Herbert, Wyatt, Petrarch, and the Gospels

by Prof. Harold Toliver, adapted by Alfred J. Drake

I know the projects of unbridled store:
My stuff is flesh, not brass; my senses live,
And grumble oft, that they have more in me
Than he that curbs them, being but one to five:
Yet I love thee.

I know all these, and have them in my hand:
Therefore not sealed, but with open eyes
I fly to thee, and fully understand
Both the main sale, and the commodities;
And at what rate and price I have thy love;
With all the circumstances that may move:

Yet through these labyrinths, not my grovelling wit,
But thy silk twist let down from heav'n to me,
Did both conduct and teach me, how by it
To climb to thee.

(from "The Pearl. Matth. 13." George Herbert. The English Poems of George Herbert ed. C.A. Patrides. London: J.M. Dent, 1974. 104.)

Here is the relevant set of verses from Matthew 13:45-50: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Concerning Wyatt's "Whoso List to Hunt," refer to John 20:15-17: "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." [Note: the Vulgate Bible's "touch me not" is "noli me tangere."]

Petrarch's "Una Candida Cerva" (The White Doe):

A white deer appeared to me on the green grass
With two horns of gold, between two rivers in the shade
Of a laurel tree, as the sun was rising
In the bitter season.

Her appearance was so sweetly proud
That I left off every labor to follow her,
As the miser for whom hunting
Treasure with delight makes less bitter the distress.

"No one touch me" was written in diamonds and topaz
around her beautiful neck; "Caesar wants me free."
The sun had already revolved to midday; my eyes were
wearied from gazing, but not satiated when I fell
Into the water and she disappeared.