic and clerical reference. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.209-10.