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

Day 39: Evening


In brief, acquit thee bravely; play the man.

Look not on pleasures as they come, but go.

Deferre not the least vertue: lifes poore span

Make not an ell,1 by trifling in thy wo.

   If thou do ill; the joy fades, not the pains:

   If well; the pain doth fade, the joy remains.

     Briefly, exonerate yourself well; play the man. [Do not shrink from doing what should be done.] Do not look at pleasures as they come, but [as they] go. Do not defer the least virtue; do not make life's poor span longer by trifling in your woe [wasting time feeling sorry for your shortcomings]. If you do ill, the joy fades; not the pains. If [you do] well, the pain fades; the joy remains.

     This is the summary of everything discussed before, all the other 77 stanzas and all the 39 days: 1. Evil results in eternal sorrow. Don't immerse yourself in earthly pleasures; they disappear soon enough. The joys of this world can not compare with perpetual happiness. If you do mediocre, poor or evil work, the pain remains. The joy fades. 2. Good results in eternal joy. If you do well, good or your best work, the joy remains. The pain fades. Don't drown yourself in sorrow; it makes life longer. Do any good you can no matter how unimportant the virtue may be. Before you enter the Church, Heaven on earth, or Heaven, do the best you can. Train yourself to make doing good your way of life. Make virtue natural for you.

     As if you are in a game or doing an important job, do yourself proud. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don't worry about anything in this life. Do not hang on to the pleasures or the sorrows because both are a waste of time. They are both distractions from the business of life: doing good. Don't miss an opportunity to help someone. Make a difference. All the joy that you have or hope to have comes from doing good.

1An old measurement equal to 45 inches. A span is 7 inches. [Return]

Compare: He who binds to himself a joy, / Does the winged life destroy; / He who kisses the joy as it flies, / Lives in Eternity's sun rise. -William Blake, poet, engraver, and painter (1757-1827)

© 1997 J. R. Arner

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