The Temper (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.
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
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.211.