George Herbert

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Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see
And what I do in any thing,
To do it as for thee.

George Herbert (April 3 1593March 1 1633) was an English poet and orator.


Knowledge is folly unless grace guide it.
A verse may finde him, who a sermon flies
And turns delight into a sacrifice
  • Knowledge is folly unless grace guide it.
    • Quote reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 364
  • To write a verse or two is all the praise
    That I can raise.
    • Praise, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
    A box where sweets compacted lie.
    • Virtue, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Like summer friends,
    Flies of estate and sunneshine.
    • The Answer, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Bibles laid open, millions of surprises.
    • Sin, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Man is one world, and hath
    Another to attend him.
    • Man, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Wouldst thou both eat thy cake and have it?
    • The Size, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Do well and right, and let the world sink.
    • Country Parson, chapter xxix, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

Letter to His Mother (1609)

  • My meaning (dear Mother) is in these sonnets, to declare my resolution to be, that my poor abilities in poetry, shall be all and ever consecrated to God's glory.

Letter to Nicholas Ferrar (1632-33)

  • It (my book) is 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. (Maycock, A L, Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding. SPCK, London, 1938)

The Temple (1633)

The Church Porch

  • A verse may finde him,who a sermon flies
    And turns delight into a sacrifice
  • Verse 1 Line 5&6
  • Drink not the third glass, which thou canst not tame,
    When once it is within thee.
  • Lines 25-26
  • Dare to be true. Nothing can need a lie:
    A fault, which needs it most, grows two thereby.
  • Lines 77-78
  • By all means use sometimes to be alone.
  • Line 145
  • By no means run in debt: take thine own measure.
    Who cannot live on twenty pound a year,
    Cannot on forty.
  • Lines 175-177
  • Wit's an unruly engine, wildly striking
    Sometimes a friend, sometimes the engineer.
  • Lines 241-242
  • Be calm in arguing: for fierceness makes
    Error a fault, and truth discourtesy.
  • Lines 307-308
  • Be useful where thou livest.
  • Line 325
  • Man is God's image; but a poor man is
    Christ's stamp to boot: both images regard.
  • Lines 379-380
  • Chase brave employment with a naked sword
    Throughout the world.
  • Sundays observe; think when the bells do chime,
    'T is angels' music.
  • The worst speak something good; if all want sense,
    God takes a text, and preacheth Pa-ti-ence.

The Altar

A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with tears;
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman's tool hath touch'd the same.

A HEART alone
Is such a stone
As nothing but
Thy pow'r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy name.

That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.

  • Lines 1-16.

The Sinner

Yet Lord restore thine image, hear my call:

And though my hard heart scare to thee can groan,
Remember that thou once didst write in stone.
  • Lines 12-14


I got me flowers to strew Thy way,
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But Thou wast up by break of day,
And brought'st Thy sweets along with Thee.

  • Lines 19-22

Easter Wings

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,

Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poor:
With thee
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:

Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
  • Lines 1-10

Easter Wings (II)

My tender age in sorrow did begin:

And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sin,
That I became
Most thin.
With thee
Let me combine,
And feel this day thy victory:
For, If I imp my wing on thine,

Affliction shall advance the flight in me
  • Lines 1-10

Prayer (I)

Prayer the Church's banquet, Angh' Almighty, sinner's tower,

Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days' world transposing in an hour,

A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;

Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,

Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,

The milky way, the bird of Paradise,

Church bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.
  • Lines 1-14


Let all the world in ev'ry corner sing,

My God and King.
  • Lines 1-2

The Temper (I)

Whether I fly with angels, fall with dust,

Thy hands made both, and I am there;
Thy power and love, my love and trust
Make one place ev'ry where.
  • Lines 25-28


says that fictions only and false hair
Become a verse? Is there in truth no beauty?
Is all good structure in a winding stair?

  • Lines 1-3

Employment (II)

Man is no star, but a quick coal

Of mortal fire:

Who blows it not, nor doth control

A faint desire,

Lets his own ashes choke his soul.

