Restless heart!

I turn once again to my high school poetry book, which has been in my possession since 1971 and has traveled with me from N. Ireland to Scotland and then to USA and has resided on my bookshelves in KS, MO, FL, KY and now once again in MO! In the book’s wide sweep of English and American poetry from 1300 to mid 1900s I pause today to enjoy the first, of a total of eight poems, by George Herbert (1593-1633) . The Pulley is a powerful metaphysical poem, a retelling and reimagining of creation. The contrast is made between loving nature more than the God of Nature. God holds a pulley, a lever, to pull humankind back into “himself” sic. St. Augustine of Hippo 368-432 writes in his Confessions the powerful and often quoted line “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Herbert’s poem is four short stanzas, each having a set of five lines – quintains – and throughout the poem there is a structured rhyme scheme ABABA. In high school it was the structure we were taught not, the philosophical scope of the poet’s intent. Today, please pause and ponder The Pulley and enjoy it for what you find there and may you, in your restlessness, know that only in God can your heart find “rest”.

The Pulley

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 flowed, 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.” George Herbert

Lord God,
amidst chaos
amidst evil
amidst fear
amidst hopelessness,
come to our aid.
Our hearts are indeed restless.
Save us, from those who are hungry for power
save us, from those who put self over state,
save us, from those who desire to
dominate, destroy, despoil
people, places, and our planet.
Give courage to those who seek
to hold the aggressor at bay and
save us from becoming like the aggressor.
Hear the cries of the people,
hear the unspoken hopes of those who
find themselves homeless and stateless
and hear the prayers of those who seek to resist.
Lord God,
our hearts are restless,
us find rest in you. Amen.

4 thoughts on “Restless heart!

  1. Most important here is the poignant beauty of your prayer. In these troubled times it surely expresses all. Thank you for that. I feel somehow suspended between the utter horror and disbelief of this war and the notion that sadly, nothing surprises me anymore. As for the poem, it is new to me. I enjoyed it. It has struck a chord and brought an amusing memory. As a very restless and sometimes bored elementary student, my friend and I devised what we thought was a brilliant communication system believing it might escape the teacher’s vigilance. Of course it was far from brilliant in the end. We slipped a piece of twine through a paperclip, pulled it taut into a loop to create a pulley, and attached it between our desks. We could then attach small notes onto the paperclip and transfer it between our desks. The system worked quite well, but was far from unnoticed and therefore short lived. That particular pulley was not a cure for my restlessness.


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