Home  »  Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse  »  From “The Church Porch”: Education

Henry Charles Beeching, ed. (1859–1919). Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse. 1903.

By George Herbert (1593–1633)

From “The Church Porch”: Education

O ENGLAND! 1 full of sin, but most of sloth;
Spit out thy phlegm, and fill thy breast with glory;
Thy gentry bleats, as if thy native cloth
Transfus’d a sheepishness into thy story.
  Not that they all are so; but that the most        5
  Are gone to grass, and in the pasture lost.
This loss springs chiefly from our education.
Some till their ground, but let weeds choke their son:
Some mark a partridge, never their child’s fashion;
Some ship them over, and the thing is done.        10
  Study this art, and make it thy great design;
  And if God’s image move thee not, let thine.
Some great estates provide, but do not breed
A mast’ring mind; so both are lost thereby:
Or else they breed them tender, make them need        15
All that they leave: this is flat poverty,
  For he that needs five thousand pound to live
  Is full as poor as he that needs but five.
Note 1. George Herbert, who was younger brother to Lord Herbert of Cherbury, took a brilliant degree at Cambridge and became Public Orator. For some time he expected court preferment, but his patrons died, and he eventually took orders. His short life at Bemerton is described by Walton as that of a saint. His “Temple” was posthumously printed (1632).
  Herbert’s poems are, if not the high-water mark of English devotional verse, yet its most characteristic expression, being the work of a scholar and a gentleman as well as a divine. His sense of rhythm was faultless, and his style exquisite. Observe on the one hand the skill with which he develops such an elaborate ode as “The Collar,” and on the other his fine use of the regular metres. His fault was a too great fondness for conceits, by which some of his best poems are marred. A few passages are introduced at the close of the selection from poems which for this or other reasons could not be printed entire.
  No poet is in such need of a commentator. Edition follows upon edition, but with no effort to clear up for the general reader Herbert’s obscurities.
  The “Church Porch” is so called as containing rules of common morality and good breeding. [back]