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


¶   Church-rents and schismes.

Brave rose, (alas!) where art thou? in the chair
Where thou didst lately so triumph and shine,
A worm doth sit, whose many feet and hair
Are the more foul, the more thou wert divine.
This, this hath done it, this did bite the root
And bottome of the leaves: which when the winde
Did once perceive, it blew them under foot,
Where rude unhallow’d steps do crush and grinde
        Their beauteous glories. Onely shreds of thee,
        And those all bitten, in thy chair I see.

Why doth my Mother blush? is she the rose,
And shows it so? Indeed Christs precious bloud
Gave you a colour once; which when your foes
Thought to let out, the bleeding did you good,
And made you look much fresher then before.
But when debates and fretting jealousies
Did worm and work within you more and more,
Your colour faded, and calamities
          Turned your ruddie into pale and bleak:
        Your health and beautie both began to break.

Then did your sev’rall parts unloose and start:
Which when your neighbours saw, like a north-winde,
They rushed in, and cast them in the dirt
Where Pagans tread. O Mother deare and kinde,
Where shall I get me eyes enough to weep,
As many eyes as starres? since it is night,
And much of Asia and Europe fast asleep,
And ev’n all Africk; would at least I might
         With these two poore ones lick up all the dew,
         Which falls by night, and poure it out for you!

Already in The Mount of Olives (1652) Vaughan called Herbert ’a most glorious true Saint, and a Seer’, mentioning especially ’his incomparable prophetick Poems, and particularly these, Church-musick, Church-rents and schisms, The Church militant, and quoting Life in full. In the preface to the enlarged edition of Silex Scintillans (1655) he attributes his conversion to sacred poetry to ’the blessed man, Mr. George Herbert, whose holy life and verse gained many pious Converts, (of whom I am the least)’. - [Hutchinson, F. E. The Works of George Herbert. xli.] See Vaughan’s poems "I saw Eternity the other night" and "The World."

  • Related Criticism: Martz, Louis L. "Donne, Herbert, and the Worm of Controversy." Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 7 (May, 2001): 2.1-28.

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