  • Lines 6-10


My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds

Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
  • Lines 17-18


Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky;
The dew shall weep thy fall tonight,

For thou must die.
  • Lines 1-4

Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like season'd timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,

Then chiefly lives.
  • Lines 13-16

Justice (I)

I cannot skill of these thy ways.

Lord, thou didst make me, yet thou woundest me;
Lord, thou dost wound me, yet thou dost relieve me:
Lord, thou relievest, yet I die by thee:
Lord, thou dost kill me, yet thou dost reprieve me.

But when I mark my life and praise,
Thy justice me most fitly praise:

For, I do praise thee, yet I praise thee not:
My prayers mean thee, yet my prayers stray:
I would do well, yet sin the hand hath got:
My soul doth love thee, yet it loves delay.

I cannot skill of these my ways.
  • Lines 1-12

Charms and Knots

Who goes to bed and does not pray,
Maketh two nights to every day.

  • Lines 7-8


Nothing wears clothes, but Man; nothing doth need
But he to wear them.

  • Lines 109-110

Most things move th' under-jaw; the Crocodile not.
Most things sleep lying; th' Elephant leans or stands.

  • Lines 139-140


I gave to Hope a watch of mine; but he

An Anchor gave to me.
  • Lines 1-2


Surely if each saw another's heart,

There would be no commerce,

No sale or bargain pass: all would disperse,

And live apart.
  • Lines 21-24


Do not beguile my heart,
Because thou art

My power and wisdom. Put me not to shame,

Because I am
Thy clay that weeps, thy dust that calls.
  • Lines 1-5


With sick and famish'd eyes,

With doubling knees and weary bones,

To thee my cries,
To thee my groans,

To thee my sighs, my tears ascend:

No end?.
My throat, my soul is hoarse;

My heart is wither'd like a ground

Which thou dost curse.
My thoughts turn round,

And make me giddy; Lord, I fall,

Yet call.
  • Lines 1-12
Thou tarriest, while I die,

And fall to nothing: thou dost reign,

And rule on high,
While I remain

In bitter grief: yet I am styl'd

Thy child.
  • Lines 55-60

The Collar

I struck the board, and cry'd, No more.
I will abroad.
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?

My lines and life are free; free as the road,

Loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore

What I have lost with cordial fruit?

Sure there was wine

Before my sighs did dry it: there was corn

Before my tears did drown it;
Is the year only lost to me?
Have I no bays to crown it?
  • Lines 1-14
Thy rope of sands,

Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee

Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
  • Lines 22-26

Call in thy death's head there: tie up thy fears.

  • Line 29

But as I rav'd and grew more fierce and wild

At every word,

Methought I heard one calling, Child!

And I reply'd, My Lord.
  • Lines 33-36

The Pulley

He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:

So both should losers be.
  • Lines 13-15

Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to my breast.
  • Lines 18-20

The Flower

Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
  • Lines 5-7
Who would have thought my shrivel'd heart

Could have recovered greenness?

  • Lines 8-9
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 he
On whom thy tempests fell all night.
  • Lines 36-42

A True Hymn

Whereas if the heart be moved,
Although the verse be somewhat scant,
God doth supply the want.
  • Lines 16-18
  • The fineness which a hymn or psalm affords
    If when the soul unto the lines accords.


Throw away thy rod,
Throw away thy wrath:

O my God,

Take the gentle path.

  • Lines 1-4

Then let wrath remove;
Love will do the deed:

For with love

Stony hearts will bleed.

  • Lines 17-20

Throw away thy rod;
Though man frailties hath,

Thou art God:

Throw away thy wrath.

  • Lines 29-32

The Elixir

  • A servant with this clause
    Makes drudgery divine:
    Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
    Makes that and th' action fine.
    • Lines 17-20


O who will show me those delights on high?

