I have been wanting to get back into blogging. I attempting a blogging challenge, but I really didn’t like the structure of it, so I felt disinclined to continue it. I have thought of another to which I might give time. I’ve always liked poetry (I blame Shel Silverstein), writing it and reading it. One of my favorite authors, though I’ve read him too little, is George Herbert. So, I’d like to work through his collection of poems called The Temple. I will, for time’s sake, most likely skip the longer poems, but we’ll see.
A good place to start then is the dedication of the collection. Before that though, a little about Herbert. The printer of the book, which came out just after Herbert’s death, shares a note to reader. A few things from the short note which I really liked are (quotations):
1. The dedication of this work having been made by the Author to the Divine Majestie only, how should we now presume to interest any mortal man in the patronage of it? Much less think we it meet to seek the recommendation of the Muses, for that which himself was confident to have been inspired by a diviner breath than flows from Helicon.
2. To testify his independence of all others (and therefore his dependence solely on God), and to quicken his diligence in the kind, he used in his ordinary speech, when he made mention of the blessed name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to add, “My Master.”
3. Next to God, he loved that which God himself hath magnified above all things, that is, his Word: so as he hath been heard to make solemn protestation, that he would not part with one leaf thereof for the whole world, if it were offered him in exchange.
4. We conclude all with his own Motto, with which he used to conclude all things that might seem to tend any way to his own honour; those things are “Less than the least of God’s mercies.” So, without further ado, here is the dedication written by Herbert:
Lord, my first fruits present themselves to thee;
Yet not mine neither: for from thee they came,
And must return. Accept of them and me,
And make us strive, who shall sing best thy name.
Turn their eyes hither, who shall make a gain:
Theirs, who shall hurt themselves or me, refrain.
What shall we make of this dedication? As the publisher said above, Herbert’s only interest was that God be glorified by it, not some patron who paid for the publishing, nor even a dear family member. God alone should receive these “first fruits.”
Herbert, however, realizes that he is giving God something that already belongs to Him, as all things belong to Him. How reminiscent of Herbert’s motto above. I am sure he would have said about this complete collection of poems that they are less than the least of God’s mercies.
He follows this with a prayer that this merciful God would accept him and all the saints (those “who shall sing best Thy name”), and that God would direct readers (turn their eyes hither) to these poems who will benefit from them, and keep away (refrain) those who would read them and seek to harm either Herbert or themselves in their responses.
So, there is our meaning! I won’t go on and on today about the beauty of the language itself, but only to draw your attention again to the man whose poems I hope to dig into in the coming days. Should be fun…for me at least!