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tread more closely on Love's heels ;—in three days they were one, and Herbert might have boasted, Veni, vidi, vici, were it not that he had conquered long before he came. This princelike mode of courtship seems to have had a happy issue; Walton says, quaintly and beautifully, “The Eternal Lover of mankind made them happy in each other's mutual and equal affections and compliance, indeed so happy that there never was any opposition betwixt them unless it were a contest which should most incline to a compliance with the other's desires. And though this begot and continued in them such a mutual love, and joy, and content, as was no way defective; yet this mutual content, and love, and joy did receive a daily augmentation, by such daily obligingness to each other, as still added such new affluences to the former fulness of these divine souls, as was only improvable in heaven, where they now enjoy it."
Soon after his marriage, the rectory of Bemerton fell vacant, and, through the influence of the Earl of Pembroke, Herbert was presented with it. After many searchings of heart, he was, at last, on the 26th of April 1630, inducted into the pleasant parsonage of Bemerton, which is about a mile from Salisbury. He was in the thirty-sixth year of his age. At his induction he was, according to a custom then prevalent, shut up in the church alone and left to toll the bell; but as he stayed longer than usual, his friend Mr Woodnot looked in at the window and saw him lying prostrate in prayer on the ground before the altar, pouring out, it was found, passionate prayers for Divine aid, and ejaculating rules for the future management of his life-prayers which were heard, and rules which were rigidly observed. On the night of his induction he told Mr Woodnot that he was sure to live well, because the virtuous life of a clergyman is the most powerful eloquence to persuade all that see it to reverence and love, and at least to desire to live like him. And this I will do because I know we live in an age that hath more need of good examples than
On the third day after he was made rector, he exchanged his sword and gay clothing for a canonical habit, and returning to Bainton, where his wife's relations resided,
he saluted his wife, and reminded her of the new position she now occupied, and of the new duties—particularly increased humility—which were now incumbent on her. Like a meek and brave disciple of Jesus Christ, she accepted, and afterwards fully sustained, the gracious burden her husband thus gave her to bear.
And now began a career of labour, so short, so sweet, and so splendid in its holy lustre, that we can best compare it to an autumnal day in the close of October, when the union of the softest of suns and the meekest of earths is as brief as it is bright and perfect, reminding us of that beautiful strain of the Poet himself
“Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky;
For thou must die.”
He commenced his ministerial work, as at Layton, by repairing the church, the chancel, and the parsonage. He began, too, immediately to care for the poor, to visit the sick, and, in the grand, simple, immortal language of Burke, “ to remember the forgotten.” He next bound himself by a set of written resolutions, which we find now condensed in his little book called the Country Parson, to perform his duties in regular system and series. His first text was, “Keep thy heart with all diligence;" and it soon became apparent that he meant it to apply to himself as much as to his parishioners. His first sermon was elaborate, flowered with many of his after “ Temple” ornaments, and delivered with much eloquence.
But he soon found that a rich feather does not always imply a strong wing, and that the force of a shaft is not always in proportion to the plumage which surrounds it. He became, as all true preachers become at length, much more practical and simple; he tried, too, to get his audience to realise the meaning of the English Church service; and, as it was said of Augustus that he found Rome brick and left it marble, so let Herbert have this praise, that he found religion in his parish an empty form, and left it an earnest reality. He
gave his people a reason for every ceremony and form of their ritual,-he did something far more than this, he convinced them that his soul and heart were thoroughly in the service. He commenced the practice of catechising his flock every Sunday afternoon, and generally secured a full and attentive audience. His love for order and decorum led him to reprove nothing more severely than indecency of behaviour during the time of public worship. Along with his wife, and three nieces of his, and all his family, he went twice every day to church prayers, at the hours of ten and four, and “then and there lifted up pure and charitable hands to God in the midst of the congregation.” This could not fail of producing an impression upon the neighbourhood; a great quiet revival of religion was the result. Most of his parishioners, and many gentlemen from the neighbourhood, constantly attended his chapel during week-days. Not a few let their plough rest in mid furrow, when Mr Herbert's Saints' Bell rung to prayers, , and they are said to have found or fancied that when resumed it moved more briskly to the tune of the good man's blessing.
