This week’s poem is from one of my favorite poets – George Herbert. I shared more about him in this post: Giving Thanks for George Herbert. In this particular poem, “The Pulley,” Herbert makes a fairly simple point, but in a lovely way. Herbert is reminding us that there is something good about our restlessness, which can be disguised as boredom, ennui, malaise, angst, and even “quiet desperation,” as Thoreau called it. All of these have a weight to them that can pull us down. But what if they are being used by our Creator as a kind of pulley, and actually serve to lift us up? Can our souls be lifted to God by our very restlessness? I think so. And this is what Herbert’s “The Pulley” would have us ponder. Here is Herbert’s poem:

The Pulley | George Herbert

When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
Let us (said he) pour on him all we can:
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
Contract into a span.

So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flow'd, then wisdom, honour, pleasure:
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

For if I should (said he)
Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:
So both should losers be.

Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.

4 thoughts on “The Pulley | George Herbert

  1. I needed this! I am familiar with the poem, but had not read it for years. With all the comes with being a teacher, a husband and a parent, not to mention the other hats I wear, to know that this restlessness is designed to draw me to Jesus brings perspective that leads to the source of all peace. Thanks for sharing!
    I may not be able to pull off that Merton poem into song. But I have used a line from in a sonnet I hope to post tonight. Thanks for all that you share both poetically and devotionally.


  2. So timely! I typed a reply and then lost it in cyberspace because I forgot to login to WordPress first! As a husband, father, and teacher (not to mention the other hats I wear as extensions of those roles) restlessness can feel like the norm. To be reminded by Herbert (I forgot about this poem) that restlessness should draw me back to Jesus, the only true source of rest and peace, who spoke peace to the storm – THAT was exactly what I needed. Thanks for all the poetic and Biblical truths you share here. It’s most encouraging!

    Liked by 1 person

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