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Featured Poem: The Pulley by George Herbert

January 14, 2013
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After a slightly extended break over Christmas and New Year, the Featured Poem is back on The Reader Online for 2013.

As our first Masterclass of the year is taking place tomorrow in London, with our director Jane Davis focusing on the work of George Herbert, we reckon that there’s no better way to start our new year of Featured Poems with a selection from the man himself.

Many of Herbert’s poems explore the idea of ‘inner conflict’, and The Pulley, in showcasing the creation of man by God, seems to indicate that this inner conflict is indeed built into the very nature of being human, as God indicates that man should be ‘rich and weary’. Interestingly, Herbert himself said of his writings, “they are a picture of spiritual conflicts between God and my soul before I could subject my will to Jesus, my Master”.

The Pulley features in The Reader Organisation’s latest anthology Minted, where Brian Nellist has chosen fifty of what can be considered classic and definitive poems that cover all matters, trials and tribulations of life, and teach us valuable life lessons in the process. The Pulley is listed under the heading ‘Never Satisfied!’, yet hopefully you shall find it very satisfying for your Monday morning poetry needs.

The Pulley

When God at first made man, Having a glass of blessings standing by,
Let us, said He, pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie,
Contract into a span.

So strength first made a way,
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that alone of all His treasure
Rest in the bottom lay.

For if I should, said He,
Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in nature, not the God of nature;
So both should losers be.

Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness,
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.

George Herbert

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If you can’t make it down to London for tomorrow’s Masterclass, don’t fret as you can keep up with Jane at any time over on her blog – discover what she has been thinking about in terms of New Year’s resolutions while reading

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