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

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

Those Zen Christians: George Herbert Puts His Finger on the Great Matter November 2, 2017

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…

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