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


¶   The Agonie.

        PHilosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains:
        But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love.

        Who would know Sinne, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
        His skinne, his garments bloudie be.
Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruell food through ev’ry vein.

        Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach;1 then let him say
        If ever he did taste the like.
Love in that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.

Gethsemane by El Greco, c.1595
"Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane"
by El Greco, c. 1595

1 abroach. to pierce (a cask, etc.) so as to let a liquor flow out. [The Oxford English Dictionary] [Return]  See John 19:34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. [The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

Geographical note for second stanza: Olivet, or the Mount of Olives, is to the east and overlooks Jerusalem. Part of the way down the slope, toward Jerusalem, is the Garden of Gethsemane. See map. For Geneva commentary and several translations, see Matthew 26:36ff; Mark 14:32ff.]

Related Criticism: "Herbert and the Real Presence" (the number and nature of the sacraments) by R. V. Young. [Poems cited: "Priesthood," "Divinitie," "The Agonie," and "Love (III)"]

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