“Sin’s Round”: a poem for Ash Wednesday by George Herbert, on his deathday (1633)

by Kim on March 1, 2017

GH at his learned, deep, and witty best: a seriously self-critical confession, yet spoken with no strained stained-glass voice, rather sung serenely with wit, modesty, and charm to the Judge who is his Friend.

Sorry I am, my God, sorry I am
That my offences course it in a ring.
My thoughts are working like a busy flame,
Until their cockatrice they hatch and bring:
And when they once have perfected their draughts,
My words take fire from my inflamed thoughts.

My words take fire from my inflamed thoughts,
Which spit it forth like the Sicilian Hill.
They vent the wares, and pass them with their faults,
And by their breathing ventilate the ill.
But words suffice not, where are lewd intentions:
My hands do join to finish the inventions.

My hands do join to finish the inventions:
And so my sins ascend three stories high,
As Babel grew, before there were dissensions.
Yet ill deeds loiter not: for they supply
New thoughts of sinning: wherefore, to my shame,
Sorry I am, my God, sorry I am.

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