Favorite poems

November 16, 2004

When George Herbert (1593-1633) was near death, he asked that the manuscript later published as The Temple be passed on to his friend Nicholas Ferrar. According to Izaak Walton, Herbert then added these words: "Tell him, he shall find in it a picture of the many spiritual Conflicts that have past betwixt God and my soul, before I could subject mine to the woof of Jesus my Master: in whose service I have now found perfect freedom; desire him to read it; and then, if he can think it may turn to the advantage of any dejected poor Soul, let it be made publick: if not, let him burn it: for I and it, are less than the least of God's mercies." Perhaps for the only time in Western Christian history, the evident quality of a poet's sanctity paralleled the acknowledged quality of his art. This poem, one of the most direct from The Temple, was a revelation when I first read it. Especially at celebrations of the Lord's Supper it indicates for me the path to perfect freedom.


The agonie, by George Herbert