Those Zen Christians: George Herbert Puts His Finger on the Great Matter

George Herbert
Okay maybe he would never think of himself as a “Zen Christian.” But, I have trouble not doing so. The poet and Anglican priest George Herbert sings into our hearts:

I struck the board, and cry’d, ‘No more;
I will abroad.’
What, shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the rode,
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 drew it: there was corn
before my tears did drown it.
Is the years only lost to me?
Have I no bare to crown it;
No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted,
All wasted?
No so, my heart; but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all they sigh-blown age
On double pleasures; leave they cold dispute

Of what is fit and not; forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which petite thoughts have made; and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and would 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 wilde
At every word,
Me thought I heard one calling, ‘Childe’;
And I reply’d, ‘My Lord.’

The great R. H. Blythe commented on Herbert’s poem, “This is the essence of all religion; the hardness of iron, the softness of wool, the blueness of the distant mountains, the coldness of water, – it is the will of God, the will of Nature, receive it without hesitation.”

Me, I am more inclined to thinking of this as the song of the dark night. Which, of course, is the threshold to our heart’s awakening…

And if you prefer to hear it, well, here you go…

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