A Monthly Letter from Barbara
I visited some friends last year, who had brought their caravan to Old Sarum. We were driving around Salisbury when I saw we were near Bemerton. Driving to Portsmouth, I had often seen a sign for it but never had time to visit. This seemed like a good opportunity.
Why would I want to go there?
I have always liked the poetry of George Herbert, one of the metaphysical poets. Sometimes they are called the Caroline Divines as they wrote in the time of Charles 1. These were times of great political change as are our own times. George Herbert was born into an aristocratic family, went to cambridge, became a fellow of Trinity College and then a Member of Parliament.
He seemed destined for greatness but he was prepared to speak out about what he believed was wrong and ended up leaving political and court life.
Instead, he was ordained and became vicar of Bemerton, where he stayed until he died at the age of 44. He was buried in the tiny churchyard of that tiny church. Sadly, when I found the church, it was closed, but I could walk around the churchyard.
George Herbert was someone who cared about the people in his parish and wrote prolifically. His poetry became well known and his hymns are still sung today. We do not have saints, as such, in the Anglican Church but keep all those from pre-reformation times and add all other notable faithful people of all denominations while not actually calling them saints.
In a recent conversation with the same friends, with whom I found Bemerton, we spoke about what is important in life. They came up with: to be the best you can, to be happy and fulfilled, and how love and forgiveness can make such a difference. My friends are not religious at all.
My favourite poem of George Herbert is called 'Love', which speaks in some ways of the love and forgiveness which are so important in life.
Love 111 by George Herbert
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 anything.
'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.
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