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The Elixir

by: George Herbert

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,

And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into an action;

But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;

Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav'n espy.

All may of Thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,

Which with his tincture—"for Thy sake"—
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:

Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th' action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;

For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.


Taken from The Elixir by George Herbert (1593-1633). Public Domain.

George Herbert

George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh-born poet, orator and Anglican priest. He went Trinity College, Cambridge with the intention of becoming a priest, but he became the University's Public Orator and attracted the attention of King James I. In 1624 and briefly in 1625 he served in the Parliament of England. Herbert's renewed his interest in ordination after the death of King James and took holy orders in the Church of England. He was noted for unfailing care for his parishioners. Herbert's religious poems are characterized by a precision of language, a metrical versatility, and an ingenious use of imagery. Many have been set to music, some as hymns that still remain popular. Another formed the basis of the prayer by which he is now commemorated in the Church of England. This poem is one of the best known and most loved hymns by Herbert. At its heart is transformation – not so much of self but of the work of our hands.

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