George Herbert’s powerful poem can help us reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for us. Written from the perspective of Christ leading up to His death on the cross, Herbert speaks with great intentionality and depth.

Mar 28, 2018   |  

Poetry is stingy.
She doesn't reward the impatient
doesn't care for the retweet.

Her truths are quiet, subtle and steel.
Crumbs in the digital jungle
Awaiting those hungry enough
to look,                                            
        to follow, 
                to really feel
to feast by thinking.
The fading art of sight
With words that fill your soul,
She awakens a lost appetite
a table set for divine and supernatural light.                                        

The verse isn't for the fast,
        the hurried,
                the can't be bothered.
She waits for the curious                                         
who will puzzle out what waits in rhyme.

What lines stir in imagination!
Herbert's Sacrifice,
        a meal enjoyed with contemplation.
Read aloud, read slow
Take each verse—feel the weight of man's curse,
        our brother's blindness
Covered and cured by the Savior's kindness.

Read and think!
Look and see!
For you, he grieved—for you, the tree!



George Herbert (1593-1633) was a Welsh poet and priest who penned some of the richest theological poetry you will find today. "The Sacrifice," first published in 1633, is provided below as a meditation on Christ’s passion. Herbert’s style and subtlety mean each pass will yield more treasure. Take your time, eat slow, and drink deep. For you, Christ endured this grief.  



The Sacrifice

Oh all ye, who pass by, whose eyes and mind
To worldly things are sharp, but to me blind;
To me, who took eyes that I might you find:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

The Princes of my people make a head
Against their Maker: they do wish me dead,
Who cannot wish, except I give them bread;
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Without me each one, who doth now me brave,
Had to this day been an Egyptian slave.
They use that power against me, which I gave:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Mine own Apostle, who the bag did bear,
Though he had all I had, did not forbear
To sell me also, and to put me there:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

For thirty pence he did my death devise,
Who at three hundred did the ointment prize,
Not half so sweet as my sweet sacrifice:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Therefore my soul melts, and my heart’s dear treasure
Drops blood (the only beads) my words to measure:
O let this cup pass, if it be thy pleasure:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

These drops being temper’d with a sinner’s tears
A Balsom are for both the Hemispheres:
Curing all wounds but mine; all, but my fears:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Yet my Disciples sleep: I cannot gain
One hour of watching; but their drowsy brain
Comforts not me, and doth my doctrine stain:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Arise, arise, they come. Look how they run.
Alas! what haste they make to be undone!
How with their lanterns do they seek the sun!
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

With clubs and staves they seek me, as a thief,
Who am the way of truth, the true relief;
Most true to those, who are my greatest grief:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Judas, dost thou betray me with a kiss?
Canst thou find hell about my lips? and miss
Of life, just at the gates of life and bliss?
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

See, they lay hold on me, not with the hands
Of faith, but fury: yet at their commands
I suffer binding, who have loos’d their bands
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

All my Disciples fly; fear puts a bar
Betwixt my friends and me. They leave the star,
That brought the wise men of the East from far.
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Then from one ruler to another bound
They lead me; urging, that it was not sound
What I taught: Comments would the text confound.
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

The Priest and rulers all false witness seek
’Gainst him, who seeks not life, but is the meek
And ready Paschal Lamb of this great week:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Then they accuse me of great blasphemy,
That I did thrust into the Deity,
Who never thought that any robbery:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Some said, that I the Temple to the floor
In three days raz’d, and raised as before.
Why, he that built the world can do much more:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Then they condemn me all with that same breath,
Which I do give them daily, unto death.
Thus Adam my first breathing rendereth:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

They bind, and lead me unto Herod: he
Sends me to Pilate.  This makes them agree;
But yet their friendship is my enmity:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Herod and all his bands do set me light,
Who teach all hands to war, fingers to fight,
And only am the Lord of Hosts and might:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Herod in judgement sits, while I do stand;
Examines me with a censorious hand:
I him obey, who all things else command:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

The Jews accuse me with despitefulness;
And vying malice with my gentleness,
Pick quarrels with their only happiness:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

I answer nothing, but with patience prove
If stony hearts will melt with gentle love.
But who does hawk at eagles with a dove?
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

My silence rather doth augment their cry;
My dove doth back into my bosom fly,
Because the raging waters still are high:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Heark how they cry aloud still, Crucify:
It is not fit he live a day, they cry,
Who cannot live less than eternally:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Pilate, a stranger, holdeth off; but they,
Mine own dear people, cry, Away, away,
With noises confused frighting the day:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Yet still they shout, and cry, and stop their ears,
Putting my life among their sins and fears,
And therefore wish my blood on them and theirs:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?    