Echo. I.
  • Lines 1-2

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked any thing.
  • Lines 1-6

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:

So I did sit and eat.
  • Lines 17-18

The Church Militant

Religion stands on tip-toe in our land,
Ready to pass to the American strand.

  • Lines 235-236

Quotations compiled (not written) by George Herbert and possibly others

Jacula Prudentum (1651)

Full title: Jacula Prudentum; or Outlandish Proverbs, Sentences, &c. Selected by Mr. George Herbert

All quotes in this section were taken from The Complete Works in verse and prose of George Herbert: Volume III, Prose (1874), edited by the Rev. Alexander B. Grosart, printed for private circulation. The book was published posthumously, and probably expanded by Herbert's brother Henry Herbert and others from George Herbert's manuscript compilation.

With regard to the numbering scheme, an introductory note statesː "In the first edition the Proverbs are numbered 1 to 1032, and commence with 'Man proposeth,' &c. and end with 'He that wipes,' &c. ; but the numbering inadvertently passes from 173 to 178, and so onward to 778, when the numbering is continued 780, and so again 831 is succeeded by 833, and 947 by 949. Thus 7 from 1032 leaves 1025, agreeably to our numbering, in the first edition. Our text follows the original edition throughout ; but the additions of 1650 are placed within brackets unnumbered. [...] Original orthography and wording are for the first time restored."

