Sunday, March 19, 2006


George Herbert was born in 1593. His mother was a friend of the poet John Donne. George attended Trinity College, Cambridge, and became the Public Orator of the University. This brought him to the attention of King James I, who granted him an annual allowance, and seemed likely to make him an ambassador.

However, in 1625 the king died, and George Hebert, who had originally gone to college with the intention of becoming a priest, but had his head turned by the prospect of a career at Court, determined anew to seek ordination. In 1626 he was ordained.

He served faithfully as a parish priest, diligently visiting his parishioners and bringing them the sacraments when they were ill, and food and clothing when they were in want. He read Morning and Evening Prayer daily in the church, encouraging the congregation to join him when possible, and ringing the church bell before each service so that those who could not come might hear it and pause in their work to join their prayers with his.

On one occasion he was late because he had met a man whose horse had fallen with a heavy load, and he stopped, took off his coat, and helped the man to unload the cart, get the horse back on its feet, and then reload the cart. His spontaneous generosity and good will won him the affection of his parishioners.

Today, however, he is remembered chiefly for his book of poems,
The Temple. On his deathbed, he sent the manuscript to his friend Nicholas Ferrar, asking him to publish the poems only if he thought they might do good to "any dejected poor soul." It was published in 1633 and met with enormous popular acclaim—it had 13 printings by 1680.

Sunday before his death, George Herbert rose suddenly from his bed or couch, called for use of his instruments, took it into his hand and said,
My God, my God,
My music shall find thee,
And every string
Shall have his attribute to sing.
And having tuned it, he played and sung:
The Sundays of man’s life,
Threaded together on time’s string,
Make bracelets to adorn the wife
Of the eternal glorious King:
On Sundays Heaven’s door stands ope,
More plentiful than hope.1

The poems from The Temple are arranged for daily Lenten reading.

HT - Wittingshire