Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CHURCH-PORCH, by GEORGE HERBERT

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE CHURCH-PORCH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Thou, whose sweet youth and early hopes inhance
Last Line: If well, the pain doth fade, the joy remains.
Subject(s): Religion; Theology


THOU whose sweet youth and early hopes inhance
Thy rate and price, and mark thee for a treasure,
Hearken unto a Verser, who may chance
Ryme thee to good, and make a bait of pleasure:
A verse may finde him who a sermon flies,
And turn delight into a sacrifice.

Beware of lust; it doth pollute and foul
Whom God in baptisme washt with his own blood:
It blots thy lesson written in thy soul;
The holy lines cannot be understood.
How dare those eyes upon a Bible look,
Much lesse towards God, whose lust is all their book!

Abstain wholly, or wed. Thy bounteous Lord
Allows thee choise of paths: take no by-wayes;
But gladly welcome what he doth afford;
Not grudging, that thy lust hath bounds and staies.
Continence hath his joy: weigh both; and so
If rottennesse have more, let Heaven go.

If God had laid all common, certainly
Man would have been th'incloser; but since now
God hath impal'd us, on the contrarie,
Man breaks the fence, and every ground will plough.
O what were man, might he himself misplace!
Sure to be crosse, he would shift feet and face.

Drink not the third glasse, which thou canst not tame,
When once it is within thee; but before
Mayst rule it as thou list, and poure the shame,
Which it would poure on thee, upon the floore.
It is most just to throw that on the ground,
Which would throw me there if I keep the round.

He that is drunken may his mother kill
Bigge with his sister: he hath lost the reins,
Is outlawd by himselfe: all kinde of ill
Did with his liquor slide into his veins.
The drunkard forfets Man, and doth devest
All worldly right, save what he hath by beast.

Shall I, to please another's wine-sprung minde,
Lose all mine own? God hath giv'n me a measure
Short of his canne and bodie; must I finde
A pain in that wherein he findes a pleasure?
Stay at the third glasse: if thou lose thy hold,
Then thou are modest, and the wine grows bold.

If reason move not gallants, quit the room;
(All in a shipwrack shift their severall way;)
Let not a common ruine thee intombe:
Be not a beast in courtesie, but stay,
Stay at the third cup, or forego the place.
Wine, above all things, doth Gods stamp deface.

Yet, if thou sinne in wine or wantonnesse,
Boast not thereof; nor make thy shame thy glorie.
Frailtie gets pardon by submissivenesse;
But he that boasts, shuts that out of his storie;
He makes flat warre with God, and doth defie
With his poore clod of earth the spacious sky.

Take not His name, who made thy mouth, in vain:
It gets thee nothing, and hath no excuse.
Lust and wine plead a pleasure; avarice, gain:
But the cheap swearer, through his open sluce,
Lets his soul runne for nought, as little fearing:
Were I an epicure, I could bate swearing.

When thou dost tell anothers jest, therein
Omit the oathes, which true wit cannot need:
Pick out of tales the mirth, but not the sinne.
He pares his apple, that will cleanly feed.
Play not away the vertue of that name,
Which is the best stake, when griefs make thee tame.

The cheapest sinnes most dearly punisht are;
Because to shun them also is so cheap:
For we have wit to mark them, and to spare.
O crumble not away thy souls fair heap.
If thou wilt die, the gates of hell are broad:
Pride and full sinnes have made the way a road.

Lie not; but let thy heart be true to God,
Thy mouth to it, thy actions to them both:
Cowards tell lies, and those that fear the rod;
The stormie working soul spits lies and froth.
Dare to be true. Nothing can need a ly:
A fault, which needs it most, grows two thereby.

Flie idlenesse, which yet thou canst not flie
By dressing, mistressing, and complement.
If those take up thy day, the sunne will crie
Against thee; for his light was onely lent.
God gave thy sould brave wings; put not those feathers
Into a bed, to sleep out all ill weathers.

