AFFLICTION - 1

When first thou didst entice to thee my heart,
                              I thought the service brave:
So many joys I writ down for my part,
                              Besides what I might have
Out of my stock of natural delights,
Augmented with thy gracious benefits.

I looked on thy furniture so fine,
                              And made it fine to me;
Thy glorious household-stuff did me entwine,
                              And 'tice me unto thee.
Such stars I counted mine: both heaven and earth
Paid me my wages in a world of mirth.

What pleasures could I want, whose King I served,
                              Where joys my fellows were?
Thus argued into hopes, my thoughts reserved
                              No place for grief or fear;
Therefore my sudden soul caught at the place,
And made her youth and fierceness seek thy face:

At first thou gavest me milk and sweetnesses;
                              I had my wish and way:
My days were strew'd with flowers and happiness:
                              There was no month but May.
But with my years sorrow did twist and grow,
And made a party unawares for woe.

My flesh began unto my soul in pain,
                              Sicknesses cleave my bones,
Consuming agues dwell in every vein,
                              And tune my breath to groans:
Sorrow was all my soul; I scarce believed,
Till grief did tell me roundly, that I lived.

When I got health, thou took'st away my life,
                              And more; for my friends die:
My mirth and edge was lost; a blunted knife
                              Was of more use than I.
Thus thin and lean, without a fence or friend,
I was blown through with every storm and wind.

Whereas my birth and spirit rather took
                              The way that takes the town;
Thou didst betray me to a lingering book,
                              And wrap me in a gown.
I was entangled in the world of strife,
Before I had the power to change my life.

Yet, for I threatened oft the siege to raise,
                              Not simpering all mine age,
Thou often didst with Academic praise
                              Melt and dissolve my rage.
I took thy sweeten'd pill, till I came near;
I could not go away, nor persevere.

Yet lest perchance I should too happy be
                              In my unhappiness,
Turning my purge to food, thou throwest me
                              Into more sicknesses.
Thus doth thy power cross-bias me, not making
Thine own gift good, yet me from my ways taking.

Now I am here, what thou wilt do with me
                              None of my books will show:
I read, and sigh, and wish I were a tree;
                              For sure then I should grow
To fruit or shade: at least some bird would trust
Her household to me, and I should be just.

Yet, though thou troublest me, I must be meek;
                              In weakness must be stout.
Well, I will change the service, and go seek
                              Some other Master out.
Ah, my dear God! though I am clean forgot,
Let me not love thee, if I love thee not.


by George Herbert 1593-1633
source: The Poetical Works Of George Herbert, ed. George Gilfillan. Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1853

Previous | Contents | Next