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


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COme Lord, my head doth burn, my heart is sick,
             While thou dost ever, ever stay:
Thy long deferrings wound me to the quick,
             My spirit gaspeth night and day.
                       O show thy self to me,               
                       Or take me up to thee!

How canst thou stay, considering the pace
             The bloud did make, which thou didst waste ?
When I behold it trickling down thy face,
             I never saw thing make such haste,           
                       O show thy self to me,               
                       Or take me up to thee!

When man was lost, thy pitie lookt about
             To see what help in th' earth or skie:
But there was none; at least no help without:      
             The help did in thy bosome lie.
                       O show thy, &c.

There lay thy sonne: and must he leave that nest,
             That hive of sweetnesse, to remove      
Thraldome from those, who would not at a feast
             Leave one poore apple for thy love ?
                       O show thy, &c.

He did, he came: O my Redeemer deare,      
             After all this canst thou be strange ?1
So many yeares baptiz'd, and not appeare ?
             As if thy love could fail or change.
                       O show thy, &c.
Yet if thou stayest still, why must I stay ?2
             My God, what is this world to me,
This world of wo ? hence all ye clouds, away,
             Away; I must get up and see.
                       O show thy, &c.
What is this weary world; this meat and drink,
             That chains us by the teeth so fast?
What is this woman-kinde, which I can wink
             Into a blacknesse and distaste ?                
                       O show thy, &c.

With one small sigh thou gav'st me th' other day
             I blasted all the joyes about me:
And scouling on them as they pin'd away,       
             Now come again, said I, and flout me.
                       O show thy self to me,               
                       Or take me up to thee!

Nothing but drought and dearth, but bush3 and brake,
             Which way so-e're I look, I see.           
Some may dream merrily, but when they wake,
             They dresse themselves and come to thee.
                       O show thy, &c.

We talk of harvests;4 there are no such things,   
             But when we leave our corn and hay:
There is no fruitfull yeare, but that which brings
             The last and lov'd, though dreadfull day.
                       O show thy, &c.

Oh loose this frame, this knot of man untie!
             That my free soul may use her wing,
Which now is pinion'd with mortalitie,
             As an intangled, hamper’d thing.
                       O show thy, &c.

What have I left, that I should stay and grone ?
             The most of me to heav’n is fled:
My thoughts and joyes are all packt up and gone,
             And for their old acquaintance plead.
                       O show thy, &c.

Come dearest Lord, passe not this holy season,5
             My flesh and bones and joynts do pray:
And ev'n my verse, when by the ryme and reason
             The word is, Stay, sayes ever, Come.
                       O show thy, &c.

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt van Rijn
The Return of the Prodigal Son
by Rembrandt van Rijn, c.1668/9

1 strange - foreign, unfamiliar; standoffish; emotionally "cold." As modern people would say, "Don't be a stranger." [Return]
2 stay - means both "stay away" and "remain in one place." [This is a constant play on meaning throughout this poem. God "stays away" while the persona is supposed to, but doesn't want to, "stay" where s/he is.] [Return]
3 bush - metal lining in the axel-whole of a wheel [If this is the meaning, Herbert makes a comparison or a pair of relationships (e.g. drought : dearth :: bush : brake).]. Another possibility is that "bush" means a shrub and "brake" refers to a broken branch indicating uselessness. (What is in italics is from Oxford English Dictionary.) [Return]
4 Compare how "harvest" is used here and in "The Collar." [Return]
5 It would be interesting to be sure what "holy season" Herbert meant. The obvious assumption is Lent, but it may mean any time that a person can be with God. [Return]

Editor's note: The first stanza and the stanza at the top of each page prints out the full refrain. All other stanzas on the page shorten the last 2 lines to "O show thy, &c." to save type and space. This convention happens to emphasise the presence of the purposely misplaced rhyme. (Italics are in the 1633 edition.)

  • Criticism/Interpretation: George Herbert's Poetry by Russell Fraser. [Poems cited: "Holy Scriptures I"; "The Pearl"; The Temple; "Paradise"; "Affliction"; "Home"; "The Collar"; "The Flower"; "Virtue"; "Providence"]

    Music: Thomas Campion (1567-1620), "When Thou Must Home," [Link to the lyrics.]

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