Lenten thoughts, and some good advice from Robert Herrick

Now that we are in the season of Lent, I’m sure we are all thinking about what we can give up for the duration.  Chocolate?  Cigarettes?  Alcohol?  Here is what I think is some excellent advice from – who else? – Robert Herrick.  There may have been some particular significance for his parishioners at the time that he wrote it -perhaps that the proto-Cavalier (High Church) faction shouldn’t make too great a show of giving up meat then stuffing their faces with fish on the one hand – on the other that the Puritan faction shouldn’t be too ostentatious in their fasting and general misery-guttedness – but I think his general point remains valid.

I’m rather tempted to give up blogging and hand the whole thing over to Herrick – he does seem to have an appropriate poem for every occasion.

To Keep a True Lent

by Robert Herrick

IS this a fast, to keep
                The larder lean ?
                            And clean
From fat of veals and sheep ?

Is it to quit the dish
                Of flesh, yet still
                            To fill
The platter high with fish ?

Is it to fast an hour,
                Or ragg’d to go,
                            Or show
A downcast look and sour ?

No ;  ‘tis a fast to dole
                Thy sheaf of wheat,
                            And meat,
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,
                From old debate
                            And hate ;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent ;
                To starve thy sin,
                            Not bin ;
And that’s to keep thy Lent.

4 thoughts on “Lenten thoughts, and some good advice from Robert Herrick

  1. I’m ashamed to say that I’d never heard of Robert Herrick before your blog. I showed it to The Aged Parent who said “Oh for God’s sake, EVERYONE knows Robert Herrick!” That’s me told. A very pleasing discovery. Please don’t give up blogging though.

    • No, I haven’t given up. Been at it again this evening, in fact.

      Actually all I knew about Herrick were the two or three of his that turn up in anthologies sometimes. Didn’t even realise he’d been a clergyman. He is good, though, isn’t he? Glad you’re enjoying them.

      One thing I find I’m enjoying most about writing this, in fact, is rediscovering writers I’d forgotten or knew little about in the first place.

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