Friday, August 1, 2008

George Herbert's The Pearl

Some readers of Students Publish Here will remember when I shared a dream I had involving a luminous pearl. In my dream, the pearl appeared suspended in air to my right at a distance away that required me to move toward it. This meant that I had to step out of the procession of priests and turn my back on my bishop to take hold of it.

It was a prophetic dream, occurring almost 20 years before I left the priesthood and turned my back of the bishop’s activism for homosexual partnerships and same-sex ceremonies in the Episcopal Church.

New Hampshire poem, Ed Pacht, wrote a poem about my dream which captures the turning point perfectly in these words:

... a precious pearl, a pearl without a price,
a crystal of the loving tears of God,
a jewel with a secret name upon it,
a secret name that named my soul,
and as I sang the words upon that stone,
I bent in awe before it marveling,
thinking not upon the glad procession now behind me,
but upon the prize that I now saw,
and I bent to seize it, rising with my eyes now turning
from the thing that I had thought important,
to the path the precious pearl had shown me,
and I walked the way that I was facing,
toward the distant city gates,
and the lights came on.

You may read Ed's entire poem here.

My dream of the luminous tear drop pearl came back to me with new force as I was reading George Herbert’s poems and came upon one titled The Pearl. The title alludes to Jesus’ parable of the Pearl of Great Price found in Matthew 13:45. I’m reproducing the poem here in a modern English version, although the English in which it was originally written is much more interesting. For the original version, go here.

The Pearl
George Herbert

I know the ways of learning; both the head
And pipes that feed the press, and make it run;
What reason hath from nature borrowed,
Or of itself, like a good housewife, spun
In laws and policy; what the stars conspire,
What willing nature speaks, what forced by fire;
Both th'old discoveries and the new-found seas,
The stock and surplus, cause and history;
All these stand open, or I have the keys:
Yet I love thee.

I know the ways of honour; what maintains
The quick returns of courtesy and wit;
In vies of favours whether party gains
When glory swells the heart and moldeth it
To all expressions both of hand and eye,
Which on the world a true-love-knot may tie,
And bear the bundle wheresoe'er it goes;
How many drams of spirit there must be
To sell my life unto my friends or foes:
Yet I love thee.

I know the ways of pleasure; the sweet strains
The lullings and the relishes of it;
The propositions of hot blood and brains;
What mirth and music mean; what love and wit
Have done these twenty hundred years and more;
I know the projects of unbridled store;
My stuff is flesh, not brass; my senses live,
And grumble oft that they have more in me
Than he that curbs them, being but one to five:
Yet I love thee.

I know all these and have them in my hand;
Therefore not sealed but with open eyes
I fly to thee, and fully understand
Both the main sale and the commodities;
And at what rate and price I have thy love,
With all the circumstances that may move.
Yet through the labyrinths, not my grovelling wit,
But thy silk twist let down from heaven to me
Did both conduct and teach me how by it
To climb to thee.


CHARLAX said...


I have a great idea it seems to me and when I try to share it it still seems great to me but others have their own ideas to share oh woe oh woe is me they steal my thunder take my plunder eat all my electricity they spill my milk they make work and they make me dig again in the same place that eye filled they pour it on they make it loose they bring it on they make a noose they hang my effigy they make me cry these tears of bubbling try they seal my fate they tear me a new one they smoke and drink and partee some. When they have run out of clichés to toss at me they use my homelessness against me they are prude how rude they have become they sense that eye am one of the elite ones they make aspersions to my good namme they call aggression my middle namme they pull the wool down on my eye they say "he stinks " he never washes" he sleeps in that strang sleeping bag and hashes his dreams and loves hisself not while he eats but after gnashes he makes love to his violet flower and never sleeps he does not drink but never smokes he is a Holy Joe. It's my idea it's my brainstorm it's my brainchild its come from GOD so please kind reader please you let it linger longer than just once more make it last. OH good. Halleluiah.
They are chomping now at this my bit.
After all it was MY idea.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Cool. Reminds me a little of some of my grandfather Paul J. Linsley's work. Thanks, Charles Hice. I think also of the theme in Wendell Berry's "Be Not Ashamed".