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

 

¶   The Flower.

             How Fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! evín as the flowers in spring;
             To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
                                      Grief melts away
                                      Like snow in May,
             As if there were no such cold thing.

             Who would have thought my shrivel’d heart
Could have recover’d greennesse? It was gone
             Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
                                      Where they together
                                      All the hard weather,
             Dead to the world, keep house unknown.

             These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickning, bringing down to hell
             And up to heaven in an houre;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell,
                                      We say amisse,
                                      This or that is:
             Thy word is all, if we could spell.

             O that I once past changing were;
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
             Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Offring at heav’n, growing and groning thither:
                                      Nor doth my flower
                                      Want a spring-showre,
             My sinnes and I joining together;

             But while I grow to a straight line;
Still upwards bent, as if heav’n were mine own,
             Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? what pole is not the zone,
                                      Where all things burn,
                                      When thou dost turn,
             And the least frown of thine is shown?

             And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
             I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my onely light,
                                      It cannot be
                                      That I am he
             On whom thy tempests fell all night.

             These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
             Which when we once can finde and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
                                      Who would be more,
                                      Swelling through store,
             Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge described this as "A delicious poem." "Notes on The Temple and The Synagogue," in The Temple by George Herbert, (Pickering: London, 1838). p. 356.

Criticism:

  • "George Herbert and Lady Mary Wroth: a root for 'The Flower'?" by R. E. Pritchard.
  • "Show and tell: George Herbert, Richard Sibbes, and communings with God." by Daniel W. Doerksen. Christianity and Literature, Wntr 2002 v51 i2 p175(17). [Works cited: "The Holdfast," "Clasping of Hands," "Assurance," "A true Hymne," "The Pearl," "The Crosse," "Coloss. 3.3," "The Flower," "Unkindnesse," "The Method," "Church-lock and key," "Praise (II)"]
  • Theological Dualism in the Poetry of George Herbert by Carolyn Elizabeth Woodruff. [Works discussed: The Flower, Affliction (I), Affliction (V), Banquet and Love (III).]
  • George Herbert's Poetry by Russell Fraser. [Poems cited: "Holy Scriptures I"; "The Pearl"; The Temple; "Paradise"; "Affliction"; "Home"; "The Collar"; "The Flower"; "Virtue"; "Providence"]

    Artistic Interpretation: An altar cloth sometimes used at St. Andrew's, Bemerton created by Jane Lemon on the poem "The Flower." [Click for Bemerton Site, Art at Bemerton]

    Altarcloth after the Poem ''The Flower'' on Bemerton Altar

    The Flower interpretation and analysis following is quoted "as is" from a University of Texas at Austin page no longer on the Internet:

    Interchange 7 on
    George Herbert



    Herbert I


    Carlo Savino:
    In "The Flower", Herbert describes life as a garden, where we are each given space as a flower to grow towards the sun (heaven). Some are allowed to flourish while others wither and die. Herbert says that when ager comes to him, he falls back and grows no more. However, immediately after, he writes:
    "And now in age I bud again,
    After so many deaths I live and write;
    I once more smell the dew and rain,
    And relish versing: O my onley night,
    It cannot be
    That I am he
    On whom thy tempests fell at night."

    After his inability to grow, and the fact that he succumbs to anger, Herbert is given another chance at life. Is he trying to say that experience is found only after pain? And who do you think that the 'tempests' are?

    Carlo Savino:
    whoops, I should have said, "...experience and growth are found...".
    sorry about that.


    Melanie Elizabeth Oxley:
    As each man has sorrow, so will man have joy equal in magnitude. If experience is a well, then it must expand and grow in depth in order to hold the new volume. The tempests are simply those calamities that cause pain and sorrow . Thus inducing growth. Even though a horrible storm will beat down a bud, it will rise new again from the water it has drank.

    Julie Lopez:
    I think that he is saying that you grow form your experiences whether they be bad or good. So don't stop living because something has caused you pain because then you will die.

    Carlo Savino:
    Okay, Melanie, but why must man fail to develop (as a flower shrinks and dies, in this poem) if he is overcome by anger? how does this make a man falter in his growth?


    Jason Lands:
    I agree, Herbert is showing us that life is basically a circle of pleasure and pain, good and bad. Kind of a feel good silver-lining around every cloud sort of message.

