Posted by: Phoebe | February 25, 2010

“Love” by Herbert, with a retelling

Here is one of my favorite poems, again on the theme of God’s love.

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning 

If I lacked anything.

 

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:

Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,

I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes but I?

 

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

My dear, then I will serve.

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

So I did sit and eat.

 

~ George Herbert (1593-1633)

 

This poem always teaches me something new. This time I noticed the use of the homophonic words I/eyes in it. Love (Christ) is quick-eyed, seeing my need. The speaker in the poem, I, seeks a guest worthy of Love. Who is that guest? Love said, You shall be he. I am that guest. I the unkind, ungrateful? I cannot look on thee [with my eyes]. Love took my hand and smiling did reply, Who made the eyes but I?

How beautiful. In keeping with this poem, I will speak in the first person as I extrapolate on the poem.

I enter a room, welcomed at the door by Love. I am fearful and draw back, ashamed of my sin, ashamed of myself. I cannot meet. . . his eyes. Love tells me I am a worthy guest? How can that be? He tells me he made me, he made my eyes. He sees me with his eyes of love and wants me to see myself through those eyes. He is remaking I, me, in a new identity. He is remaking my eyes to see with love.  I am not worthy, for I have marred my eyes and I am blind; in doing so I have marred his property, for he made my eyes.

But he makes me worthy. He bears the blame for the marring of myself that I have done! Moreover, when I ask to serve, to work off my guilt, to gain the privilege of being here, he will not let me.  The gift of his love is free and boundless. He asks me to receive his grace, to sit down and rest. He serves. Serves me his food of life, himself, and for the first time in my life, I am full. As I eat, all I can see is him and his eyes of love for me. My eyes, unworthy yet free from shame, wholly joyful and peaceful, are free to gaze back.

Amen. Thank you Lord Jesus!

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