Art thou a magistrate? then be severe:
If studious, copie fair what time hath blurr'd;
Redeem truth from his jawes: if souldier,
Chase brave employments with a naked sword
Throughout the world. Fool not; for all may have,
If they dare try, a glorious life, or grave.

O England! full of sinne, but most of sloth;
Spit out thy flegme, and fill thy breast with glorie:
Thy gentrie bleats, as if thy native cloth
Transfus'd a sheepishnesse into thy storie:
Not that they all are so; but that the most
Are gone to grasse, and in the pasture lost.

This losse springs chiefly from our education.
Some till their ground, but let weeds choke their sonne:
Some mark a partridge, never their childes fashion:
Some ship them over, and the thing is done.
Studie this art, make it thy great designe;
And, if Gods image move thee not, let thine.

Some great estates provide, but do not breed
A mast'ring minde; so both are lost thereby:
Or els they breed them tender, make them need
All that they leave: this is flat povertie.
For he that needs five thousand pound to live
Is full as poore as he that needs but five.

The way to make thy sonne rich is to fill
His minde with rest, before his trunk with riches:
For wealth, without contentment, climbes a hill,
To feel those tempests which fly over ditches.
But if thy sonne can make ten pound his measure,
Then all thou addest may be call'd his treasure.

When thou dost purpose ought (within thy power),
Be sure to doe it, though it be but small:
Constancie knits the bones, and makes us stowre,
When wanton pleasures beckon us to thrall.
Who breaks his own bond, forfeiteth himself:
What nature made a ship, he makes a shelf.

Doe all things like a man, not sneakingly:
Think the king sees thee still; for his King does.
Simpring is but a lay-hypocrisie:
Give it a corner, and the clue undoes.
Who fears to do ill, sets himself a task:
Who fears to do well, sure should wear a mask.

Look to thy mouth: diseases enter there.
Thou hast two sconces, if thy stomach call;
Carve or discourse; do not a famine fear.
Who carves is kind to two; who talks, to all.
Look on meat, think it dirt, then eat a bit;
And say withall, Earth to earth I commit.

Slight those who say, amidst their sickly healths,
Thou liv'st by rule. What doth not so, but man?
Houses are built by rule, and common-wealths.
Entice the trusty sunne, if that you can,
From his ecliptick line; becken the skie.
Who lives by rule, then, keeps good companie.

Who keeps no guard upon himself is slack,
And rots to nothing at the next great thaw.
Man is a shop of rules, a well-truss'd pack,
Whose every parcell under-writes a law.
Lose not thyself, nor give thy humours way:
God gave them to thee under lock and key.

By all means use sometimes to be alone.
Salute thyself: see what thy soul doth wear.
Dare to look in thy chest; for 'tis thine own:
And tumble up and down what thou find'st there.
Who cannot rest till he good fellows finde,
He breaks up house, turns out of doores his minde.

Be thriftie, but not covetous: therefore give
Thy need, thine honour, and thy friend his due.
Never was scraper brave man. Get to live;
Then live, and use it: else, it is not true
That thou hast gotten. Surely use alone
Makes money not a contemptible stone.

Never exceed thy income. Youth may make
Ev'n with the yeare; but age, if it will hit,
Shoots a bow short, and lessens still his stake,
As the day lessens, and his life with it.
Thy children, kindred, friends, upon thee call;
Before thy journey, fairly part with all.

Yet in thy thriving still misdoubt some evil;
Lest gaining gain on thee, and make thee dimme
To all things els. Wealth is the conjurer's devil;
Whom when he thinks he hath, the devil hath him.
Gold thou mayst safely touch; but, if it stick
Unto thy hands, it woundeth to the quick.

What skills it, if a bag of stones or gold
About thy neck do drown thee? raise thy head;
Take starres for money; starres not to be told
By any art, yet to be purchased.
None is so wastefull as the scraping dame:
She loseth three for one; her soul, rest, fame.

By no means runne in debt; take thine own measure.
Who cannot live on twentie pound a yeare
Cannot on fourtie: he's a man of pleasure,
A kinde of thing that's for itself too deere.
The curious unthrift makes his cloth too wide,
And spares himself, but would his taylor chide.

