[The Temple, Detail of Model]from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert:


¶    Aaron.

            HOlinesse on the head,1
         Light and perfections on the breast,2
Harmonious bells below, raising the dead3
         To leade them unto life and rest.
                    Thus are true Aarons drest.

                    Profanenesse in my head,
         Defects and darknesse in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
         Unto a place where is no rest.
                    Poore priest thus am I drest.

                    Onely another head
         I have, another heart and breast,
Another musick, making live not dead,
         Without whom I could have no rest:
                    In him I am well drest.

                    Christ is my onely head,
         My alone onely heart and breast,
My onely musick, striking me ev’n dead;
         That to the old man I may rest,
                    And be in him new drest.

                    So holy in my head,
         Perfect and light in my deare breast,
My doctrine tun’d by Christ, (who is not dead,
         But lives in me while I do rest)
                    Come people Aaron’s drest.

General Note: Aaron. Moses’ and Miriam’s brother, first priest of Yahweh. For the ceremonial dress of the priest see Exodus 28:1ff. for commentary and other translations.

1 Exodus 28:36-37 And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. 37 And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be. The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769. [Return]

2  Exodus 28:30 And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim;* and they shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.

* Urim signifies light, and thummim perfection: declaring that the stones of the breastplate were most clear, and of perfect beauty: by urim also is meant knowledge, and thummim holiness, showing what virtues are required in the priests. From the Geneva Notes, the Bible used in Herbert’s time before the Authorised/ King James Version (1611). [Return]

3 Exodus 28:33-35 And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about: 34 A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about. 35 And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the LORD, and when he cometh out, that he die not. The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769. [Return] Editor’s note: In antiquity bells did not have the clapper inside the bell. The sound was made by the pomegranates hitting the bells as the priest walked.


  • "'To love the strife': George Herbert's Struggle for his Poetry" by Bruce A. Johnson. Renascence, 00344346, Winter94, Vol. 46, Issue 2. [Poems cited: "Praise (III)," "Denial," "Jordan (II)," "Providence," "The Altar," "The Windows," "Aaron," "The Priesthood," "Grief," "Judgement," "Employment (II)," "The Banquet."]

    E-mail note: "I just LOVE this prayer, which is cut into a mirror in our sacristy at church. . . ." - Martha Jo
    Editor's comment: Proper place for the poem. The priest may see himself in the poem as he prepares.

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