  • 1. Man proposeth, God disposeth.
  • 13. The scalded dog feares cold water.
  • 14. Pleasing ware is halfe sould.
  • 15. Light burthens long borne growe heavie.
  • 18. When all sinnes growe old covetousnesse is young.
  • 20. You cannot know wine by the barrell.
  • 49. Love and a cough cannot be hid.
  • 61. Ill ware is never cheape.
  • 67. Never had ill workman good tooles.
  • 74. Hearken to Reason, or shee will bee heard.
  • 77. When a dog is a-drowning every one offers him drink.
  • 79. Who is so deafe as he that will not heare?
  • 80. He that is warme thinkes all so.
  • 82. Hee that goes barefoot must not plant thornes.
  • 86. He that lives well is learned enough.
  • 89. All truths are not to be told.
  • 104. Leave jesting while it pleaseth, lest it turne to earnest.
  • 105. Deceive not thy physitian, confessor, nor lawyer.
  • 123. To a boyling pot flies come not.
  • 136. Old wine and an old friend are good provisions.
  • 138. Well may hee smell fire whose gowne burnes.
  • 141. Love your neighbor, yet pull not downe your hedge.
  • 149. Marry your sonne when you will, your daughter when you can.
  • 153. The mill cannot grind with water that's past.
  • 155. Good words are worth much, and cost little.
  • 158. The eye and religion can beare no jesting.
  • 165. Debters are lyers.
  • 166. Of all smells, bread ; of all tasts, salt.
  • 169. God heales, and the physitian hath the thankes.
  • 170. Hell is full of good meanings and wishings.
  • 177. One stroke fells not an oke.
  • 183. Where the drink goes in there the wit goes out.
  • 192. Whose house is of glasse must not throw stones at another.
  • 193. If the old dog barke he gives counsell.
  • 196. Hee that lookes not before finds himself behind.
  • 200. The hole calls the thiefe.
  • 208. The honey is sweet, but the bee stings.
  • 213. Send a wise man on an errand, and say nothing unto him.
  • 215. Into a mouth shut flies flie not.
  • 222. One graine fills not a sacke, but helpes his fellowes.
  • 235. One hand washeth another, and both the face.
  • 241. An ill wound is cured, not an ill name.
  • 242. The wise hand doth not all that the foolish mouth speakes.
  • 248. Marry a widdow before she leave mourning.
  • 253. A foole knowes more in his house then a wise man in another's.
  • 279. Many kisse the hand they wish cut off.
  • 286. Goe not for every griefe to the physitian, nor for every quarrell to the lawyer, nor for every thirst to the pot.
  • 292. The best mirrour is an old friend.
  • 294. A man's discontent is his worst evill.
  • 296. The child saies nothing but what it heard by the fire.
  • 300. He will burne his house to warme his hands.
  • 302. All is not gold that glisters.
  • 305. He is not poore that hath little, but he that desireth much.
  • 307. Hee wrongs not an old man that steales his supper from him.
  • 310. Keep not ill men company, lest you increase the number.
  • 314. The absent partie is still faultie.
  • 317. Be not a baker if your head be of butter.
  • 319. Little sticks kindle the fire, great ones put it out.
  • 322. Although the sun shine, leave not thy cloake at home.
  • 334. When you are an anvill, hold you still; when you are a hammer, strike your fill.
  • 336. He that makes his bed ill, lies there.
  • 339. Hee that lies with the dogs riseth with fleas.
  • 344. Who eates his cock alone must saddle his horse alone.
  • 345. He that is not handsome at twenty, nor strong at thirty, nor rich at forty, nor wise at fifty, will never bee handsome, strong, rich, or wise.
  • 354. He that hath no ill fortune is troubled with good.
  • 370. Would you know what mony is, go borrow some.
  • 374. All things require skill but an appetite.
  • 375. All things have their place, knew wee how to place them.
  • 376. Little pitchers have wide eares.
  • 383. The horse thinkes one thing, and he that sadles him another.
  • 386. The buyer needes a hundred eyes, the seller not one.
  • 391. To a crazy ship all windes are contrary.
  • 404. One father is enough to governe one hundred sons, but not a hundred sons one father.
  • 406. He that blames would buy.
  • 412. He that seekes trouble never misses.
  • 413. He that once deceives is ever suspected.
  • 421. He that hath a head of waxe must not walke in the sunne.
  • 422. He that hath love in his brest hath spurres in his sides.
  • 429. Hee that hath one hogge makes him fat ; and hee that hath one sonne makes him a foole.
  • 440. Fly the pleasure that bites to-morrow.
  • 445. A great ship askes deepe waters.
  • 449. Trust not one night's ice.
  • 460. The resolved minde hath no cares.
  • 465. In the kingdome of blind men the one-ey'd is king.
  • 467. Warre makes theeves, and peace hangs them.
  • 473. Hope is the poor man's bread.
  • 475. Fine words dresse ill deedes.
  • 477. A poore beauty finds more lovers than husbands.
  • 495. For want of a naile the shoe is lost, for want of a shoe the horse is lost, for want of a horse the rider is lost.
  • 496. Weigh justly and sell dearely.
  • 497. Little wealth, little care.
  • 499. Gluttony kills more then the sword.
  • 502. A penny spar'd is twice got.
