[Western Wall
  of Herod's Temple]George Herbert: 40 Days

Day 11: Morning


When thou dost purpose ought within thy power,

Be sure to doe it, though it be but small:

Constancie knits the bones, and makes us stowre,

When wanton pleasures becken us to thrall.

    Who breaks his own bond, forfeiteth himself:

    What nature made a ship, he makes a shelf.

          When you intend to do anything within your power, be sure to do it, even if it is a small thing: fidelity (to your purpose) knits the bones, and gives us a stockpile when reckless pleasures tempt us into captivity. Who breaks his own promise, forfeits himself: what nature made a ship, he makes a shelf.

          During the barbarous days of civilization, a person's word was his bond. His reputation depended on it and his relationships relied on his promise to keep his word. In a world that keeps no word even to itself, make a practice of keeping your own word particularly to yourself. Don't make big promises or resolutions. Consider what decisions are within your own power and ability, and begin with necessary and obtainable objectives. To begin with this does not include obligations and promises made by others. Continue to do these smaller objectives because constancy makes it an easy and pleasing habit. Build on your own accomplishments. The habit gives us the courage to attempt larger projects and give us confidence and pleasure to avoid the selfish way out.

          Start small. You don't have to build castles in a day. Determine what you can comfortably, even easily, do. Then do it. Just like exercises. Do a few small ones and as you keep doing them regularly, you become better at it. Then you can increase the number or the value. Use your abilities; don't put them in a box. Herbert's image is better than words: "What nature made a ship, he makes a shelf." Your choice.

See also The Temple poem "Constancie"

© 1997 J. R. Arner

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