His main recreation continued to be music, and his joy in it seemed to increase as he neared the glorious region where it is married for ever to perfect holiness and bliss. In his own fine words, he now heard “church bells beyond the stars," and “ the sound of glory ringing in his ears.” He composed himself many hymns and anthems, and set and sung them to his lute or viol. Not contented with singing these to himself alone in his morning garden, or in his still study, he walked twice every week to Salisbury Cathedral, that on the billows of its
organ his soul might find nearer way to the celestial gate," and when he came back, would declare that he had found a heaven upon earth there. His life, indeed, at all times, seemed a piece of heaven. His charity was unbounded; his habits were severely simple ; his affections flowed out in a perpetual stream of cheerful fulness upon all around him. He gave, through his wife, who was his almoner, a tenth of all his tithes to the poor of the parish. On one occasion, he found a poor man and his horse in great distress, the horse fallen, and the man unable to aid him; he put off his clerical
coat, helped, good Samaritan-like, the man, received and retumed his blessing, and arrived in Salisbury covered with mire, instead of in his usual clean apparel ; but met the wonder of his friends, by telling the occasion, and adding, that the thought of what he had done would prove music to him at midnight.
During all this time, he had been at intervals composing the inimitable strains which now form “ The Temple.” The Temple of Solomon arose amid the sublimest silence; no axe or hammer was heard in its building: the Temple of George Herbert arose to the sound of the lute and the viol, for it would seem that many if not all its harmonious numbers, were sung
aloud by the Poet to his instrument. The poem was not published till after his death, but seems for a considerable time before to have been his darling task, and one of the secret solaces which refreshed his spirit amid its manifold labours, and amid the symptoms which began to multiply, and to prove that his constitution was crumbling, and that “ he was now ready to be offered, and the time of his departure was at hand.” Consumption was the gentle messenger sent to conduct him to his Father's house, resembling a reluctant and lingering executioner, kissing, ere it killed, the heavenly
He was at length oonfined to his house, or to the chapel adjoining it, where he continued to read prayers constantly twice every day, although very weak, till, at his wife's request, who observed this practice to be wasting and wearing him out, he resigned it to his friend, Mr Bostock, yet said he would continue "a hearer of them till this mortal shall put on immortality.” By and by, he was confined to his couch, where one Mr Duncan, a friend of Herbert's friend Nicholas Ferrar (a man of remarkable piety and learning), found him lying spent to a shadow, but with a mixture of majesty and humility in his countenance and bearing which affected him to awe and tears. The same gentleman, returning after five days, found him still alive, but very much weakened. It was on this occasion that he seems first to have betrayed to any one the existence of his poem. Bowing down upon his bed of death, he handed a little volume to Mr
Duncan, and said, “Sir, I pray you, deliver this little book to my dear brother Ferrar, and tell him, he shall find in it a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed between God and my soul before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my Master, in whose service I have now found perfect freedom. Desire him to read it, and then, if he can think it may turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul, let it be made public; if not, let him burn it, for I and it are less than the least of God's mercies.” Mr Duncan, with the precious volume in his possession, had now to leave him, but his old friend Mr Woodnot came down from London, and during the three weeks which preceded his death never ceased to wait on him night and day, till he at last closed his eyes. He was, besides, visited and prayed for by all the neighbouring clergy, including the Bishop and Prebendaries of the Cathedral Church at Salisbury; and his wife and his three nieces were unwearied in their attentions. He was, we said, spent to a shadow, but was a shadow soon to become a substance, and he felt himself about to put on another house, a tabernacle not of this building. His conversation was calm, elevated, and heavenly. He told his friends, that all the joys he once valued, such as beauty, wit, music, and pleasant conversation, had now all past him like a dream, or as a shadow that never returns; he was now about to make his bed in the dark, but praised God that he was prepared. A number of similar expressions, glowing with hope and love, escaped his lips, till the bystanders began to think that his words were a cluster of roses fallen over the wall of heaven
upon he was ready to enter in. The Sunday before his death, he rose from his bed, called for one of his instruments, took it up in his hand, proceeded to play and sing
“My God, my God,
And every string
And added a portion of his beautiful hymn, entitled “Sunday.” “ Thus," says Walton, “he sung on earth such hymns and