Artillery

By George Herbert 1593–1633 George Herbert
As I one evening sat before my cell,
Methought a star did shoot into my lap.
I rose and shook my clothes, as knowing well
That from small fires comes oft no small mishap;
       When suddenly I heard one say,
       “Do as thou usest, disobey,
       Expel good motions from thy breast,
Which have the face of fire, but end in rest.”

I, who had heard of music in the spheres,
But not of speech in stars, began to muse;
But turning to my God, whose ministers
The stars and all things are: “If I refuse,
       Dread Lord,” said I, “so oft my good,
       Then I refuse not ev’n with blood
       To wash away my stubborn thought;
For I will do or suffer what I ought.

“But I have also stars and shooters too,
Born where thy servants both artilleries use.
My tears and prayers night and day do woo
And work up to thee; yet thou dost refuse.
       Not but I am (I must say still)
       Much more obliged to do thy will
       Than thou to grant mine; but because
Thy promise now hath ev’n set thee thy laws.

“Then we are shooters both, and thou dost deign
To enter combat with us, and contest
With thine own clay. But I would parley fain:
Shun not my arrows, and behold my breast.
       Yet if thou shunnest, I am thine:
       I must be so, if I am mine.
       There is no articling with thee:
I am but finite, yet thine infinitely.”

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Poet George Herbert 1593–1633

POET’S REGION Wales

SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century

Subjects Nature, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

 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 Nature, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION Wales

SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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