Spend not on hopes. They that by pleading clothes
Do fortunes seek, when worth and service fail,
Would have their tale beleeved for their oathes,
And are like empty vessels under sail.
Old courtiers know this; therefore set out so,
As all the day thou mayst hold out to go.

In clothes, cheap handsomenesse doth bear the bell,
Wisdome's a trimmer thing than shop e'er gave.
Say not then, This with that lace will do well;
But, This with my discretion will be brave.
Much curiousnesse is a perpetual wooing,
Nothing with labour, folly long a doing.

Play not for gain, but sport. Who playes for more
Than he can lose with pleasure, stakes his heart:
Perhaps his wifes too, and whom she hath bore:
Servants and churches also play their part.
Onely a herauld, who that way doth passe,
Findes his crakt name at length in the churchglasse.

If yet thou love game at so deere a rate,
Learn this, that hath old gamesters deerely cost:
Dost lose? rise up: dost winne? rise in that state.
Who strive to sit out losing hands are lost.
Game is a civil gunpowder, in peace
Blowing up houses with their whole increase.

In conversation boldnesse now bears sway.
But know, that nothing can so foolish be
As empty boldnesse: therefore first assay
To stuffe thy minde with solid braverie;
Then march on gallant: get substantiall worth:
Boldnesse guilds finely, and will set it forth.

Be sweet to all. Is thy complexion sowre?
Then keep such companie; make them thy allay:
Get a sharp wife, a servant that will lowre.
A stumbler stumbles least in rugged way.
Command thyself in chief. He lifes warre knows,
Whom all his passions follow as he goes.

Catch not at quarrels. He that dares not speak
Plainly and home is coward of the two.
Think not thy fame at every twitch will break:
By great deeds shew that thou canst little do;
And do them not: that shall thy wisdome be;
And change thy temperance into braverie.

If that thy fame with ev'ry toy be pos'd,
'Tis a thinne web, which poysonous fancies make;
But the great souldiers honour was compos'd
Of thicker stuffe, which would endure a shake.
Wisdome picks friends; civilitie playes the rest.
A toy shunn'd cleanly passeth with the best.

Laugh not too much: the wittie man laughs least:
For wit is newes only to ignorance.
Lesse at thine own things laugh; lest in the jest
Thy person share, and the conceit advance.
Make not thy sport abuses; for the fly
That feeds on dung is coloured thereby.

Pick out of mirth, like stones out of thy ground,
Profanenesse, filthinesse, abusivenesse, [abound:
These are the scumme, with which coarse wits
The fine may spare these well, yet not go lesse.
All things are bigge with jest: nothing that's plain
But may be wittie, if thou hast the vein.

Wit's an unruly engine, wildly striking
Sometimes a friend, sometimes the engineer:
Hast thou the knack? pamper it not with liking:
But, if thou want it, buy it not too deere.
Many, affecting wit beyond their power,
Have got to be a deare fool for an houre.

A sad wise valour is the brave complexion
That leads the van, and swallows up the cities.
The giggler is a milk-maid, whom infection,
Or a fir'd beacon, frighteth from his ditties.
Then he's the sport: the mirth then in him rests,
And the sad man is cock of all his jests.

Towards great persons use respective boldnesse:
That temper gives them theirs, and yet doth take
Nothing from thine: in service, care or coldnesse
Doth ratably thy fortunes marre or make.
Feed no man in his sinnes; for adulation
Doth make thee parcell-devil in damnation.

Envie not greatnesse; for thou mak'st thereby
Thyself the worse, and so the distance greater.
Be not thine own worm: yet such jealousie,
As hurts not others, but may make thee better,
Is a good spurre. Correct thy passions spite;
Then may the beasts draw thee to happy light.

When basenesse is exalted, do not bate
The place its honour, for the persons sake.
The shrine is that which thou dost venerate;
And not the beast that bears it on his back.
I care not though the cloth of state should be
Not of rich arras, but mean tapestrie.