See how spite cankers things. These words aright
Used, and wished, are the whole world’s light:
But honey is their gall, brightness their night:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

They choose a murderer, and all agree
In him to do themselves a courtesy:
For it was their own cause who killed me:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

And a seditious murderer he was:
But I the Prince of peace; peace that doth pass
All understanding, more then heav’n doth glass:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?    

Why, Caesar is their only King, not I:
He clave the stony rock, when they were dry;
But surely not their hearts, as I well try:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Ah! how they scourge me! yet my tenderness
Doubles each lash: and yet their bitterness
Windes up my grief to a mysteriousness:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?    

They buffet me, and box me as they list,
Who grasps the earth and heaven with my fist,
And never yet, whom I would punish, miss’d:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?    

Behold, they spit on me in scornful wise,
Who by my spittle gave the blind man eyes,
Leaving his blindness to mine enemies:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

My face they cover, though it be divine.
As Moses’ face was veiled, so is mine,
Lest on their double-dark souls either shine:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Servants and abjects flout me; they are witty:
Now prophesy who strikes thee, is their ditty.
So they in me deny themselves all pity:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

And now I am deliver’d unto death,
Which each one calls for so with utmost breath,
That he before me well nigh suffereth:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Weep not, dear friends, since I for both have wept
When all my tears were blood, the while you slept:
Your tears for your own fortunes should be kept:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

The souldiers lead me to the common hall;
There they deride me, they abuse me all:
Yet for twelve heav’nly legions I could call:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Then with a scarlet robe they me array;
Which shews my blood to be the only way
And cordial left to repair man’s decay:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Then on my head a crown of thorns I wear:
For these are all the grapes Sion doth bear,
Though I my vine planted and watered there:
                                              Was ever grief like mine?

So sits the earth’s great curse in Adam’s fall
Upon my head: so I remove it all
From th’ earth unto my brows, and bear the thrall:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Then with the reed they gave to me before,
They strike my head, the rock from thence all store
Of heav’nly blessings issue evermore:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?
They bow their knees to me, and cry, Hail king:
What ever scoffs & scornfulness can bring,
I am the floor, the sink, where they it fling:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Yet since man’s sceptres are as frail as reeds,
And thorny all their crowns, bloody their weeds;
I, who am Truth, turn into truth their deeds:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

The souldiers also spit upon that face,
Which Angels did desire to have the grace,
And Prophets once to see, but found no place:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Thus trimmed forth they bring me to the rout,
Who Crucify him, cry with one strong shout.
God holds his peace at man, and man cries out:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

They lead me in once more, and putting then
Mine own clothes on, they lead me out again.
Whom devils fly, thus is he toss’d of men:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

And now weary of sport, glad to engross
All spite in one, counting my life their loss,
They carry me to my most bitter cross:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

O all ye who pass by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;
The tree of life to all, but only me:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Lo, here I hang, charg’d with a world of sin,
The greater world o’th’ two; for that came in
By words, but this by sorrow I must win:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Such sorrow, as if sinful man could feel,
Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel.
Till all were melted, though he were all steel:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

But, O my God, my God! why leav’st thou me,
The son, in whom thou dost delight to be?
My God, my God —————
                                             Never was grief like mine.

Shame tears my soul, my body many a wound;
Sharp nails pierce this, but sharper that confound;
Reproaches, which are free, while I am bound.
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Now heal thy self, Physician; now come down.
Alas! I did so, when I left my crown
And father’s smile for you, to feel his frown:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

In healing not my self, there doth consist
All that salvation, which ye now resist;
Your safety in my sickness doth subsist:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Betwixt two thieves I spend my utmost breath,
As he that for some robbery suffereth.
Alas! what have I stolen from you? death:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

A king my title is, prefixt on high;
Yet by my subjects am condemn’d to die
A servile death in servile company:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

They gave me vinegar mingled with gall,
But more with malice: yet, when they did call,
With Manna, Angel’s food, I fed them all:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

They part my garments, and by lot dispose
My coat, the type of love, which once cur’d those
Who sought for help, never malicious foes:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

Nay, after death their spite shall further go;
For they will pierce my side, I full well know;
That as sin came, so Sacraments might flow:
                                             Was ever grief like mine?

But now I die; now all is finished.
My woe, man’s wealth: and now I bow my head.
Only let others say, when I am dead,
                                             Never was grief like mine.