Then Let Me Tell Thee A Strange Story

I’m still reading The Temple, a collection of religious poetry by George Herbert (17th-century English poet and Anglican priest).

As it is the Christmas season, I was especially struck by the unique and witty imagery of Christ descending to earth—disrobing as He goes—and ascending to heaven—as a vessel or bag to carry us to God—when I read this poem last night. Merry Christmas!

The Bag
by George Herbert (1633)

Away despair! my gracious Lord doth hear.
Though winds and waves assault my keel,
He doth preserve it: he doth steer,
Ev’n when the boat seems most to reel.
Storms are the triumphs of his art:
Well may he close his eyes, but not his heart.

Hast thou not heard, that my Lord JESUS died?
Then let me tell thee a strange story.
The God of power, as he did ride
In his majestic robes of glory,
Resolved to light; and so one day
He did descend, undressing all the way.

The stars his tire of light and rings obtained,
The cloud his bow, the fire his spear,
The sky his azure mantle gained.
And when they asked what he would wear;
He smiled and said as he did go,
He had new clothes a-making here below.

When he was come, as travellers are wont,
He did repair unto an inn.
Both then, and after, many a brunt
He did endure to cancel sin:
And having given the rest before,
Here he gave up his life to pay our score.

But as he was returning, there came one
That ran upon him with a spear.
He, who came hither all alone,
Bringing nor man, nor arms, nor fear,
Received the blow upon his side,
And straight he turned, and to his brethren cried,

If ye have any thing to send or write,
I have no bag, but here is room:
Unto my Fathers hands and sight,
(Believe me) it shall safely come.
That I shall mind, what you impart,
Look, you may put it very near my heart.

Or if hereafter any of my friends
Will use me in this kind, the door
Shall still be open; what he sends
I will present, and somewhat more,
Not to his hurt. Sighs will convey
Any thing to me. Hark, Despair away.

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