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reality. He gave his people a reason for every ceremony and form of their ritual,—he did something far more than this, he ? convinced them that his soul and heart were thoroughly in the
service. He commenced the practice of catechising his flock every Sunday afternoon, and generally secured a full and attentive audience. His love for order and decorum led him to reprove nothing more severely than indecency of behaviour during the time of public worship. Along with his wife, and three nieces of his, and all his family, he went twice every day to church prayers, at the hours of ten and four, and “then and there lifted up pure and charitable hands to God in the midst of the congregation.” This could not fail of producing an impression upon the neighbourhood; a great quiet revival of religion was the result. Most of his parishioners, and many gentlemen from the neighbourhood, constantly attended his chapel during week-days. Not a few let their plough rest in mid furrow, when Mr Herbert's Saints’ Bell rung to prayers, and they are said to have found or fancied that when resumed it moved more briskly to the tune of the good man's blessing.
His main recreation continued to be music, and his joy in it seemed to increase as he neared the glorious region where it is married for ever to perfect holiness and bliss. In his own fine words, he now heard“ church bells beyond the stars," and 16 the sound of glory ringing in his ears." He composed himself many hymns and anthems, and set and sung them to his lute or viol. Not contented with singing these to himself -alone in his morning garden, or in his still study, he walked twice every week to Salisbury Cathedral, that on the billows of its organ his soul might find a “ nearer way to the celestial gate," and when he came back, would declare that he had found a heaven upon earth there. His life, indeed, at all times, seemed a piece of heaven. His charity was unbounded; his habits were severely simple; his affections flowed out in a perpetual stream of cheerful fulness upon all around him. He gave, through his wife, who was his almoner, a tenth of all his tithes to the poor of the parish. On one occasion, he found a poor man and his horse in great distress, the horse fallen, and the man unable to aid him; he put off his clerical
coat, helped, good Samaritan-like, the man, received and returned his blessing, and arrived in Salisbury covered with mire, instead of in his usual clean apparel ; but met the wonder of his friends, by telling the occasion, and adding, that the thought of what he had done would prove music to him at midnight.
During all this time, he had been at intervals composing the inimitable strains which now form “ The Temple.” The Temple of Solomon arose amid the sublimest silence; no axe or hammer was heard in its building: the Temple of George Herbert arose to the sound of the lute and the viol, for it would seem that many if not all its harmonious numbers, were sung aloud by the Poet to his instrument. The poem was not published till after his death, but seems for a considerable time before to have been his darling task, and one of the secret solaces which refreshed his spirit amid its manifold labours, and amid the symptoms which began to multiply, and to prove that his constitution was crumbling, and that "he was now ready to be offered, and the time of his departure was at hand.” Consumption was the gentle messenger sent to conduct him to his Father's house, resembling a reluctant and lingering executioner, kissing, ere it killed, the heavenly
He was at length confined to his house, or to the chapel adjoining it, where he continued to read prayers con-' stantly twice every day, although very weak, till, at his wife's request, who observed this practice to be wasting and wearing him out, he resigned it to his friend, Mr Bostock, yet said he would continue "a hearer of them till this mortal shall put on immortality.” By and by, he was confined to his couch, where one Mr Duncan, a friend of Herbert's friend Nicholas Ferrar (a man of remarkable piety and learning), found him lying spent to a shadow, but with a mixture of majesty and humility in his countenance and bearing which affected him to awe and tears. The same gentleman, returning after five days, found him still alive, but very much weakened. It was on this occasion that he seems first to have betrayed to any one the existence of his poem. Bowing down upon his bed of death, he handed a little volume to Mr
Duncan, and said, “Sir, I pray you, deliver this little book to my dear brother Ferrar, and tell him, he shall find in it a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed between God and my soul before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my Master, in whose service I have now found perfect freedom. Desire him to read it, and then, if he can think it may turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul, let it be made public; if not, let him burn it, for I and it are less than the least of God's mercies.” Mr Duncan, with the precious volume in his possession, had now to leave him, but his old friend Mr Woodnot came down from London, and during the three weeks which preceded his death never ceased to: wait ou him night and day, till he at last closed his eyes. He was, besides, visited and prayed for by all the neighbouring clergy, including the Bishop and Prebendaries of the Cathedral Church at Salisbury; and his wife and his three. nieces were unwearied in their attentions. He was, we said, spent to a shadow, but was a shadow soon to become a substance, and he felt himself about to put on another house, a tabernacle not of this building. His conversation was calm, elevated, and heavenly. He told his friends, that all the joys he once valued, such as beauty, wit, music, and pleasant conversation, had now all past him like a dream, or as a shadow that never returns; he was now about to make his bed in the dark, but praised God that he was prepared. A number of similar expressions, glowing with hope and love, escaped his lips, till the bystanders began to think that his words were a cluster of roses fallen over the wall of heaven
hin he was ready to enter in. The Sunday before his death, he rose from his bed, called for one of his instruments, took it up in his hand, proceeded to play and sing
“My God, my God,
And every string
And added a portion of his beautiful hymn, entitled “Sunday.” “ Thus," says Walton, “he sung on earth such hymns and anthems as the angels and he and Mr Ferrar are now singing in heaven.”
