Herbert, George - The Flower
Type of Spiritual Experience
The Poetry Foundation
Herbert may have spent his early years in a home without a strong father figure, but this is not to say that the household lacked a commanding presence. His mother, Magdalen, from the Newport family of Shropshire, was by all accounts an extraordinary woman, fully capable of managing the complex financial affairs of the family, moving the household when necessary, and supervising the academic and spiritual education of her ten children. There is evidence of Herbert's deep attachment to, and even identification with, his mother throughout his works: his earliest surviving poems, which attempt to outline his direction as a poet, were written and sent to her as a gift; he mourned her death (and celebrated her life) with a collection of Latin and Greek poems, Memoriae Matris Sacrum (1627); and The Temple is filled with images of childlike submissiveness and maternal love, devotion, and authority. John Donne's funeral sermon on Magdalen focuses quite a bit on her melancholy, and one wonders whether this too--not necessarily religious despair, but a kind of spiritual vulnerability and sadness--is a crucial part of her legacy to her son.
A description of the experience
Herbert, George - The Flower
How fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! ev'n as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasures bring.
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shrivl'd heart
Could have recover'd greenness? It was gone
Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
Where they together
All the hard weather
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickning, bringing down to hell
And up to heaven in an hour;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell.
We say amiss,
This or that is:
Thy word is all, if we could spell.
O that I once past changing were,
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Off'ring at heav'n, growing and groaning thither:
Nor doth my flower
Want a spring-shower,
My sins and I joining together:
But while I grow in a straight line,
Still upwards bent, as if heav'n were mine own,
Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? what pole is not the zone,
Where all things burn,
When thou dost turn,
And the least frown of thine is shown?
And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my only light,
It cannot be
That I am her
On whom thy tempests fell all night.
These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.
The source of the experienceHerbert, George
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsBelieving in the spiritual world
Squash the big I am