George Herbert – 10 – (“Misery” and “The Quiddity”)

[ “Man is but grasse/He knows it -. fill the glasse…” (George Herbert)]

AG: Okay, well, there’s a couple other poems (of George Herberts) that while we have time I’d like to check out with you. In the (W.H.) Auden anthology (that is to say, a book that I’ve mentioned a number of times to you as one of the great anthologies –Poets of the English Language Volume 2 – Marlowe to Marvell, Viking Press, there is “Misery”, a little thing called “Misery”, which has this very nice refrain. The whole poem I don’t want to go through but I…because it’s long – but I like the refrain – In the beginning, or at the beginning, the refrain at the beginning – “Lord, let the Angels praise thy name/ Man is a foolish thing, a foolish thing/ Folly and Sin play all his game/ His house still burns but yet he still doth sing,/Man is but grasse/He knows it – fill the glasse…” – “His house still burns but yet he still doth sing” – (and then the song? what’s the song the man sings? – Man is but grasse/He knows it – fill the glass…” it’s like that – “grass” – G-R-A-S-S-E – “glass ” –  G-L-A-S-S-E.)

Student; Does he do this often?

AG: I think… These are all still Herbert. These are extra Herbert poems that are not in our (regular) book.and….  lets see what else we’ve got of Herbert…

“The Quiddity”  – lets see how that goes – Yeah, it’s a real pretty lyric that somehow they left out – “The Quiddity” – What is “Quiddity? – Anybody?….: The “thing-ity” or something. Well, we’ll see – [Allen begins reading ] – ‘My God, a verse is not a crown/No point of honour, or gay suit,/No hawk, or banquet, or renown,/Nor a good sword, nor yet a lute” – (He’s talking about a verse, all this is defining verse – this is in the Auden book, it’s not in your books – can you hear? – it’s not in your books (don’t worry) -“My God, a verse is not a crown/No point of honour, or gay suit,/No hawk, or banquet, or renown,/Nor a good sword, nor yet a lute./ It cannot vault, or dance, or play/ It never was in France or Spain,/ Nor can it entertain the day/With a great stable or domain./ It is no office, art, or news,/Nor the Exchange or busy Hall:/ But it is that which, while I use, /I am with Thee: and Most take all.” – (that’s kind of nice, so it’s ..a dedication, or is it a word about his verses – (a) statement of his verse as a religious thing to get to God – that is it is “that which, while I use/ I am with Thee : and Most take all.” (and “Thee” in the first line is “My God” – “My God, a verse is not a crown/No point of honour, or gay suit,/No hawk, or banquet, or renown,/Nor a good sword, nor yet a lute. It’s a list poem rhymed – “It cannot vault, or dance, or play/ It never was in France or Spain,/ Nor can it entertain the day/With a great stable or domain./ It is no office, art, or news,/Nor the Exchange or busy Hall:/But it is that which, while I use, /I am with Thee : and Most take all.” – three logical box-like stanzas – crown/suit/renown/lute, play/Spain/day/domain, news/Hall, use. all” – Perfect – he’s very perfect . So, a perfect little lyric.

[Audio for the above can be found here, beginning at approximately thirty-nine-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in]

 

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