Vanity (I)

By George Herbert 1593–1633 George Herbert
The fleet astronomer can bore
And thread the spheres with his quick-piercing mind:
He views their stations, walks from door to door,
         Surveys, as if he had designed
To make a purchase there; he sees their dances,
                   And knoweth long before
Both their full-eyes aspècts, and secret glances.

         The nimble diver with his side
Cuts through the working waves, that he may fetch
His dearly-earnèd pearl, which God did hide
         On purpose from the venturous wretch;
That he might save his life, and also hers
                   Who with excessive pride
Her own destruction and his danger wears.

         The subtle chymic can divest
And strip the creature naked, till he find
The callow principles within their nest:
         There he imparts to them his mind,
Admitted to their bed-chamber, before
                   They appear trim and dressed
To ordinary suitors at the door.

         What hath not man sought out and found,
But his dear God? who yet his glorious law
Embosoms in us, mellowing the ground
         With showers and frosts, with love and awe,
So that we need not say, “Where’s this command?”
                   Poor man, thou searchest round
To find out death, but missest life at hand.

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Poet George Herbert 1593–1633

POET’S REGION Wales

SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century

Subjects Relationships, Men & Women, Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine, Christianity

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 George  Herbert

Biography

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, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women, Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine, Christianity

POET’S REGION Wales

SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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