On Wednesday this week (27 February) the Church of England commemorates the Anglican priest, hymnodist and poet George Herbert. Born in 1593 into the aristocratic Pembroke family, George Herbert went up to Cambridge in 1614, eventually becoming a fellow of Trinity College.
At the age of twenty-five, he became Public Orator in the University and then a Member of Parliament, apparently destined for a life at court. To everyone’s surprise, he decided to be ordained and, after spending a time with his friend Nicholas Ferrar at Little Gidding, he was made deacon in 1626.
He married in 1629, was priested in 1630 and given the care of souls of the parish of Bemerton, near Salisbury, where he spent the rest of his short life. He wrote prolifically, his hymns still being popular throughout the English-speaking world.
His treatise, The Country Parson, on the priestly life, and his poetry, especially The Temple, earned Herbert a leading place in English literature.
He never neglected the care of the souls of Bemerton, however, and encouraged attendance at the weekday recitation of the daily office, calling to mind the words of his hymn, ‘Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee’.
He died in 1633, nine years before the outbreak of the civil war. The prayer below is the collect for the day, can you spot how many lines from his hymns are hidden in it?
King of glory, King of peace, who called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honours to be a priest in the temple of his God and King: grant us also the grace to offer ourselves with singleness of heart in humble obedience to your service; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
24 February 2019