autumn kaleidoscope

I didn’t discover the poetry of George Herbert until graduate school (my undergraduate education in literature had more than a few gaps, I’m afraid. This due, mostly, to my own indiosyncratic course selection criteria: what time is the class and who is the professor?).

Thankfully, I did find Herbert, and I still remember my shock that we could actually discuss such Christ-centered poetry around a University of Chicago seminar table. Who says there’s no Jesus in higher education? Though, to be honest, there’s a lot more of Freud in my dissertation than Jesus. A lot more.  I blame Virginia Woolf for leading me astray.

However, with the job market in the humanities being what it is, I have a good deal of time for Herbert these days. And, my love for the modernists notwithstanding, that’s a very good thing.

Without further ado, a poem on rest (one I’ve recently been feeling the truth of deep in my bones):

The Pulley


When God at first made man,

Having a glass of blessings standing by,

“Let us” (said He) “pour on him all we can;

Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie,

Contract into a span.”


So strength first made a way;

Then beauty flow’d, then wisdom, honor, pleasure;

When almost all was out, God made a stay,

Perceiving that alone of all his treasure

Rest in the bottom lay.


“For if I should” (said He)

“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,

He would adore my gifts instead of me,

And rest in nature, not the God of nature:

So both should losers be.


“Yet let him keep the rest,

But keep them with repining restlessness;

Let him be rich and weary, that at least,

If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to my breast.”

          – George Herbert

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