A Soul Composed of Harmonies

George Herbert, who Charles Cotton described as "a soul composed of harmonies," was born on this day in 1593.

Herbert was a Welsh-born statesman, priest, and poet. He wrote poetry in English, Latin, and Greek. His greatest work, a collection of 167 poems issued under the title The Temple, was published after his death in 1633. Herbert's poems survive as hymns, many of his collected proverbs have passed into vernacular usage, and his poetry can be found in virtually every major anthology of English literature.

For more information, see my 2014 dissertation A Soul Composed of Harmonies: George Herbert's Life, Writings, and Choral Settings of His English Poetry.

And since Easter Sunday was just a week ago, here is my favorite Herbert poem on the resurrection.



Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
                                    Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
                                    With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
                                    With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
                                    Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
                                    Pleasant and long:

Or since all music is but three parts vied
                                    And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest

With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.