On the day of his death, he said to Mr Woodnot, “I am sorry I have nothing to present to God but sin and miserybut the first is pardoned, and a few hours shall put a period to the second.” Mr Woodnot reminded him of the good deeds he had done; he answered, “ They be good works, if they be sprinkled with the blood of Christ, and not otherwise.” After some severe struggles, and having requested his wife and nieces, who were weeping in extreme anguish, to leave the room, he committed his last will to Mr Woodnot's care; and then crying out, “I am now ready to die; Lord, forsake me not, now my strength faileth, but grant me mercy for the Therits of my Jesus. And now, Lord, Lord, now receive my soul!” he breathed his last. May not every one take up the language of his biographer, and say, “I wish, if God be so pleased, that I may die like him "?
Thus, at Bemerton, for three years lived and laboured one of the most thoroughly Christian gentlemen that ever breathed. His piety had a primitive depth and simplicity, and his holiness was blended with mild and gentle elements. His was that "cheerful godliness” which Wordsworth less happily has ascribed to a greater than he. In person he was tall, , straight, and thin; he seemed purged, resolute, and stripped, as one who was soon to join a spiritual company. · His poem, “The Temple," after some vexatious delay in this also resembling the “ Paradise Lost”) on account of two lines which the licenser objected to—which were these
“ Religion stands a-tiptoe in our land,
was at last published in Cambridge—Mr Ferrar superintending the press—and became instantly popular. It was just an alabaster box of ointment suddenly broken, and its perfume, like ointment poured forth, spread near and far. . By the time that Izaak Walton wrote the life of the author, twenty thousand copies of the work had been circulated. Since, the issue has been very large, and its reputation is still on the increase.
We come now to criticise “ The Temple," although the term criticism applied to what is a bosom companion rather than a book may seem cold and out of place. We come, then, we shall rather say, to announce our profound love for the work, and to assign certain reasons for that love. We may first, however, allude to the faults with which it has been justly charged. These are, however, venial, and are those not of the author so much as of his day. He is often quaint, and has not a few conceits, which are rather ingenious than tasteful. Anagrams, acrostics, verbal quibbles, and a hundred other formulæ, cold in themselves, although indigenous to the age, and greatly redeemed by the fervour his genius throws into them, abound in “ The Temple," and so far suit the theme, that they remind us of the curious figures and devices which add their Arabesque border to the grandeur of old Abbeys and Cathedrals. It was the wild, crude rhythm of the period, and had Herbert not conformed himself to it, he had either been a far less or a far greater poet than he was. Yet, though bound in chains, he became even in durance an alchymist, and turned his chains into gold.
Herbert has, besides, what may be considered more. formidable faults than these. He is often obscure, and his allegorising vein is opened too often, and explored too far; so much so, that had we added a commentary or extended notes on “The Temple,” it would have necessarily filled another volume nearly as large as the present. This the plan of our publication, of course, entirely forbids. We may merely premise these advices to those who would care to understand as well as read the succeeding poem :-1st, Let them regard it as in many portions a piece of picture-writing ; 2dly, Let them seek the secret of this, partly by a careful study of the book itself, and partly by reading the similar works of Donne, Quarles, Giles Fletcher, and John Bunyan ; 3dly, Let them believe in Herbert, even when they do not understand him; and, 4thly, Let them rejoice that the great proportion of the