A Poem About Prayer

I recently came into possession of a copy of The Complete Works of George Herbert, which I’ve been reading and savoring. (George Herbert was a 17th-century English poet and Anglican priest.) I was especially moved by this sacred poem on prayer, which is part of a beautiful collection of religious poetry by Herbert called The Temple published in 1633.

Prayer (I)
by George Herbert

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 tow’r,
         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.
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