The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


In the annals of sublime Christian literature, high on the list is a clergyman who lived from 1593-1632/3. Isaac Walton wrote of him, “He composed such hymns and anthems as he and the angels now sing in heaven.” That cleric was George Herbert. He is still featured in the Hymnals of today. Such favourites as:

* King of Glory, King of Peace, I will love thee …

* Let all the world in every corner sing, my God and King …

* Teach me my God and King …

are frequently requested and sung by choirs and congregations throughout the land. The language strikes us today as somewhat archaic and there is frequent repetitions of  ‘God’ and ‘King’ together. This latter is probably reminiscent of the concept of the time - the Divine Right of Kings. It cannot be gainsaid that his compositions are beautiful and elegantly expressed in the idioms of the age.

George Herbert came of a prosperous family in Montgomeryshire. His mother was a patroness of the poet John Donne. All his life, Herbert was devoted to music. He came to the favourable notice of King James I. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, and there obtained the post of Public Orator. He briefly became a Member of Parliament, but his greatest contribution to posterity was in his music and his literary works as a clergyman in the Church of England.

In the closing years of his short life, George Herbert devoted himself to the care of his rural community. He wrote a work ‘The Temple’ containing poems of a religious nature, and ‘A Priest to the Temple’ - giving advice about how a priest should care for and nurture his rural congregation. Perhaps one of his enduring poems is a remarkable commentary on love, which many people will know:

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed love, observing me grow clack

From my first entrance in,

Drew near to me, sweetly questioning

If I needed anything.

George Herbert died of consumption at the tender age of 39.

Rod Dawson

Festival Edition 2014

A Saintly Cleric