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


¶    The Pearl. Matth. 13.

I Know the wayes of Learning; both the head
And pipes that feed the presse, and make it runne;
What reason hath from nature borrowed,
Or of it self, like a good huswife, spunne
In laws and policie; what the starres conspire,
What willing nature speaks, what forc’d by fire;
Both th’ old discoveries, and the new-found seas,
The stock and surplus, cause and historie:
All these stand open, or I have the keyes:
                 Yet I love thee.

I know the wayes of Honour, what maintains
The quick returns of courtesie and wit:
In vies of favours whether partie gains,
When glorie swells the heart, and moldeth it
To all expressions both of hand and eye,
Which on the world a true-love-knot may tie,
And bear the bundle, wheresoe’re it goes:
How many drammes of spirit there must be 
To sell my life unto my friends or foes:
                 Yet I love thee.

I know the wayes of Pleasure, the sweet strains,
The lullings and the relishes of it;
The propositions of hot bloud and brains;
What mirth and musick mean; what love and wit
Have done these twentie hundred yeares, and more:
I know the projects of unbridled store:
My stuffe is flesh, not brasse; my senses live,
And grumble oft, that they have more in me
Then he that curbs them, being but one to five:
                 Yet I love thee.

I know all these, and have them in my hand:
Therefore not sealed, but with open eyes
I flie to thee, and fully understand
Both the main sale, and the commodities;
And at what rate and price I have thy love;
With all the circumstances that may move:
Yet through these labyrinths, not my groveling wit,
But thy silk twist let down from heav’n to me,
Did both conduct and teach me, how by it 
                 To climbe to thee.

Vermeer, Girl with Pearl Earring
Matthew 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
[The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769. For commentary, sermons and several translations, see Matthew 13:45-46.]

Related Criticism: "Learning as wine-press in George Herbert's 'The Pearl.'" by Kathryn Walls. Notes and Queries, March 1998 v45 i1 p40(4)

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"]

For Variations on a Theme see also The Pearl by the Pearl Poet of the 14th Century, and John Steinbeck's The Pearl.

Musical Interpretation: "The Pearl" by Red Dragon This is the last section; all verses sing together.

Modern version
1633 Poem Index George Herbert & The Temple Home Page