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


¶   Josephs coat.

VVOunded I sing, tormented I indite,
Thrown down I fall into a bed, and rest:
Sorrow hath chang’d its note: such is his will,
Who changeth all things, as him pleaseth best.
     For well he knows, if but one grief and smart
Among my many had his full career,
Sure it would carrie with it ev’n my heart,
And both would runne untill they found a biere
     To fetch the bodie; both being due to grief.
But he hath spoil’d the race; and giv’n to anguish
One of Joyes coats, ticing it with relief
To linger in me, and together languish.
     I live to shew his power, who once did bring
     My joyes to weep, and now my griefs to sing.

Background: Throughout the Middle Ages, theologians, poets and artists linked Old Testament events and people with corresponding parallels to the life and death of Christ. The life of Joseph (Genesis 37) prefigured the life and suffering of Christ. Both were beloved of their Father, rejected and sold into slavery by their 12 brothers, imprisoned in a pit or Hell, returned in glory to save his brothers. [The symbolic "death" before the resurrection of the servant of God.]

An example follows from Hayne, Thomas. The General View of the Holy Scriptures: or, The Times, Places, and Persons of the Holy Scriptures. (London: LB and S.B. for Henry Ockould, 1640), p. 121f:

Of Joseph in particular.
Joseph was falsely accused. Christ was falsely accused.
Joseph was Thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh.
Jesus is baptised beginning to the Thirty years old.
Joseph was in prison between two theeves; the one of them was saved, the other condemned. Christ was crucified between two theeves: the one of them was saved, the other condemned.

Illustration: Illuminated manuscript in the British Museum of Joseph thrown into the pit; Jesus entombed; and Jonah cast into the fish.

[Illuminated Manuscript: Joseph, Jesus, Jonah]

Herbert deals with the time of suffering. The coat signifies (some may say symbolizes) the love of the father, the suffering of the father and the son and the ultimate salvation of the son. Through his grief, Herbert looks toward the final joy.

Professor's note: This is almost a sonnet. It would be except line 3, "Sorrow hath chang'd its note: such is his will" does not rhyme. "His will" breaks the form. ["might" would have made it right.] Herbert certainly knew the sonnet form and, as surely, knew of these rhymes for "indite" yet he chose to break the poetic form and not to rhyme the line. [See Essay: Rhyme as Reason.] Or perhaps "will" says what he wanted to say and the rhyme was secondary in importance.

Theological note on Professor's note: "might" would have implied power and control, eliminating the persona's reaction and acceptance of the grief. "His will" confirms God's loving purpose in all His actions.

Editor's Note: In George Herbert Palmer's edition of The Temple line 3 of "Joseph's Coat" reads "such is his right." [See also F. E. Hutchinson's The Works of George Herbert.]

Theological note on Palmer: "right" says that it is God's right to give and take away joy and sorrow (see Job), which it is, but this is not what Herbert wants to say. Herbert points out the purpose and will of God not his capricious rights. [Q. And, speaking of capricious, why does Herbert not rhyme the line? A. Because it is his will.]

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