Saturday, September 20, 2014

Herbert on Holy Scripture

I've just started reading John Drury's recent biography of George Herbert, Music at Midnight, which I picked up at the recent Diocesan clergy conference. Professor MacCulloch calls it magnificent and says he finished it with exaltation. Drury is the chaplain at All Souls' College. I reckon I might quibble with some of his theological judgements but I've enjoyed the very little I've read so far and I'm looking forward to more.

Herbert's two sonnets on Holy Scripture are well worth reading and reflecting on.

OH Book! infinite sweetnesse! let my heart
             Suck ev’ry letter, and a hony gain,
             Precious for any grief in any part;
To cleare the breast, to mollifie all pain.
Thou art all health...
thou art a masse
             Of strange delights...
The Bible is "the glasse, That mends the lookers['] eyes"
The Bible is "heav’ns Lidger [or ambassador] here,
Working against the states of death and hell. "
And the experience of the second may well be familiar - not least to those who have to wrestle with the lectionary readings!
OH that I knew how all thy lights combine,
             And the configurations of their glorie!
             Seeing not onely how each verse doth shine,
But all the constellations of the storie.
This verse marks that, and both do make a motion
             Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie:
             Then as dispersed herbs do watch a potion,
These three make up some Christians destinie:
Such are thy secrets, which my life makes good,
             And comments on thee: for in ev’ry thing
             Thy words do finde me out, & parallels bring,
And in another make me understood.
             Starres are poore books, & oftentimes do misse:
             This book of starres lights to eternall blisse.

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