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


¶   The Quip.

THe merrie world did on a day
With his train-bands and mates agree
To meet together,where I lay,
And all in sport to geere at me.

First, Beautie crept into a rose,
Which when I pluckt not, Sir, said she,
Tell me, I pray, Whose hands are those?
But thou shalt answer, Lord, for me.

Then Money came, and chinking still,
What tune is this, poore man? said he:
I heard in Musick you had skill.
But thou shalt answer, Lord, for me.

Then came brave Glorie puffing by
In silks that whistled, who but he?
He scarce allow’d me half an eie.
But thou shalt answer, Lord, for me.

Then came quick Wit and Conversation,
And he would needs a comfort be,
And, to be short, make an Oration.
But thou shalt answer, Lord, for me.

Yet when the houre of thy designe
To answer these fine things shall come;
Speak not at large; say, I am thine:
And then they have their answer home.

Thesaurus: quip - witticism, joke, jibe, wisecrack, one-liner, clever remark, pun, retort.

I myself have always admired Herbert for his presentation of the Christian life or pilgrimage, especially because there has been little guidance in modern theology on sanctification, on how we are to conform our lives to the love of God, especially the love manifest on the Cross. I was not prepared, however, for the impact Herbert's treatment of the Bible, as presented by Bloch, would have. For example, the poem "The Quip" contrasts the attractions of the world with the believer's paltry achievement. The poet undoes the distress each voice causes him with the refrain "But thou shalt answer, Lord, for me," a paraphrase of' Psalm 38:15. This is not simply a literary device, Bloch argues, but "reflects an actual situation from life: the believer in distress repeating verses from the Psalms in order to invoke their saving power." Again and again, human wit is opposed by the authority of Scripture in such a way that the power of the Word is experienced. Herbert's masterful knowledge of the Bible and his ability to make deep and rich connections between its parts are instructive for this age, which suffers so much from the way critical study of the Bible has fragmented it and rendered it difficult to hear the Word of God. The intellectual, literary, and spiritual power of Herbert open us to the power of that Word. - Diogenes Allen, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey, reviewing Spelling the Word: George Herbert and the Bible By Chana Bloch.
Note: Some editions italicize the last lines of stanzas 2-5. The 1633 edition does not.

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