George Herbert


MY heart did heave, and there came forth, “O God !”
By that I knew that Thou wast in the grief,
To guide and govern it to my relief,
                Making a sceptre of the rod :
                    Hadst Thou not had Thy part,
Sure the unruly sigh had broke my heart.
But since Thy breath gave me both life and shape,
Thou know'st my tallies ;* and when there’s assigned
So much breath to a sigh, what’s then behind?
          Or if some years with it escape,
              The sigh then only is
A gale to bring me sooner to my bliss.
Thy life on earth was grief, and Thou art still
Constant unto it, making it to be
A point of honour, now to grieve in me,
          And in Thy members suffer ill.
              They who lament one cross,
Thou dying daily, praise Thee to Thy loss.

  * Reckonings, which were anciently kept by two notched sticks
corresponding to each other, each person being a party to the
account of having one.
  There is a popular old superstition that every time we sigh, we
lose a drop of blood from the heart, and thus impair our strength.
See “Hamlet,” Act IV., Scene 7 :

                                                “ A Spendthrift sigh
                  That hurts by easing.”

Herbert, George. The Works of George Herbert in Prose and Verse.
New York: John Wurtele Lovell, 1881. 158-159.

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