The Anglican Church designates February 27 as the Feast Day in commemoration of the pastor and poet George Herbert. So I am glad to wave again my little flag of love for Herbert’s poetry.
For depth of biblical insight, penetration of the human psyche, candor with his own wrestling soul, plundering of human language, surprising turns of phrase, technically unique versification, and musical much-making of the gospel, his poetry is unsurpassed.
For the most thorough and helpful (and expensive) critical edition, see Helen Wilcox, The English Poems of George Herbert (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
Jim Scott Orrick gives us one poem a week with his helpful comments in A Year with George Herbert (Wipf & Stock, 2011).
The Complete Poems and the short book he wrote on the Country Parson are in the Penguin Classics Edition, George Herbert: The Complete Poems (Penguin Book, 1991).
And all his English poems are available free online.
Be encouraged today by Herbert that there is an Elixir — the devotion to do all for the glory of God — that turns all to gold, even the simplest daily task.
Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.
Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.
A man that looks on glass, On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.
All may of Thee partake;
Nothing can be so mean
Which with this tincture (for Thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.
A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.
Watch or listen to John Piper’s biographical message on George Herbert.