A Poem for Communion

I just got home from our morning worship service where we celebrated the Lord's Supper - an event that has me thinking about George Herbert, specifically his poem Love III. I wrote my dissertation (available for download at Scholar Commons) about choral settings of Herbert's English poetry, so my mind turns to his work often. Love III, with its themes of welcome, guilt, shame, and the Love Feast is a beautiful companion to the Eucharist meal.

 George Herbert (1593-1633), Member of Parliament and priest in the Church of England

George Herbert (1593-1633), Member of Parliament and priest in the Church of England


Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

Here's a stunning video of Vaughan Williams' setting of Love III, performed on the final evening of the 2004 BBC Proms.