KIng of Glorie, King of Peace, I will love thee: And that love may never cease, I will move thee. Thou hast granted my request, Thou hast heard me: Thou didst note my working breast, Thou hast spar’d me. Wherefore with my utmost art I will sing thee, And the cream of all my heart I will bring thee. Though my sinnes against me cried, Thou didst cleare me; And alone, when they replied, Thou didst heare me. Sev’n whole dayes, not one in seven, I will praise thee. In my heart, though not in heaven, I can raise thee. Thou grew’st soft and moist with tears, Thou relentedst: And when Justice call’d for fears, Thou disentedst. Small it is, in this poore sort To enroll thee: Ev’n eternitie is to short To extoll thee.
Herbert was, famously, a musician - and his poetry is replete with musical
imagery through which he attempts to define humanity's somewhat erratic
relationship with God. But we sing his poems,too, as hymns - and so I suspect
this was the very first of Herbert's poems I ever knew.
I can remember singing it at the Anglican Convent school I left
before my 7th birthday. I didn't understand much of it, but as one who really
disliked the "top of the milk"I remember being quite upset that poor God should have to
put up with the "cream of my heart".
I'm pretty sure I worried, too, about the fact that the writer hadn't yet
managed to officially love God. "Will" was only an expression of future intent, as far as
I was concerned.
Fast forward to a wedding during my first year of priesthood, where the couple had,
in a welcome departure from the normal "All things B&B" chosen to sing this hymn.
And, after a wedding sermon in which I'd pointed out that in saying "I WILL" and not
"I do", the couple were making a decision, a choice to hold them steady on the days
when the strong emotions of the wedding day had vanished beyond recall.
And I realised that loving God was a decision as much as a feeling, too.
And that Herbert recognised this with his next couplet
"And that love may never cease, I will move thee".
It is only by continuing to talk to God, sometimes to just witter (yes, I do that alot),
sometimes to entreat and implore, sometimes to praise and delight in him, that
we keep that love going.
There are days when the world seems particularly messy, when the last thing I
FEEL is love for God (or neighbour, for that matter)....but I tell God about that too
and by throwing all my feelings, good, bad and muddled, in God's direction, I trust
that I'll keep the relationship alive.
I WILL love thee, God...stubbornly, determinedly, because it's what you made me for.