George Herbert: Poems

George Herbert: Poems Quotes and Analysis

If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to my breast.

God, "The Pulley"

The quote from above appears at the end of the poem entitled "The Pulley’’ and it is a meditation from God. This can be seen as a conclusion to the rest of the poem in which the speaker relays or imagines God's account of the gifts offered by Him to humanity. After giving everything that people could want, God realizes that humans will have no reason to listen to him and to worship him: "goodness" will not lead them on a path to heaven. Because of this, God gives humanity something which will stop them from fully enjoying the gifts they receive: weariness from punishment. Still, God and his actions are not criticized, but considered as something which was necessary for the greater good of humanity.

Alas poor mortal, void of story,

Go spell and read how I have kill’d thy King.

The speaker, "Death, A Dialogue-Anthem"

"Death" is constructed as a dialogue between Death and the speaker. While at the end of the poem the speaker expresses his hope that he will be able to beat death, in the beginning of the poem, Death presents his power. Death tells the speaker how he has power over the most powerful people of the world, in this case, the King, the most powerful man in a country. Death wants to show through this just how powerful he is and how little power humans have against it.

Where of all plants afflictions soonest grow;

If troubles overtake thee, do not wail:

The speaker, "The Water-Course"

The speaker presents problems as something which are inevitable. Problems are compared with flowers, thus showing how easily they can come into life and how quickly they can grow and mature. We, as humans, can’t stop flowers from growing, but we can stop our wailing, or rather the tendency to be sorry for ourselves without doing anything to better our situation. Wailing is described as being the source of pain for humans and so the speaker tries to convince his readers to try and keep a clear mind and not to let themselves be affected by everyday problems to the point where they feel they can no longer lead a normal and happy life.

Throw away thy rod;

Though man frailties hath,

Thou art God:

Throw away thy wrath.

The speaker, "Discipline"

In the final quatrain of "Discipline," the speaker entreats God to stop using punishment and discipline to deal with his sinful followers. The speaker admits that man has faults and imperfections. He asks God to take mercy on mankind: “thou art God,” he entreats. God has ultimate power over mankind; therefore, he can afford to be kind and forgiving in the face of sin. While this poem emphasizes God’s “wrath,” other poems emphasize God’s infinite love.

Thou hast a garden for us where to bide;

Who would be more,

Swelling through store,

Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.

The speaker, "The Flower"

“The Flower” is a poem about a period of religious renewal. Since Herbert's speakers sometimes express doubt, rage, and suffering in the face of God’s treatment, this poem is significant in its explanation for suffering and its picture of refreshed faith. Here, the poet celebrates spring on earth, which is a reminder of the paradise that faithful men will enter after death. Those who are prideful and rebel against God after their suffering “forfeit” the harvest of their lives on earth and never ascend to paradise.

There will I lie, untill my Maker seek
For some mean stuffe thereon to show his skill:
Then is my time.

The speaker, "The Priesthood"

The speaker of “The Priesthood” has compared himself to a clay pot from the earth throughout the poem: although he is an unformed piece of material, he believes that God’s fire can turn him into a fitting vessel. At the end of the poem, he resolves to lie at God’s feet, waiting for God to fashion him into a tool. These lines show the speaker’s humility and submission to God, as well as his dedication to the path of the priesthood.

Verses, ye are too fine a thing, too wise
For my rough sorrows ; cease, be dumb and mute,
Give up your feet and running to mine eyes,
And keep your measures for some lover's lute,

The speaker, "Grief"

Here, the speaker laments the fact that he is unable to adequately express his grief in his poetry. He speaks directly to his verses and their metrical “feet,” telling them that they are too finely constructed to accurately express the wildness of his grief. However, he is apparently unable to find a fitting way to grieve: the regular rhyme and meter of these lines themselves belie the fact that the speaker is unable truly to let himself go. He therefore prays to God for a more fitting expression and experience of grief.