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


  ¶    Affliction. (I)

WHen first thou didst entice to thee my heart,
                                     I thought the service brave:
So many joyes I writ down for my part,
                                     Besides what I might have
Out of my stock of naturall delights,
Augmented with thy gracious benefits.

I looked on thy furniture so fine,
                                     And made it fine to me:
Thy glorious houshold-stuffe did me entwine,
                                     And ‘tice me unto thee.
Such starres I counted mine: both heav’n and earth
Payd me my wages in a world of mirth.

What pleasures could I want, whose King I served,
                                     Where joyes my fellows were?
Thus argu’d into hopes, my thoughts reserved
                                     No place for grief or fear.
Therefore my sudden soul caught at the place,
And made her youth and fiercenesse seek thy face.

At first thou gav’st me milk and sweetnesses;
                                     I had my wish and way:
My dayes were straw’d with flow’rs and happinesse;
                                     There was no moneth but May.
But with my yeares sorrow did twist and grow,
And made a partie unawares of wo.

My flesh began unto my soul in pain,
                                     Sicknesses cleave my bones;
Consuming agues dwell in ev’ry vein,
                                     And tune my breath to grones.
Sorrow was all my soul; I scarce beleeved,
Till grief did tell me roundly, that I lived.

When I got health, thou took’st away my life,
                                     And more; for my friends die:
My mirth and edge was lost; a blunted knife
                                     Was of more use then I.
Thus thinne and lean without a fence or friend,
I was blown through with ev’ry storm and winde.

Whereas my birth and spirit rather took
                                     The way that takes the town;
Thou didst betray me to a lingring book,
                                     And wrap me in a gown.
I was entangled in the world of strife,
Before I had the power to change my life.

Yet, for I threatned oft the siege to raise,
                                     Not simpring all mine age,
Thou often didst with Academick praise
                                     Melt and dissolve my rage.
I took thy sweetned pill, till I came where
I could not go away, nor persevere.

Yet lest perchance I should too happie be
                                     In my unhappinesse,
Turning my purge to food, thou throwest me
                                     Into more sicknesses.
Thus doth my power crosse-bias me, not making
Thine own gift good, yet me from my wayes taking.

Now I am here, what thou wilt do with me
                                     None of my books will show:
I reade, and sigh, and wish I were a tree;
                                     For sure then I should grow
To fruit or shade: at least some bird would trust
Her houshold to me, and I should be just.

Yet, though thou troublest me, I must be meek;
                                      In weaknesse must be stout.
Well, I will change the service, and go seek
                                      Some other master out.
Ah my deare God! though I am clean forgot,
Let me not love thee, if I love thee not.


Observation by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lectures 1833-36:
What Herbert most excels in is in exciting that feeling which we call the moral sublime. The highest affections are touched by his muse. I know nothing finer than the turn with which his poem on affliction concludes.

All 5 Affliction Poems.

Links to Criticism for all Affliction poems:

  • "Affliction and Flight in Herbert’s Poetry: A Note" by P. G. Stanwood
  • "Puritan Utopia in Herbert’s Poetry: A Response to P.G. Stanwood’s Affliction and Flight in Herbert’s Poetry" by Paul Moon

    GH Interactive Exercise.

  • Destinations
    1633 Poem Index Links to Criticism George Herbert & The Temple Home Page