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


∂  Marie Magdalene.

WHen blessed Marie wipíd her Saviours feet,
(Whose precepts she had trampled on before)
And wore them for a jewell on her head,
               Shewing his steps should be the street,
               Wherein she thenceforth evermore
With pensive humblenesse would live and tread:


She being stainíd her self, why did she strive To make him clean, who could not be defilíd? Why kept she not her tears for her own faults, And not his feet? Though we could dive In tears like seas, our sinnes are pilíd Deeper then they, in words, and works, and thoughts.


Deare soul, she knew who did vouchsafe and deigne To bear her filth; and that her sinnes did dash Evín God himself: wherefore she was not loth, As she had brought wherewith to stain, So to bring in wherewith to wash: And yet in washing one, she washed both.


[Detail from Crucifixion by Giotto]

See Luke7:37-50. Medieval tradition identifies Mary Magdalene as "the sinner" wiping Jesus feet. Other versions differ: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9. The Mary indicated in John 12:1-8 is the sister of Martha and Lazarus. [Links have commentary, sermons, hymns and several translations.]

[Art History Note: Donatello did a near life-sized statue of Mary Magdalene (c.1455) in wood. It depicts her in old age with her hair or a hair coat around her. It once stood in the Baptisty in Florence before the flood.]

[Theological Update (but extraneous to the poem): There is a movement to recognize Mary Magdalene as one of the teachers to the disciples - Jesus' assistant. The Gospel of Mary shows her as equal to Peter before the reorganization and male hierarchy of the church determined the Biblical Canon. During this later time, about first or second century after Jesus' death, the disciple/Apostle Mary Magdalene became interpreted as the penitant sinner of later centuries.]

Modern version

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