Sunday Poetry

Herbert uses some obscure words here. Mansuetude. is Gentleness, meekness. Amerced. With a penalty of the amount expressed. The Session Day is the day for the court, generally run by the Justice of the Peace.

Who Herbert says is humility.


I Saw the Vertues sitting hand in hand
In sev’rall ranks upon an azure throne,
Where all the beasts and fowl by their command
Presented tokens of submission.
Humilitie, who sat the lowest there
To execute their call,
When by the beasts the presents tendred were,
Gave them about to all.

The angrie Lion did present his paw,
Which by consent was giv’n to Mansuetude.1
The fearfull Hare her eares, which by their law
Humilitie did reach to Fortitude.
The jealous Turkie brought his corall-chain;
That went to Temperance.
On Justice was bestow’d the Foxes brain,
Kill’d in the way by chance.

At length the Crow bringing the Peacocks plume,
(For he would not) as they beheld the grace
Of that brave gift, each one began to fume,
And challenge it, as proper to his place,
Till they fell out: which when the beasts espied,
They leapt upon the throne;
And if the Fox had liv’d to rule their side,
They had depos’d each one.

Humilitie, who held the plume, at this
Did weep so fast, that the tears trickling down
Spoil’d all the train: then saying, Here it is
For which ye wrangle, made them turn their frown
Against the beasts: so joyntly bandying,
They drive them soon away;
And then amerc’d them, double gifts to bring
At the next Session-day.

George Herbert, The Temple


Herbert, as a scholar, would have known this. Calvin casually quotes Chrysontom in his institutes discussing humility.

For pride is a lie.

The Bison

The Bison is vain, and (I write it with pain)
The Door-mat you see on his head
Is not, as some learned professors maintain,
The opulent growth of a genius’ brain;
But is sewn on with needle and thread.

Hilaire Belloc