Thy friend put in thy bosome: wear his eies
Still in thy heart, that he may see what's there.
If cause require, thou art his sacrifice;
Thy drops of bloud must pay down all his fear;
But love is lost; the way of friendship's gone;
Though David had his Jonathan, Christ his John.

Yet be not surety, if thou be a father.
Love is a personall debt. I cannot give
My childrens right, nor ought he take it: rather
Both friends should die, than hinder them to live.
Fathers first enter bonds to natures ends;
And are her sureties, ere they are a friend's.

If thou be single, all thy goods and ground
Submit to love; but yet not more then all.
Give one estate, as one life. None is bound
To work for two, who brought himself to thrall.
God made me one man; love makes me no more,
Till labour come, and make my weaknesse score.

In thy discourse, if thou desire to please:
All such is courteous, usefull, new, or wittie:
Usefulnesse comes by labour, wit by ease;
Courtesie grows in court; news, in the citie.
Get a good stock of these, then draw the card;
That suites him best, of whom thy speech is heard.

Entice all neatly to what they know best;
For so thou dost thyself and him a pleasure:
(But a proud ignorance will lose his rest,
Rather than shew his cards) steal from his treasure
What to ask further. Doubts well-rais'd do lock
The speaker to thee, and preserve thy stock.

If thou be master-gunner, spend not all
That thou canst speak, at once; but husband it,
And give men turns of speech: do not forestall
By lavishnesse thine own, and others wit,
As if thou mad'st thy will. A civil guest
Will no more talk all, than eat all the feast.

Be calm in arguing; for fiercenesse makes
Errour a fault, and truth discourtesie.
Why should I feel another mans mistakes
More than his sicknesses or provertie?
In love I should: but anger is not love,
Nor wisdome neither; therefore gently move.

Calmnesse is great advantage: he that lets
Another chafe may warm him at his fire:
Mark all his wandrings, and enjoy his frets;
As cunning fencers suffer heat to tire.
Truth dwels not in the clouds: the bow that's there
Doth often aim at, never hit, the sphere.

Mark what another sayes: for many are
Full of themselves, and answer their own notion.
Take all into thee; then with equall care
Ballance each dramme of reason, like a potion.
If truth be with thy friend, be with them both:
Share in the conquest, and confesse a troth.

Be useful where thou livest, that they may
Both want, and wish thy pleasing presence still.
Kindnesse, good parts, great places, are the way
To compasse this. Finde out mens wants and will,
And meet them there. All worldly joys go lesse
To the one joy of doing kindnesses.

Pitch thy behaviour low, thy projects high:
So shalt thou humble and magnanimous be:
Sink not in spirit: who aimeth at the sky
Shoots higher much than he that means a tree.
A grain of glorie mixt with humblenesse
Cures both a fever and lethargicknesse.

Let thy minde still be bent, still plotting where,
And when, and how, the businesse may be done.
Slacknesse breeds worms; but the sure traveller,
Though he alight sometimes, still goeth on.
Active and stirring spirits live alone:
Write on the others, Here lies such a one.

Slight not the smallest losse, whether it be
In love or honour; take account of all:
Shine like the sunne in every corner: see
Whether thy stock of credit swell or fall.
Who say, I care not, those I give for lost;
And to instruct them, 'twill not quit the cost.

Scorn no mans love, though of a mean degree;
(Love is a present for a mightie king;)
Much lesse make any one thine enemie.
As gunnes destroy, so may a little sling.
The cunning workman never doth refuse
The meanest tool, that he may chance to use.

All forrain wisdome doth amount to this,
To take all that is given; whether wealth
Or love or language; nothing comes amisse:
A good digestion turneth all to health:
And then as farre as fair behaviour may,
Strike off all scores; none are so cleare as they.

Keep all thy native good, and naturalize
All forrain of that name; but scorn their ill:
Embrace their activenesse, not vanities.
Who follows all things, forfeiteth his will.
If thou observest strangers in each fit,
In time they'l runne thee out of all thy wit.

