Would you guess it?

If you read just the last four lines, what would you think this poem was about? My guess is most people would answer ‘Love’, which is appropriate as it is George Herbert’s “Prayer”.

Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,

God’s breath in man returning to his birth,

The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,

The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth

Engine against th’Almighty, sinner’s tower,

Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,

The six-days world transposing in an hour,

A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;

Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,

Exalted manna, gladness of the best,

Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,

The milky way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,

The land of spices; something understood.

At the start of Lent it was good to read this with friends and finally find a way in to Herbert’s verses. I love how the writing becomes almost ecstatically abstract as the poem goes on.

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