LOVE UNKNOWN.

Dear friend, sit down, the tale is long and sad:
And in my faintings I presume your love
Will more comply, than help. A Lord I had,
And have, of whom some grounds, which may improve,
I hold for two lives, and both lives in me.
To him I brought a dish of fruit one day,
And in the middle placed my heart. But he
                                          (I sigh to say)
Look'd on a servant, who did know his eye
Better than you know me, or (which is one)
Than I myself. The servant instantly
Quitting the fruit, seized on my heart alone
And threw it in a font, wherein did fall
A stream of blood, which issued from the side
Of a great rock: I well remember all,
And have good cause: there it was dipt and dyed,
And wash'd, and wrung: the very wringing yet
Enforceth tears. Your heart was foul, I fear.
Indeed 'tis true. I did and do commit
Many a fault more than my lease will bear;
Yet still ask'd pardon, and was not denied.
But you shall hear. After my heart was well,
And clean and fair, as I one even-tide
                                          (I sigh to tell)
Walk'd by myself abroad, I saw a large
And spacious furnace flaming, and thereon
A boiling caldron, round about whose verge
Was in great letters set AFFLICTION
The greatness show'd the owner. So I went
To fetch a sacrifice out of my fold,
Thinking with that, which I did thus present,
To warm his love, which I did fear grew cold.
But as my heart did tender it, the man
Who was to take it from me, slipt his hand,
And threw my heart into the scalding pan;
My heart that brought it (do you understand?),
The offerer's heart. Your heart was hard, I fear.
Indeed 'tis true. I found a callous matter
Began to spread and to expatiate there:
But with a richer drug, than scalding water,
I bathed it often, even with holy blood,
Which at a board, while many drank bare wine,
A friend did steal into my cup for good,
Even taken inwardly, and most divine
To supple hardness. But at the length
Out of the caldron getting, soon I fled
Unto my house, where to repair the strength
Which I had lost, I hasted to my bed:
But when I thought to sleep out all these faults,
                                          (I sigh to speak)
I found that some had stuff'd the bed with thoughts,
I would say thorns. Dear, could my heart not break,
When with my pleasures even my rest was gone?
Full well I understood, who had been there:
For I had given the key to none but one:
It must be he. Your heart was dull, I fear.
Indeed a slack and sleepy state of mind
Did oft possess me, so that when I pray'd,
Though my lips went, my heart did stay behind
But all my scores were by another paid,
Who took the debt upon him. Truly, Friend,
For ought I hear, your Master shows to you
More favour than you wot of. Mark the end.
The Font did only, what was old, renew:
The Caldron suppled, what was grown too hard:
The Thorns did quicken, what was grown too dull:
All did but strive to mend, what you had marr'd.
Wherefore be cheer'd, and praise him to the full
Each day, each hour, each moment of the week,
Who fain would have you be, new, tender, quick.

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

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