Love by George Herbert


Love bade me welcome ; yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From m’y first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here.
Love said, You shall be he.
I, the unkinde, ungrateful ? Ah, my deare,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand and smiling did reply :
Who made the eyes, but I ?
Truth, Lord ; but I have marr’d them : let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love ; who bore the blame ?
My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat.
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert (1593 - 1633)

Simone Weil, the French philosopher, dearly loved this poem by George Herbert, and it was instrumental in her approach to christianity. She wrote in a letter to Joë BOUSQUET:

Je vous mets ci-joint le poème anglais que je vous avais récité, Love; il a joué un grand rôle dans ma vie, car j'étais occupée à me le réciter à moi-même, à ce moment où, pour la première fois, le Christ est venu me prendre. Je croyais ne faire que redire un beau poème, et à mon insu c'était une prière. (799)

I hereby include the English poem that I recited to you, Love; it played a big role in my life, for I was busy reciting it to myself at the moment when, for the first time, Christ came to take me. I believed I was merely resaying a beautiful poem, and unbeknownst to myself, it was a prayer.

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