[Giotto, Crucifixion, detail]from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert:

¶    The Sacrifice.

OH all ye, who passe by, whose eyes and minde
To worldly things are sharp, but to me blinde;
To me, who took eyes that I might you finde:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

The Princes of my people make a head
Against their Maker: they do wish me dead,
Who cannot wish, except I give them bread;
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Without me each one, who doth now me brave,
Had to this day been an Egyptian slave.
They use that power against me, which I gave:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Mine own Apostle, who the bag did beare,
Though he had all I had, did not forbeare
To sell me also, and to put me there:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

For thirtie pence he did my death devise,
Who at three hundred did the ointment prize,
Not half so sweet as my sweet sacrifice:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Therefore my soul melts, and my hearts deare treasure
Drops bloud (the onely beads) my words to measure:
O let this cup passe, if it be thy pleasure:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

These drops being temper’d with sinners tears
A Balsome are for both the Hemispheres:1
Curing all wounds, but mine; all, but my fears:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Yet my Disciples sleep; I cannot gain
One houre of watching; but their drowsie brain
Comforts not me, and doth my doctrine stain:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Arise, arise, they come.  Look how they runne!
Alas!  what haste they make to be undone!
How with their lanterns do they seek the sunne!
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

With clubs and staves they seek me, as a thief,
Who am the Way and Truth, the true relief;
Most true to those, who are my greatest grief:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Judas, dost thou betray me with a kisse?
Canst thou finde hell about my lips? and misse 
Of life, just at the gates of life and blisse?
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

See, they lay hold on me, not with the hands
Of faith, but furie: yet at their commands
I suffer binding, who have loos’d their bands
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

All my Disciples flie; fear puts a barre
Betwixt my friends and me.  They leave the starre,
That brought the wise men of the East from farre.
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Then from one ruler to another bound
They leade me; urging, that it was not sound
What I taught: Comments would the test confound.
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

The Priest and rulers all false witnesse seek
’Gainst him, who seeks not life, but is the meek
And readie Paschal Lambe of this great week:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Then they accuse me of great blasphemie,
That I did thrust into the Deitie,
Who never thought that any robberie:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Some said, that I the Temple to the floore
In three dayes raz’d, and raised as before.
Why, he that built the world can do much more:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Then they condemne me all with that same breath,
Which I do give them daily, unto death.
Thus Adam my first breathing rendereth:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

They binde, and leade me unto Herod: he
Sends me to Pilate.  This makes them agree;
But yet their friendship is my enmitie:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Herod and all his bands do set me light,
Who teach all hands to warre, fingers to fight,
And onely am the Lord of Hosts and might:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Herod in judgement sits, while I do stand;
Examines me with a censorious hand:
I him obey, who all things else command:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

The Jews accuse me with dispitefulnesse;
And vying malice with my gentlenesse,
Pick quarrels with their onely happinesse:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

I answer nothing, but with patience prove
If stonie hearts will melt with gentle love.
But who does hawk at eagles with a dove?
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

My silence rather doth augment their crie;
My dove doth back into my bosome flie,
Because the raging waters still are high:2
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Heark how they crie aloud still, Crucifie:
It is not fit he live a day, they crie,
Who cannot live lesse then eternally:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Pilate, a stranger, holdeth off; but they,
Mine owne deare people, cry, Away, away,
With noises confused frighting the day:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Yet still they shout, and crie, and stop their eares,
Putting my life among their sinnes and fears,
And therefore wish my bloud on them and theirs:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?	

See how spite cankers things. These words aright
Used, and wished, are the whole worlds light:
But hony is their gall, brightnesse their night:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

They choose a murderer, and all agree
In him to do themselves a courtesie:
For it was their own case who killed me:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

And a seditious murderer he was:
But I the Prince of peace; peace that doth passe
All understanding, more then heav’n doth glasse:3
                                              Was ever grief like mine?	

Why, Caesar is their onely King, not I:
He clave the stonie rock, when they were drie;
But surely not their hearts, as I well trie:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Ah! how they scourge me! yet my tendernesse
Doubles each lash: and yet their bitternesse
Windes up my grief to a mysteriousnesse:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?	

They buffet him, and box him as they list,
Who grasps the earth and heaven with his fist,
And never yet, whom he would punish, miss’d:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?	

Behold, they spit on me in scornfull wise,
Who by my spittle gave the blinde man eies,
Leaving his blindnesse to my enemies:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

My face they cover, though it be divine.
As Moses face was vailed, so is mine,
Lest on their double-dark souls either shine:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Servants and abjects flout me; they are wittie:
Now prophesie who strikes thee, is their dittie.
So they in me denie themselves all pitie:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

And now I am deliver’d unto death,
Which each one calls for so with utmost breath,
That he before me well nigh suffereth:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Weep not, deare friends, since I for both have wept
When all my tears were bloud, the while you slept:
Your tears for your own fortunes should be kept:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

The souldiers lead me to the common hall;
There they deride me, they abuse me all:
Yet for twelve heav’nly legions I could call:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Then with a scarlet robe they me aray;
Which shews my bloud to be the onely way
And cordiall left to repair mans decay:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Then on my head a crown of thorns I wear:
For these are all the grapes Sion doth bear,
Though I my vine planted and watred there:
                                               Was ever grief like mine?

