Love

George Herbert, from a distinguished Welsh family, seemed destined for a eminent public career. He was the Public Orator of Cambridge and was later a member of Parliament. But in 1630 he was ordained as an Anglican priest. Three years later, in the poor parish of Bemerton, England, he died of tuberculosis on March 1, 1633, at forty years of age.

He left behind a small but profound treasury of poems. One of my favorites is “Love.”

 

Love bade me welcome

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, the 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.

In Holy Week, 1938, in the Benedictine abbey of Solesmes, France, Simone Weil, French philosopher, prayed this poem, “trying”, as Robert Ellsberg describes her experience, “through a tremendous effort of attention, to identify the pains she was suffering with the passion of Christ. In this effort she suddenly felt that ‘Christ himself came down and took possession of me.’”

The love of God George Herbert experienced and narrated in his poem opened the heart of Simone Weil. May it open all our hearts to Jesus, Love-made-flesh.

 

 

One response to “Love

  1. Pingback: Bread | walk the way

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