    Christopher O'Docharty:
    Well, well, well. Even though I did not read this lovely poem, I found it intriguing. I think basicly he spent too long feeling sorry for himself for all of themistakes and problems he may have had. It's probably safe to say that he finally decided to get on with his life and do what heloves most-writing.

    Higinio Maycotte:
    Carlo
    Perhaps because when you make a mistake you are beaten down, only to learn from that experience and grow again.

    Jason Lands:
    And being able to overcome your weaknesses makes you less of a man.

    Carlo Savino:
    And why does herbert say that some men forfeit thier chance at paradise throug hubris? shouldn't every man, regardless of pride, be allowed a chance to sit next to god?

    Jason Lands:
    not being able. Sorry

    Melanie Elizabeth Oxley:
    Anger is an unproductive, irrational response. It is almost an instinctual, primal-like regression. This regression is represented by a shrinking flower, he falters in his growth because he has not learned a positive way to overcome his frustrations.

    Julie Lopez:
    I also think that he is saying that God gave us the ablity to overcome our grief. Therefore, you grow from it.

    Bun Sentoso:
    I agree with Jason, it seems taht Herbert is trying to conclude human's life in this one poem. First it grows, leaving its parents, then it starts to see the world, tastes sin which make it feel as if it's in heaven. At the end, 'in age' it realizes all his mistakes and returns to God.

    Jason Lands:
    Maybe Herbert believes overcoming your grief is the test God has set for us to enter into his kingdom. It would fit into his analogy of growing towards heaven and having your growth stunted when you fail

    Higinio Maycotte:
    Melanie,
    I don't agree that anger is unproductive, irrational at times, yes. When I get angry it often motivates me to get on with my life and take, what ever experience that has made me angry, for later use.

    Christopher O'Docharty:
    I think this guy was a sorry jack ass who wasted part of his life doing nothing and now he seems to be trying to make up for something. Someone has given him another chance to grow(probably God) to make for wrong doings?

    Carlo Savino:
    chris:
    what poem did you read? i'm not sure that he wasted part of his life, it's just that at time he was overcome by anger, or frustration, or the like. something like this tempts us every once in a while. he's saying that even though this occurs, we have a chance to right our wrongs, begin the begin, and grow anew.

    Melanie Elizabeth Oxley:
    Higinio
    Imagine however if you could immidiately get on with motivation instead of becoming angry first. The energy spent on anger could be PRODUCTIVELY funneled for progression.


    Lorena Velasquez:
    Life and death, happiness and sorrow are intertwined. Life comes back in cycles like a flower. Everything you experience in life will help you grow as a person. Your experiences fluctuate from good to bad, from happy to sad. It's what you make of those experiences is what matters.

    Higinio Maycotte:
    M, If you look at it that way, I completely agree.

    Lin Jean:
    Overcoming grief is an experience in itself. Growing towards heaven is what we must strive for.... to live a clean and blameless life... that is really idealistic, but it is true. When we start to bend, as a flower shys away from anger, it is because we have angered God by straying from this idealistic path. BUT God is a forgiving and loving God... if we humble ourselves and confess, we will be back on the road to growing straight and in the right path.

    Jason Lands:
    Life would be boring if you couldn't get angry. We'd be Smurfs or something if we happy 24 hours a day.

    Carlo Savino:
    i'd be gargamel


    Julie Lopez:
    You made a good pooint Lorena.

    Jason Lands:
    ok who's smurfette


    Melanie Elizabeth Oxley:

    I think this poem is a vivid beautiful analogy for human existence. Just as there are many different flowers, so are there many different people-all with their own sort of beauty.........
    Who's Azreal????

    Christopher O'Docharty:
    Well, this poem was not an assignment! So put that in your corn pipe! Anyway, the point is that I read what you put down. I still say he wasted alot of time with this excessive pride.

    Melanie Elizabeth Oxley:
    P.S. I'm Smurfette

    Carlo Savino:
    okay, now i'm popeye

    Bun Sentoso:
    Jason is right !!
    If you always keep your anger in yourself, you'll kill someone for playing smurf in class, :)
    We sometimes need to get angry, that's what I'm tryuing to say.

    Melanie Elizabeth Oxley:
    Carlo, you are a freak

    Lin Jean:
    We do need to get angry. It is a good stress reliever. Otherwise, we would be "frustrated."

    Internal and Internet Links to George Herbert’s Reputation and Influence.


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