George Herbert

Love (III): “Know you not,” says Love, “Who bore the blame?”

Jim McGuiggan introduced to me a poem by George Herbert, called “Love (III).” I might’ve read some Herbert briefly in an English Lit class in college, but none of it stuck with me the way it did after hearing McGuiggan read it in his audio message, “God and Timid Sinners.”

I downloaded that file and listened to McGuiggan many times during daily commutes in Hangzhou.

“If you like religious poetry, you may not like George Herbert’s work, but if you love it, you’ll devour his material…about timid sinners too conscious of their sin to be fully aware of the profound, fathomless love of God toward us.

So please do not let the word “sinners” deter you from savoring this sweet poem. Oh yes, we have sin, and that’s the point: some of it is all too real for some of us, and we never forget our moral failures. Something might be said of the benefit of remember our sin. Absolutely. However,  the point of this poem, I think is to invite those who can’t forgive themselves, to accept the healing and salvation God offers.

***English-to-English translation note: The poem itself is in italics to stand apart from my words on this page. However, I’ve removed italics for emphasis, actually (which is risky behavior, since its reversed as per usual). I added quotation marks to help clarify the discussion taking place in the poem and emboldened (really, blog-ified) two lines that tell–in a way only poems can–of God’s scandalous and matchless will to forgive us (you!): perfectly displayed in the death, burial, and resurrection of His son Jesus the Messiah, our Lord and King.

Without further ado:

Love (III)

by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
                              guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                             from my first entrance in,
drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             if I lacked any thing.
 
“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here:”
                             Love said, “You shall be he.”
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                             I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
                             “Who made the eyes but I?”
 
“Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
                             Go where it doth deserve.”
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
                            “My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat”:
                             So I did sit and eat.
 
 
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