Category Archives: George Herbert

A Peaceful Theme for Today

This poem by George Herbert (1593-1633) seemed to speak to me.

George Herbert, who had known ambition and tasted fame as Public Orator of his university (Cambridge), withdrew from a public career to find fulfillment and serenity as the rector of a small country parish.  His poetry, entirely on religious themes, has a lyrical quality that reflects his pervasive sense of God’s holiness and love.  Highly sensitive to the interrelationship of feeling and form in poetry, he tried to make the pattern of each poem uniquely expressive and devised a remarkable amount  of stanzaic forms, even experimenting with visual effects, as in “The Altar.”


Sweet Peace, where dost thou dwell?  I humbly crave,

Let me know.

I sought thee in a secret cave,

And asked if Peace were there..

A hollow wind did seem to answer, “No,

Go seek elsewhere.”

I did, and going did a rainbow note.

“Surely, I thought I,

“This is the lace of Peace’s coat;

I will search out the matter.”

But while I looked, the clouds immediately

Did break and scatter.

Then went I to a garden, and did spy

A gallant flower,

The crown imperial.  “Sure”, said I,

“Peace at the root must dwell.”

But when I digged, I saw a worm devour

What showed so well.

At length I met a reverend good old man,

Whom when for Peace

I did demand, he thus began:

“There was a Prince of old

At Salem dwelt, who lived with good increase

Of flock and fold.

“He sweetly lived; yet sweetness did not save

His life from foes.

But after death out of His grave

There sprang twelve stalks of wheat;

Which many wondering at, got some of those

To plant and set.

“It prospered strangely, and did soon disperse

Through all the earth;

For they that taste it do rehearse

That virtue lies therein,

A secret virtue bringing peace and mirth

By flight of sin.

“Take this grain, which in my garden grows,

And grows for you;

Make bread of it; and that repose

And peace which everywhere

With so much earnestness you do pursue

Is only there.”