[Herod's Gate]George Herbert: "The Church-porch"

Day 9: Morning


O England! full of sinne, but most of sloth;

Spit out thy flegme, and fill thy brest with glorie:

Thy Gentrie bleats, as if thy native cloth

Transfus'd a sheepishnesse into thy storie:

   Not that they all are so; but that the most

   Are gone to grasse, and in the pasture lost.

     Oh, Great Britain! full of sin, but mostly full of laziness, apathy, sluggishness. Spit out the fluid that makes you slow and unresponsive, and fill your lungs with glory. Your wealthy merchants, petty nobility and managers turned into sheep as if your country's wool has caused them to become sheepish, passive, timid in their disposition. Not that they are all this way, but most have taken the easy way out and do nothing worthwhile.

     George Herbert accuses the country of sin, particularly sloth. In his time, forcing out the phlegm cures the lethargy and returns the patient to healthy activity. He points to the model citizens as poor examples, timid and cowardly leaders. Sloth is not a common word today, but laziness, apathy, inactivity and idleness lay about our world. It is being caught up in comfort and lost to the concerns of others. This widespread lack of direction numbs the people. Just as respected officials spread this insensibility, it is they that may lead everyone into meaningful activity.

     For every sin there is a cure, a remedy, just like a medical prescription. The cure for sloth applies to all times and countries: do something worthwhile. Give value to your actions and the people around you. Endow them and yourself with the importance to change. Each contribution values the others by working together toward common improvement. If you have to, begin doing something that you can improve by yourself until someone joins you.

See Herbert's other comments on idleness in "The Church Porch" and Priest to the Temple, chapter 32.

P.S. In "The Church Militant" Herbert describes the progress of Religion around the world.  Religion evangelizes and brings salvation. Sin follows the Church undoing much of what has been accomplished. In his day he saw Religion going to America leaving Sin to overtake Europe and Great Britain. Has Religion continued traveling West leaving Sin to the Americas?

© 1997 J. R. Arner

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