By George Herbert 1593–1633 George Herbert
                My God, I heard this day
That none doth build a stately habitation
         But he that means to dwell therein.
         What house more stately hath there been,
Or can be, than is man, to whose creation
                All things are in decay?

                For man is ev'ry thing,
And more: he is a tree, yet bears more fruit;
         A beast, yet is, or should be, more;
         Reason and speech we only bring;
Parrots may thank us if they are not mute,
                They go upon the score.

                Man is all symmetry,
Full of proportions, one limb to another,
         And all to all the world besides;
         Each part may call the furthest brother,
For head with foot hath private amity,
                And both with moons and tides.

                Nothing hath got so far
But man hath caught and kept it as his prey;
         His eyes dismount the highest star;
         He is in little all the sphere;
Herbs gladly cure our flesh, because that they
                Find their acquaintance there.

                For us the winds do blow,
The earth doth rest, heav'n move, and fountains flow.
         Nothing we see but means our good,
         As our delight, or as our treasure;
The whole is either our cupboard of food,
                Or cabinet of pleasure.

                The stars have us to bed;
Night draws the curtain, which the sun withdraws;
         Music and light attend our head;
         All things unto our flesh are kind
In their descent and being; to our mind
                In their ascent and cause.

                Each thing is full of duty;
Waters united are our navigation;
         Distinguished, our habitation;
         Below, our drink; above, our meat;
Both are our cleanliness. Hath one such beauty?
                Then how are all things neat!

                More servants wait on man
Than he'll take notice of; in ev'ry path
         He treads down that which doth befriend him,
         When sickness makes him pale and wan.
Oh mighty love! Man is one world, and hath
                Another to attend him.

                Since then, my God, thou hast
So brave a palace built, O dwell in it,
         That it may dwell with thee at last!
         Till then, afford us so much wit,
That, as the world serves us, we may serve thee,
                And both thy servants be.

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet George Herbert 1593–1633


SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Nature, Activities, The Body, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Living, Health & Illness, Religion, Eating & Drinking, Philosophy, Christianity, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Imagery

 George  Herbert


Nestled somewhere within the Age of Shakespeare and the Age of Milton is George Herbert. There is no Age of Herbert: he did not consciously fashion an expansive literary career for himself, and his characteristic gestures, insofar as these can be gleaned from his poems and other writings, tend to be careful self-scrutiny rather than rhetorical pronouncement; local involvement rather than broad social engagement; and complex, . . .

Continue reading this biography

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.