So sits the earths great curse in Adams fall
Upon my head: so I remove it all
From th’ earth unto my brows, and bear the thrall:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Then with the reed they gave to me before,
They strike my head, the rock from thence all store
Of heav’nly blessings issue evermore:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?
They bow their knees to me, and  cry, Hail king:
What ever scoffes & scornfulnesse can bring,
I am the floore, the sink, where they it fling:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Yet since mans scepters are as frail as reeds,
And thorny all their crowns, bloudie their weeds;
I, who am Truth, turn into truth their deeds:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

The souldiers also spit upon that face,
Which Angels did desire to have the grace,
And Prophets, once to see, but found no place:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Thus trimmed, forth they bring me to the rout,
Who Crucifie him, crie with one strong shout.
God holds his peace at man, and man cries out:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

They leade me in once more, and  putting then
Mine own clothes on, they leade me out agen.
Whom devils flie, thus is he toss’d of men:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

And now wearie of sport, glad to ingrosse
All spite in one, counting my life their losse,
They carrie me to my most bitter crosse:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

O all ye who passe by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit,4 but I must climbe the tree;
The tree of life to all, but onely me:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Lo, here I hang, charg’d with a world of sinne,
The greater world o’ th’ two; for that came in
By  words, but this by sorrow I must win:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Such sorrow as, if sinfull man could feel,
Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel.
Till all were melted, though he were all steel:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

But, O my God, my God! why leav’st thou me,
The sonne, in whom  thou dost delight to be?
My God, my God ------
                                              Never was grief like mine.

Shame tears my soul, my bodie many a wound;
Sharp nails pierce this, but sharper that confound;
Reproches, which are free, while I am bound.
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Now heal thy self, Physician; now come down.
Alas! I did so, when  I left my crown
And fathers smile for you, to feel his frown:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

In healing not my self, there doth consist
All that salvation, which ye now resist;
Your safetie in my sicknesse doth subsist:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Betwixt two theeves I spend my utmost breath,
As he that for some robberie suffereth.
Alas! what have I stollen from you?  Death.
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

A king my title is, prefixt on high;
Yet by my subjects am condemn’d to die
A servile death in servile companie:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

They give me vineger mingled with gall,
But more with malice: yet, when they did call,
With Manna, Angels food, I fed them all:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

They part my garments, and by lot dispose
My coat, the type of love, which once cur’d those
Who sought for help, never malicious foes:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

Nay, after death their spite shall further go;
For they will pierce my side, I full well know;
That as sinne came, so Sacraments might flow:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

But now I die; now all is finished.
My wo, mans weal:5 and now I bow my head.
Onely let others say, when I am dead,
                                              Never was grief like mine.

[Giotto, Crucifixion]
For general information see Mark 14:43-15:41; Matthew 26:47-27:66; Luke 22:47-23:49; John 18:1-19:30. [Links have commentary, sermons and several translations of the text.] {See a Study version of "The Sacrifice" with resources from the four Gospels.}

1 Hemispheres. half spheres = the eyes. [Return]
2 Reference to Noah, the flood and the dove that returned with the olive branch. [Return]
3 glasse. appear, show in heaven, know. [Return]
4 Reference to Adam’s Original Sin for which Christ is the sacrifice. [Return] For these and other Bible references, see Appendix.
5 weal or wealth. As in "Commonwealth" meaning "common good." Man’s good. [Return]

Related Criticism: "Criticism by William Empson" on "The Sacrifice."

Professor's note on literary devices:
Paradox: When 2 truths contradict each other, but are both true. In "The Sacrifice" (when Adam's sin is to our benefit, the 'fortunate fall' is one of the felix culpa). The persona, Christ, sees His life and all that passes by before Him on the cross as a paradox. He came to save men and is punished as a thief. He loves and teaches His followers, and they betray and flee from Him. He died a mortal death though He was divine that mortals might not die the eternal death, but have life divine. Many of these stanzas are built on a paradox.
Other examples of paradoxes: Easter-wings (when decaying more and more ... furthers the flight), The Pulley (when restless brings us to rest in God).
Oxymoron: A true self contradictory phrase, ex. "military intelligence" (Groucho Marx), "happy sin." [Today this is not an oxymoron; many think the phrase to say "happy pleasure" which is not a self contradictory truth but a tautology.] In Herbert's time to sin was to turn your back on God. No one could be happy away from God. So for Herbert true happiness was to be without sin. The phrase "happy sin" was self contradictory. The "happy sin," referred to in Latin as felix culpa, is that the disobedient, selfish sin of Adam and Eve allowed Christ to save humans from themselves. Adam and Eve made it a sin; Christ made it "happy."

Editor’s Note: In the 1633 edition the last line of the first stanza on each page reads "Was ever grief like mine?" The line of the other seven stanzas on that page read "Was ever, &c." to save type.

Modern version Stz 1-10; Modern version Stz 11-21; Modern version Stz 22-32; Modern version Stz 33-42; Modern version Stz 43-52; Modern version Stz 53-end With 4 Parallel GospelsStudy version GH Interactive: Identify references.
1633 Poem Index George Herbert & The Temple Home Page