Affect in things about thee cleanlinesse,
That all may gladly board thee, as a flowre.
Slovens take up their stock of noisomenesse
Beforehand, and anticipate their last houre.
Let thy mindes sweetness have his operation
Upon thy body, clothes, and habitation.

In almes regard thy means, and others merit.
Think heav'n a better bargain then to give
Onely thy single market-money for it.
Joyn hands with God to make a man to live.
Give to all something; to a good poore man,
Till thou change names, and be where he began.

Man is Gods image; but a poore man is
Christ's stamp to boot; both images regard.
God reckons for him, counts the favour his:
Write, So much giv'n to God; thou shalt be heard.
Let thy almes go before, and keep heav'ns gate
Open for thee; or both may come too late.

Restore to God his due in tithe and time:
A tithe purloin'd cankers the whole estate.
Sundaies observe: think when the bells do chime,
'Tis angels musick; therefore come not late.
God then deals blessings: if a king did so,
Who would not haste, nay give, to see the show?

Twice on the day his due is understood;
For all the week thy food so oft he gave thee.
Thy cheere is mended; bate not of the food,
Because 'tis better, and perhaps may save thee.
Thwart not th' Almighty God: O be not crosse.
Fast when thou wilt; but then 'tis gain, not losse.

Though private prayer be a brave designe,
Yet publick hath more promises, more love:
And love's a weight to hearts, to eies a signe.
We all are but cold suitors; let us move
Where it is warmest. Leave thy six and seven;
Pray with the most: for where most pray is heaven.

When once thy foot enters the church, be bare.
God is more there then thou; for thou art there
Onely by his permission. Then beware,
And make thyself all reverence and fear.
Kneeling ne're spoil'd silk stocking: quit thy state.
All equall are within the churches gate.

Resort to sermons, but to prayers most:
Praying's the end of preaching. O be drest;
Stay not for th' other pin: why thou hast lost
A joy for it worth worlds. Thus hell doth jest
Away thy blessings, and extreamly flout thee,
Thy clothes being fast, but thy soul loose about thee.

In time of service, seal up both thine eies,
And send them to thine heart; that, spying sinne,
They may weep out the stains by them did rise:
Those doores being shut, all by the eare comes in.
Who marks in church-time others symmetrie,
Makes all their beautie his deformitie.

Let vain or busie thoughts have there no part:
Bring not thy plough, thy plots, thy pleasures thither.
Christ purg'd his temple; so must thou thy heart.
All worldly thoughts are but theeves met together
To couzin thee. Look to thy actions well;
For churches either are our heav'n or hell.

Judge not the preacher; for he is thy judge:
If thou mislike him, thou conceiv'st him not.
God calleth preaching folly. Do not grudge
To pick out treasures from an earthen pot.
The worst speak something good: if all want sense,
God takes a text, and preacheth patience.

He that gets patience, and the blessing which
Preachers conclude with, hath not lost his pains.
He that by being at church escapes the ditch,
Which he might fall in by companions, gains.
He that loves Gods abode, and to combine
With saints on earth, shall one day with them shine.

Jest not at preachers language or expression:
How know'st thou but thy sinnes made him miscarrie?
Then turn thy faults and his into confession:
God sent him, whatsoe'er he be: O tarry,
And love him for his Master: his condition,
Though it be ill, makes him no ill physician.

None shall in hell such bitter pangs endure
As those who mock at God's way of salvation.
Whom oil and balsames kill, what salve can cure?
They drink with greedinesse a full damnation.
The Jews refused thunder; and we, folly.
Though God do hedge us in, yet who is holy?

Summe up at night what thou hast done by day,
And in the morning what thou hast to do.
Dresse and undresse thy soul: mark the decay
And growth of it: if with thy watch, that too
Be down, then winde up both, since we shall be
Most surely judg'd, make thy accounts agree.

In brief, acquit thee bravely; play the man.
Look not on pleasures as they come, but go.
Defer not the least vertue: lifes poore span
Make not an ell, by trifling in thy wo.
If thou do ill, the joy fades, not the pains:
If well, the pain doth fade, the joy remains.

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