Treasure Island

George Herbert

(3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633 / Montgomery, Wales)

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Affliction


When thou didst entice to thee my heart,
I thought the service brave:
So many joys I writ down for my part,
Besides what I might have
Out of my stock of natural delights,
Augmented with thy gracious benefits.

I looked on thy furniture so fine,
And made it fine to me:
Thy glorious household-stuff did me entwine,
And 'tice me unto thee.
Such stars I counted mine: both heav'n and earth
Paid me my wages in a world of mirth.

What pleasures could I want, whose King I served?
Where joys my fellows were?
Thus argu'd into hopes, my thoughts reserved
No place for grief or fear.
Therefore my sudden soul caught at the place,
And made her youth and fierceness seek thy face.

At first thou gav'st me milk and sweetnesses;
I had my wish and way:
My days were straw'd with flow'rs and happiness;
There was no month but May.
But with my years sorrow did twist and grow,
And made a party unawares for woe.

My flesh began unto my soul in pain,
Sicknesses cleave my bones;
Consuming agues dwell in ev'ry vein,
And tune my breath to groans.
Sorrow was all my soul; I scarce believed,
Till grief did tell me roundly, that I lived.

When I got health, thou took'st away my life,
And more; for my friends die:
My mirth and edge was lost; a blunted knife
Was of more use than I.
Thus thin and lean without a fence or friend,
I was blown through with ev'ry storm and wind.

Whereas my birth and spirit rather took
The way that takes the town;
Thou didst betray me to a lingering book,
And wrap me in a gown.
I was entangled in the world of strife,
Before I had the power to change my life.

Yet, for I threatened oft the siege to raise,
Not simpring all mine age,
Thou often didst with Academic praise
Melt and dissolve my rage.
I took thy sweetened pill, till I came where
I could not go away, nor persevere.

Yet lest perchance I should too happy be
In my unhappiness,
Turning my purge to food, thou throwest me
Into more sicknesses.
Thus doth thy power cross-bias me; not making
Thine own gift good, yet me from my ways taking.

Now I am here, what thou wilt do with me
None of my books will show:
I read, and sigh, and wish I were a tree;
For sure I then should grow
To fruit or shade: at least some bird would trust
Her household to me, and I should be just.

Yet though thou troublest me, I must be meek;
In weakness must be stout.
Well, I will change the service, and go seek
Some other master out.
Ah my dear God! though I am clean forgot,
Let me not love thee, if I love thee not.

Submitted: Thursday, November 27, 2003

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Read poems about / on: grief, sorrow, change, power, food, trust, happiness, birth, happy, tree, friend, world, fear, lost, pain, wind, star, believe, hope

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Comments about this poem (Affliction by George Herbert )

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  • Carlos Echeverria (1/3/2013 11:09:00 AM)

    A man's religion is his business, none of mine;
    but a secular mind with a Herbert's poetic gift
    would be an interesting find. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (1/3/2010 2:06:00 AM)

    Physical sickness afflicts all as time passes on and love and friend are nowhere near to care too! Finally the thought of God comes pleading for His love at last! This is the life of man showing clearly after pleasure comes pain and after happiness grief is sure in this world! Narration of life of man is fine! (Report) Reply

  • Amrita Ajay (4/3/2009 7:08:00 AM)

    The poem is also interesting in how it contains elements of Moderinsm and Existentialism, and foreshadows the works of later poets like Alfred Lord Tennyson and T.S. Eliot. In that sense, Herbert finds a prominent place in the larger tradition of 'dark night of the soul' writing, from the early 16th century to the present.
    Also in narrativising experience through the medium of poetry, it raises questions of authorial self-construction, agency and activism. Although the issues are not explicitly explored, they are obvious to the modern reader's eye.
    It is interesting how Herbert posits the persona as being a 'passive' object to God's authoritarian manipulations. He claims almost to have been forced into the vocation against his wishes. Nothing in his own life validates a situation like this. This is where the question of genuineness of his doubts and woes needs examination. (Report) Reply

  • Mrs Poonam Valera (11/24/2008 12:49:00 AM)

    so far as the title of the poem is concerned, here affliction means spiritual pangs. when the poet was directed to the grace of god, he expected a number of benefits from his grace like heavenly pleasures and so on. (Report) Reply

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