Friday, September 2, 2011

Divine Sonnets

George Herbert, Sent to His Mother as a New Year's Gift From Cambridge (1610) in George Herbert, The Poems of George Herbert, p. 231:

My God...
...Doth Poetry
Wear Venus' livery? only serve her turn?
Why are not sonnets made of Thee, and layes
Upon Thine altar burnt?

Anne Locke (1530 - c. 1598) -- friend of John Knox and a fellow Marian exile in Geneva; husband of Henry Locke and, later, Edward Dering -- was the author of A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner (1560), the first sonnet sequence written in English, based on Psalm 51, which includes this extract:

For lo, in sinne, Lord, I begotten was,
With sede and shape my sinne I toke also,
Sinne is my nature and my kinde alas,
In sinne my mother me conceiued: Lo
I am but sinne, and sinfull ought to dye,
Dye in his wrath that hath forbydeen sinne.
Such bloome and frute loe sinne doth multiplie,
Such was my roote, such is my iuyse within.
I plead not this as to excuse my blame,
On kynde or parentes myne owne gilt to lay:
But by disclosing of my sinne, my shame,
And nede of helpe, the plainer to displaye
Thy mightie mercy, if with plenteous grace
My plenteous sinnes it please thee to deface.

Henry Locke (c. 1553 - c. 1608) -- Anne's son -- wrote Sundry Sonnets of Christian Passions, including one based on Psalm 130, as found in Alexander Grosart, ed., Poems by Henry Lok; Gentleman: (1593-1597), p. 75:

From pit of deepe perplexities to Thee for helpe I cry,
O Lord giue eare vnto my plaint, and aide me speedily.
If strictly Thou my sinnes behold, O Lord what flesh is iust?
But mercy proper is to Thee, and thereto do we trust.
Vpon Thy promise I attend, Thy word is alwayes true,
With morning and with euening watch, I will my sute renue.
Thy servant must depend on Thee, in Thee is mercie found,
Thou wilt redeeme their soules from death, Thy grace doth so abound.

1 comment:

  1. 'But mercy proper is to Thee, and thereto do we trust.' -- what a wonderful phrasing. I sometimes think this thought (Hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy) is the most beautiful one on earth.