POETRY: Four Poems On Love, by George Herbert

love poems

Love I

Immortal Love, author of this great frame,
Sprung from that beauty which can never fade;
How hath man parcel’d out thy glorious name,
And thrown it on that dust which thou hast made,

While mortal love doth all the title gain!
Which siding with invention, they together
Bear all the sway, possessing heart and brain,
(Thy workmanship) and give thee share in neither.

Wit fancies beauty, beauty raiseth wit:
The world is theirs; they two play out the game,
Thou standing by: and though thy glorious name
Wrought our deliverance from th’ infernal pit,

Who sings thy praise? only a scarf or glove
Doth warm our hands, and make them write of love.

Love II

Immortal Heat, Oh let thy greater flame
Attract the lesser to it: let those fires,
Which shall consume the world, first make it tame;
And kindle in our hearts such true desires,

As may consume our lusts, and make thee way.
Then shall our hearts pant thee; then shall our brain
All her invention on thine Altar lay,
And there in hymns send back thy fire again.

Our eyes shall see thee, which before saw dust;
Dust blown by wit, till that they both were blind;
Thou shalt recover all thy goods in kind,
Who wert disseized* by usurping lust:

All knees shall bow to thee; all wits shall rise,
And praise him who did make and mend our eyes.

(*disseized: disposed, usually by force)

Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d anything.

A guest, I answer’d 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 marr’d 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.


Thou art too hard for me in Love:
There is no dealing with thee in that Art:
That is thy Masterpiece I see
When I contrive and plot to prove
Something that may be conquest on my part
Thou still, Oh Lord, outstrippest me.

Sometimes, when as I wash, I say
And shrewdly, as I think, Lord, wash my soul
More spotted than my flesh can be.
But then there comes into my way
Thy ancient baptism, which when I was foul
And knew it not, yet cleansed me.

I took a time when thou didst sleep
Great waves of trouble combating my breast:
I thought it brave to praise thee then,
Yet then I found, that thou didst creep
Into my heart with joy, giving more rest
Than flesh did lend thee, back again.

Let me but once the conquest have
Upon the matter ‘twill thy conquest prove:
If thou subdue mortality
Thou do’st no more, than doth the grave:
Whereas, if I o’ercome thee and thy Love
Hell, Death and Devil come short of me.


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