Moses pleaded with God to save the faithless Israelites.

Thursday. 3/10/16

In the first reading God pretended to be so angry with the ungrateful Israelites, that he intended to go down and destroy them. However, Moses dissuaded him from doing that.

Three hundred and fifty years ago, George Herbert, an English priest, referred to that scene in one of his poems. Herbert wrote Metaphysical Poetry that  presented make-believe situations.

In his Poem “Decay” Herbert pretended that there was a time when God was a friendly neighbor to us all. After three hundred and fifty years the language sounds strange. But its thoughtfulness is worth preserving. It goes like this:

Sweet were the days, when thou didst lodge with Lot,
Struggle with Jacob, sit with Gideon,
Advise with Abraham, when thy power could not
Encounter Moses’s strong compliant and moan,
Thy words were then, “Let me alone.”  

One might have sought and found thee presently
At some fair oak, or bush, or cave, or tree:
Is my God this way? No, they would reply,
He is to Sinai gone, as we heard tell:
List, ye may hear great Aaron’s bell

But now thou dost thy self immure and close
In some one corner of a feeble heart;
Where yet both Siinne and Satan, thy old foes
Do pinch and straighten thee, and use much art
To gain thy thirds and little part.

I see the world grows old, when as the heat
Of thy great love once spread, now as in an urn
Doth closet up itself, and still retreat,
Cold Sinnne still forcing it, till it return,
And crying Justice, all things burn.    

(That final line might have been suggested by Marc Anthony’s speech that predicted that the murdered Caesar’s spirit would come from hell, and “Cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.”   Herbert was sixteen when Shakespeare staged “Julius Caesar.” )

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