How Important is the Poem

Simone Weil writes in her spiritual autobiography Waiting for God : “I discovered the poem called “love” by George Herbert. I learned it by heart. Often at the culminating point of a violent headache I make myself say it over concentrating all my attention upon it and clinging with all my soul to the tenderness it enshrines. I used to think I was merely reciting it as a beautiful poem, but without my knowing it the recitation had the virtue of a prayer. It was during one of these recitations that, as I told you, Christ himself came down and took possession of me.”

LOVE III

George Herbert

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 anything.

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.

Sources: Waiting for God by Simone Weil (Harpers, 2001)
George Herbert and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Poets  (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1978)

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