Home  »  Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse  »  The Flower

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

By George Herbert (1593–1633)

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, 1
The late-pass’d frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
            Grief melts away        5
            Like snow in May,
  As if there were no such cold thing.
  Who would have thought my shrivell’d heart
Could have recover’d greenness? It was gone
  Quite underground; as flowers depart        10
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,        15
Killing and quick’ning, 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:        20
  Thy word is 2 all, if we could spell.
  O that I once pass’d changing were,
Fast in Thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
  Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Off’ring at heaven, growing and groaning thither:        25
            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,        30
  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?        35
  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        40
            That I am he
  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,        45
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
            Who would be more,
            Swelling through store,
  Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.
Note 1. Line 3.—Demean, for demeanour, or more probably for demesne, an estate. The flowers not only have their property of sweetness, but the passing of winter makes them still more pleasant. [back]
Note 2. Line 20.—Is, i.e. is in itself, or unchangeably; it is what it is by God’s immediate ordinance. [back]