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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

His Wish to God - Robert Herrick

I would to God, that mine old age might have
Before my last, but here a living grave;
Some one poor almshouse, there to lie, or stir,
Ghost-like, as in my meaner sepulchre;
A little piggin, and a pipkin by,
To hold things fitting my necessity,
Which, rightly us'd, both in their time and place,
Might me excite to fore, and after, grace.
Thy cross, my Christ, fix'd fore my eyes should be,
Not to adore that, but to worship Thee.
So here the remnant of my days I'd spend,
Reading Thy bible, and my book; so end.









Deeply pious in an intimate way, Robert Herrick, who was almost forgotten entirely in the 18th century, is today widely read and respected for his lyricism and craft.  This poem is a desire to, before passing on, to have a sort of preliminary death, a death to the world, in which he may become closer to God by shedding all worldly attachments.

There's a deep strain of self-deprecation running throughout, wherein Herrick doesn't find himself fit for anything but a "poor almshouse."  It's almost like a form of asceticism.  While I am personally not a particularly pious person, I find it hard not to admire the sense of resolve that must be needed to make a poem like this.  I imagine Herrick sitting there, reading his bible, meditating, until he passes quietly from one world to some other one.  It reminds me of how some monks meditate in the lotus position until they die quietly and deliberately.

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