[The Temple, Jerusalem, Model]from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert:


¶   The Forerunners.

THe harbingers1 are come. See, see their mark;
White is their colour, and behold my head.
But must they have my brain? must they dispark2
Those sparkling notions, which therein were bred?
               Must dulnesse turn me to a clod?
Yet have they left me, Thou art still my God.

Good men ye be, to leave me my best room,
Ev’n all my heart, and what is lodged there:
I passe not, I, what of the rest become,
So Thou art still my God, be out of fear.
               He will be pleased with that dittie;
And if I please him, I write fine and wittie.

Farewell sweet phrases, lovely metaphors.
But will ye leave me thus? when ye before
Of stews3 and brothels onely knew the doores,
Then did I wash you with my tears, and more,
               Brought you to Church well drest and clad:
My God must have my best, ev’n all I had.

Louely enchanting language, sugar-cane,
Hony of roses, whither wilt thou flie?
Hath some fond lover tic’d thee to thy bane?
And wilt thou leave the Church, and love a stie?
               Fie, thou wilt soil thy broider’s coat,
And hurt thyself, and him that sings the note.

Let foolish lovers, if they will love dung,
And canvas,4 not with arras, clothe their shame:
Let follie speak in her own native tongue.
True beautie dwells on high: ours is a flame
               But borrow’d thence to light us thither.
Beautie and beauteous words should go together.

Yet if you go, I passe not; take your way:
For, Thou art still my God, is all that ye
Perhaps with more embellishment can say,
Go birds of spring: let winter have his fee,
               Let a bleak palenesse chalk the doore,
So all within be livelier then before.

1 harbingers. Those who come before; messengers. [the warning signs] [Return]
2 dispark. To divest of the character of a park, to throw open a park; to convert to other uses. (Oxford English Dictionary. This line quoted as example.) [Return]
3 stews. Vapor, steam or hot bath; the vapor, steam or hot baths came to be used for immoral purposes. Oxford English Dictionary. [Return]
4 canvas. Cloth; clothes. (Oxford English Dictionary). [Return] [Rough weave cloth; sack cloth and ashes. Arras is a finely woven cloth, better on the skin.]

Stanza 5 is a more complete explanation on "Is there in Truth no beauty" from Jordon (I).

Note to students: To get the full effect of this poem, consider a poet or writer in a nursing home who has just learned that he/she has Alzheimer’s.

Note from a student: "Basically this is a nice idea, however, YOU should consider that a poet or writer in George Herbert's time probably didn't live (at the end of his life) in a nursing home and certainly she or he did NOT know what Alzheimer's disease is. However, I'd agree that probably someone in this time realized when she or he started to get more and more confused." - Henrik, Studying Information Science and American Literature at the University of the Saarland / Germany

To find your relative age, i.e. relative to other people and events, click here, and fill in your birth date.

Peripheral Notes: See the movies Charley (the film version of "Flowers for Alginon"), and Judy Dent portraying Iris Murdock.

Music: Orlando Gibbons, "The Silver Swan." This is one of the Pop Top Ten on the Renaissance Billboard Charts. [The lyrics for the song are based on the Medieval-Renaissance belief that a swan cannot sing except when it dies.]

1633 Poem Index George Herbert & The Temple Home Page