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


¶   Man.

		        MY God, I heard this day,
That none doth build a stately habitation,
	     But he that means to dwell therein.
	     What house more stately hath there been,
Or can be, then is Man?  to whose creation
		        All things are in decay.

		        For Man is ev’ry thing
And more: He is a tree, yet bears no1 fruit;
	     A beast, yet is, or should be more:
	     Reason and speech we onely bring.
Parrats may thank us, if they are not mute,
		        They go upon the score.

		        Man is all symmetrie,
Full of proportions, one limbe to another,
	     And all to all the world besides:
	     Each part may call the farthest, brother:
And head with foot hath private amitie,
		        And both with moons and tides.

		        Nothing hath got so farre,
But Man hath caught and kept it, as his prey.
	     His eyes dismount the highest starre:
	     He is in little all the sphere.
Herbs gladly cure our flesh; because that they 
		        Finde their acquaintance there.

		        For us the windes do blow,
The earth doth rest, heav’n move, and fountains flow.
	     Nothing we see, but means our good,
	     As our delight, or as our treasure:
The whole is, either our cupboard of food,
		        Or cabinet of pleasure.

		        The starres have us to bed;
Night draws the curtain, which the sunne withdraws;
	     Musick and light attend our head.
	     All things unto our flesh are kinde
In their descent and being; to our minde
		        In their ascent and cause.

		        Each thing is full of dutie:
Waters united are our navigation;
	     Distinguished, our habitation;
	     Below, our drink; above, our meat;
Both are our cleanlinesse.  Hath one such beautie?
		        Then how are all things neat?

		        More servants wait on Man,
Then he’l take notice of: in ev’ry path
	     He treads down that which doth befriend him,
	     When sicknesse makes him pale and wan.
Oh mightie love!  Man is one world, and hath
		        Another to attend him.

		        Since then, my God, thou hast
So brave a Palace built; O dwell in it,
	     That it may dwell with thee at last!
	     Till then, afford us so much wit;
That, as the world serves us, we may serve thee,
		        And both thy servants be.

1 Later editions read "more" instead of "no." [Return]

Related Criticism:

Nor has science sufficient humanity, so long as the naturalist overlooks that wonderful congruity which subsists between man and the world; of which he is lord, not because he is the most subtile inhabitant, but because he is its head and heart, and finds something of himself in every great and small thing, in every mountain stratum, in every new law of color, fact of astronomy, or atmospheric influence which observation or analysis lay open. A perception of this mystery inspires the muse of George Herbert, the beautiful psalmist of the seventeenth century. The following lines are part of his little poem on Man. - Ralph Waldo Emerson then quotes stanzas 3-7 of this poem ("Prospects," one of his lectures and addresses Nature, 1849.)
It is a book to be taken as a friend to be loved, rather than as a performance to be criticized. As a manual of devotion it is as though a seraph covered his face with his wings in rapturous adoration; as a poem it is full of that subtle perception of analogies to be found only in works of genius, while the passage on "Man" shows how the poets in their loftiest moods may sometimes anticipate some of the most wonderful discoveries of science and some of the sublimest speculations of philosophy. -- John Brown, 1890, The Parson of Bemerton, Good Words, vol. 31, p. 697. [From Moulton's Library of Criticism.]

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