  • 508. He that tells a secret is another's servant.
  • 511. Pension never inriched young man.
  • 519. One enemy is too much.
  • 520. Living well is the best revenge.
  • 523. A fool may throw a stone into a well, which a hundred wise men cannot pull out.
  • 533. Help thyselfe, and God will helpe thee.
  • 534. At the game's end we shall see who gaines.
  • 557. The offender never pardons.
  • 562. When the tree is fallen all goe with their hatchet.
  • 574. A feather in hand is better then a bird in the ayre.
  • 577. Folly growes without watering.
  • 583. Thursday come and the week's gone.
  • 601. The fatt man knoweth not what the leane thinketh.
  • 611. Time is the rider that breakes youth.
  • 619. You may bring a horse to the river, but he will drinke when and what he pleaseth.
  • 620. Before you make a friend eate a bushell of salt with him.
  • 621. Speake fitly, or be silent wisely.
  • 639. Emptie vessels sound most.
  • 648. Show me a lyer, and I'l shew thee a theefe.
  • 649. A beane in liberty is better than a comfit in prison.
  • 676. A little wind kindles, much puts out the fire.
  • 677. Dry bread at home is better than rost meate abroad.
  • 678. More have repented speech then silence.
  • 682. One father is more than a hundred schoole-masters.
  • 684. When God will punish, He will first take away the understanding.
  • 707. Reason lies betweene the spurre and the bridle.
  • 710. Three can hold their peace if two be away.
  • 714. Comparisons are odious.
  • 719. One sword keepes another in the sheath.
  • 720. Be what thou wouldst seem to be.
  • 737. The best smell is bread, the best savour salt, the best love that of children.
  • 743. God's mill grinds slow but sure.
  • 744. Every one thinkes his sacke heaviest.
  • 753. By doing nothing we learne to do ill.
  • 756. Every sin brings its punishment with it.
  • 759. Give not S. Peter so much, to leave Saint Paul nothing.
  • 763. Better speake truth rudely then lye covertly.
  • 766. Better suffer ill than doe ill.
  • 775. A shippe and a woman are ever repairing.
  • 778. He that doth what he should not shall feele what he would not.
  • 779. He that marries for wealth sells his liberty.
  • 782. He that lends gives.
  • 815. In a long journey straw waighs.
  • 816. Women laugh when they can and weepe when they will.
  • 830. He thinkes not well that thinkes not againe.
  • 837. Words are women, deedes are men.
  • 838. Poverty is no sinne.
  • 848. He that endures is not overcome.
  • 850. He that talkes much of his happinesse summons griefe.
  • 874. None knows the weight of another's burthen.
  • 876. One houre's sleepe before midnight is worth three after.
  • 878. It's more paine to doe nothing then something.
  • 891. Hee hath no leisure who useth it not.
  • 897. There are more physitians in health then drunkards.
  • 901. Halfe the world knowes not how the other halfe lies.
    • This is printed in some editions as: Half the world knows not how the other half lives.
  • 906. Silkes and satins put out the fire in the chimney.
  • 911. Life is halfe spent before we know what it is.
  • 916. The little cannot bee great, unlesse he devoure many.
  • 940. The great would have none great, and the little all little.
  • 942. Every mile is two in winter.
  • 966. With customes wee live well, but lawes undoe us.
  • 971. Hee that learnes a trade hath a purchase made.
  • 991. Speake not of my debts, unlesse you mean to pay them.
  • 1010. An oath that is not to bee made is not to be kept.
  • 1011. The eye is bigger then the belly.
  • 1023. An old cat sports not with her prey.
  • [ An idle youth, a needy age. ]
  • [ Silke doth quench the fire in the kitchin. ]
  • [ The war is not don so long as my enemy lives. ]
  • [ Hee that makes himself a sheep shall be eat by the wolfe. ]
  • [ An old dog barks not in vain. ]
  • [ Cruelty is more cruell if we defer the pain. ]
  • [ What one day gives us another takes away from us. ]
  • [ A scab'd horse cannot abide the comb. ]
  • [ The wolfe eats oft of the sheep that have been warn'd. ]
  • [ When war begins then hell openeth. ]
  • [ There is a remedy for everything, could men find it. ]
  • [ There is an hour wherein a man might be happy all his life, could he find it. ]
  • [ Woe be to him that reads but one book. ]
  • [ The love of money and the love of learning rarely meet. ]
  • [ Some had rather lose their friend then their jest. ]
  • [ Much money makes a countrey poor, for it sets a dearer price on every thing. ]
  • [ Your thoughts close and your countenance loose. ]
  • [ Whatever is made by the hand of man, by the hand of man may be overturned. ]
  • [ Old men go to death; death comes to young men. ]
  • His bark is worse than his bite.
  • After death the doctor.
  • No sooner is a temple built to God, but the Devil builds a chapel hard by.
  • It is a poor sport that is not worth the candle.
  • To a close-shorn sheep God gives wind by measure.
  • The lion is not so fierce as they paint him.
  • The mouse that hath but one hole is quickly taken.
  • A dwarf on a giant's shoulders sees farther of the two.
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