George Herbert – 8 (“Love” – 1)

[Rembrandt Van Rijn, “The Supper at Emmaus”  (1648)]

AG: So, (George Herbert’s)  “Love Bade Me Welcome”

“Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back Guilty of dust and sin./But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack/ From my first entrance in,/Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning, If I lacked any thing.” – (that’s pretty good, actually, he’s gotten into Love (whatever it is) and he’s gone slack, or he’s lost his.. lost the hardness of his impulse!)- “observing me grow slack/ From my first entrance in” – (for a divine poem, this is pretty raunchy, actually -except, it’s so delicately done that nobody could possibly object except the most masochistic writer) – So – “But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack/ From my first entrance in,/Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning, If I lacked any thing.” – (Real love, I mean, you couldn’t want anyone better,in bed..” you know,) – “drew near” – (so quick-eyed, drew near – “Do you want it? – Is there anything missing? Is there anything I can do?”)

“A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:/Love said, You shall be he./I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,/ I cannot look on thee./Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,/Who made the eyes but I?/ Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame/Go where it doth deserve./And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?/My dear, then I will serve./You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:/So I did sit and eat.”

That’s really nice. That’s a good. That’s closer to a really gentle and whole love relation (be it either divine or human nature) that you could find, I think, in poetry. It’s one of the most delicate poems of transference of feeling that exists, I think. There are very few poems that are so straightforward in the resolution of the fear and anxiety of, just, direct love, or even divine love, that I know of. There aren’t many that dramatize it and give the dialogue so perfectly that it becomes archetypal (I mean I was burlesquing it, but it’s quite serious). I mean, I feel that all the time. If I’m in bed with someone and things are going well, there’s always this immediate thing, “How do I deserve this?” and ”Is it me?”. You know, instead of enjoying the love, I immediately begin worrying whether it’s… whether I’m doing alright, whether I deserve it, you know, or maybe even there’s been a mistake who I am, that maybe somebody thinks I’m somebody else and… then there’s fucking “Allen Ginsberg” instead of me and..something. So, the same with (George) Herbert, and with anybody -beginning with, ““Love bade me welcome”

Has anybody known this poem? I think it’s a great archetype. I guess it’s the.. the most perfect statement of transformation from anxiety, guilt and sense of sin to acceptance, and actual exchange of the tenderness, forgiveness, or whatever it is, that balances it out.

“..who is…..My dear, then I will serve” – (I didn’t quite get that) -“ And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?” – (that’s God/Christ, we’re’s talking about. Christ died for men’s sins, so Christ “bore the blame. Is that clear? was that clear? – oh, okay)

Student: But it’s “Love” who “bore the blame”..

AG: Well, I know, but, given the previous poem of “my God and King” and all that, Christ is come. He’s not laying out a strictly religious language but it’s a sort of a disguise-language for divine love and when it gets to “Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame/Go where it doth deserve.” – (that’s “let my shame go to Hell, not to Heaven where you’re taking me” – but then Love says, “No, Christ died for your sins, don’t you know who “bore the blame” for you being marred and everything? -Christ did that already, so it’s wiped out”). Then he says – I think he says – (that’s Herbert now talking back) – “My dear, then I will serve” (meaning, “Okay, I’ll serve.. serve Love, serve Christ, serve in this exchange. in this exchange which means being down here in the world, living in the meat (or, even eating the body of Christ, eating God).. what is it? – the bread and the wine is the blood and flesh of Christ? (or the flesh and blood – bread-wine-flesh-blood in Christian services). So, when,“You must sit down.. and taste my meat” – ( that means, eat God. or, you know, like…accept God’s suffering for your existence here, and work with your existence, take the meat, eat it up, eat it, you’re alive, eat it. “So I did sit and eat” – (that’s pretty nice)

Peter Orlovsky: Was that with Love, eat – that question?

AG: Well both. Here I imagine Christ and Love are the same . You could take it.. It wouldn’t have to be Christ, it would have to be.. I mean, you could. interpret it .. well, a lot of things, a lot of things.. You know, there’s a little bit of, you know.. it’s almost as if Love is a mother here too, there’s a little bit of the maternal (the mother sacrificing for the childre, saying “Okay, sit down and taste my meat’ (the mother gets worn-out with her children, there’s a little element of that (of the baby and the old man, or the baby and the old woman – a babe and an elder, as in “Child/My Lord” , the last time, in “The Collar”), but the relationship seems to be “Child” and “My Lord”. Here, it doesn’t say …Is there a “she” anywhere? No, it doesn’t say “she” does it? – it’s very interesting, he doesn’t say “he’ or “she”, it’s just Love. So it’s kind of a trick, a mental trick, he’s laying out there to cover any case that you might want to put it into (it could be considered Christ, or it could be considered The Supreme Whore, Magna Mater, or it could be considered just Nature, or it could be considered any love relationship where one has to sacrifice for the other . “Take my meat” is pretty raw, though – “You “must sit down and take my meat”

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-seven-and-a-half minutes in]

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