George Herbert's "The Collar"
I STRUCK the board, and cry’d, No more ;
. . . . . I will abroad.
What ? shall I ever sigh and pine ?
My lines and life are free ; free as the road,
Loose as the winde, as large as store.
. . . . . Shall I be still in suit ?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me bloud, and not restore
What I have lost with cordiall fruit ?
. . . . . Sure there was wine,
Before my sighs did drie it : there was corn
. . . Before my tears did drown it.
Is the yeare onely lost to me ?
. . . Have I no bayes to crown it ?
No flowers, no garlands gay ? all blasted ?
. . . . . All wasted ?
Not so, my heart : but there is fruit,
. . . . . And thou hast hands.
. . . Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures : leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not forsake thy cage,
. . . . . Thy rope of sands,
Which pettie thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
. . . . . And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
. . . . . Away ; take heed :
. . . . . I will abroad.
Call in thy deaths head there : tie up thy fears.
. . . . . He that forbears
. . . To suit and serve his need,
. . . . . Deserves his load.
But as I rav’d and grew more fierce and wilde,
. . . . . At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, Childe :
. . . . . And I reply’d, My Lord.
Forgive my using periods to produce some of the spacing effects. I haven't mastered the ways to space on the blog using html, and since it's not likely to happen tonight, I'll count on your generous spirit.
I love George Herbert at times. His poetry takes on the difficulties of Christianity: it's HARD to do what a Christian is supposed to do. If one takes it seriously, Christianity is a demanding religion. And he does it in poetry that challlenges my mouth when I read it aloud, brings me to full stops, to rushing changes, "I struck the board and cried, no more I will abroad." I have a hard time with "board" and "abroad" for some reason, when I read them aloud, and that makes me wonder what exactly he meant by "board." I think he means either some kind of writing tablet or a table, but I'm not quite sure.
This week, my writing class has been reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, and today we discussed the second section, the part where she works for a maid service and also at a nursing home up in Portland, Maine.
My students wanted to talk about how she mocked Christianity, so we looked at the section where she talks about visiting a tent revival meeting on a Friday evening. We read bits aloud, and talked about the connection the preacher was making between the money he was soliciting and the crucifiction, and I think they saw that her critique wasn't mocking Christianity, but pointing out a contradiction between soliciting money and the passion. And so forth.
Some students really do believe that Christianity is constantly under attack, and so see any critique or analysis of anything to do with Christianity as a disrespectful attack. I don't think Ehrenreich is being disrespectful (or mocking), so much as pointing out that the meeting she went to didn't address the needs of the poor people such as herself (well, at that moment) who were in the audience, didn't provide the message of caring available within Christianity, but instead provided a message condemnation.
At one point, Ehrenreich points to a preacher who says people only need one book, and shouldn't waste money on other books. At which point, his speech (within her representation) breaks down into basically gibberish. My students felt this mocked Christianity. I told them to hold up what they had in their hands. Look, a BOOK, I said. Do you think Ehrenreich believes books are important, and in fact, believes that buying books and maybe reading them is important? They readily agreed. Then I asked, do you think scholars of Christianity think books are important? They agreed, though less readily.
It was a tough day. I fear I sounded strident.
I'm so frustrated by the unquestioning Christianity so many of my students come with. George Herbert wouldn't have let those preachers get away with such careless arguments any more than Ehrenreich did.
What horrified me as I was writing the post today, was that as I started typing George Herbert's name into Google, the new drop box thingy offered me oodles of options to click on, all leading to another George Herbert, with a couple more names. George Herbert would be rightly ashamed of his namesake, I think, too.