Monday, February 25, 2013

Inadequacy

[Herbert] was a huge inspiration for many modern writers, especially T.S. Eliot. For all his achievements, though, Herbert's candle burned out very early, as he died a few weeks short of his fortieth birthday, in 1633. ....
Above all, Herbert was a clergyman, a priest of the Church of England. Perhaps nobody has better conveyed the gap between the aspirations of that position – the priest of the Living God! – and the frail mortal who dared to fill the job. His poem, Aaron, makes the contrast still more precise, comparing the glorious priesthood of the brother of Moses with Herbert’s own feeble efforts. Christ, though, makes up all deficiencies:
HOLINESS on the head,
Light and perfection on the breast,
Harmonious bells below raising the dead
To lead them unto life and rest.
Thus are true Aarons drest.
Only another head
I have another heart and breast,
Another music, making live, not dead,
Without whom I could have no rest:
In Him I am well drest.
Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest:
Poor priest! thus am I drest.
Christ is my only head,
My alone only heart and breast,
My only music, striking me e’en dead;
That to the old man I may rest,
And be in Him new drest.

So holy in my Head,
Perfect and light in my dear Breast,
My doctrine tuned by Christ (who is not dead,
But lives in me while I do rest),
Come, people Aaron's drest.

THE PRIEST IN THE TEMPLE
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