[Outer Court, Temple]George Herbert: "The Church-porch"

Day 24: Evening


Yet be not surety, if thou be a father.

Love is a personall debt. I cannot give

My childrens right, nor ought he take it: rather

Bothe friends should die, then hinder them to live.

   Fathers first enter bonds to natures ends;

   And are her sureties, ere they are a friends.

     Yet do not be comfortable if you are a father. Love is a personal debt. I can not give [away] my children's right, nor should he [anyone] take it: both friends should die, rather than hinder them to live. Fathers first enter bonds to nature's ends; and are her assurance, before they are a friends.

     A father's duty of love to his children comes before his friendship. This duty is a debt to him personally. It should be fulfilled before any other responsibility or obligation. The father takes the liability for the children's welfare, maintaining their rights in an adult society that otherwise may not recognize or promote their well being. He is their defense and protection, their authority and representative to social and legal authorities. No one can give away the children's rights (not even the father), or take them or replace them. The children's right to life, the love and protection of their father precedes the friendship of the father and his friend.

     Setting aside every other precondition, for example, childhood friendships, the love for the wife, the circumstances under which the child may have been born, the child is the assurance of Nature's continuation, setting aside all these conditions. Even though the friendship may be older and closer, and even though a man may marry in order to have children, towards Nature's ends, the love a father has for his children is an ancient, natural and personal obligation. A father’s accountability takes precedence.

© 1997 J. R. Arner

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