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Lis friend, Mr. Ferrar, had translated, and sent them to him with a letter, printed in his Remains.
Unaffected by the ills of the body, the inner man grew stronger every hour; and though almost unable to leave his house, he still persevered in reading prayers twice a-day in his chapel, until prevailed on by the importunities of his wife to confide the duty to his Curate, Mr. Bostock. About a month before his death, Mr. N. Ferrar, whom I believe he had not met since their separation at Cambridge, sent Mr. Edmund Duncon to inquire after his health, and to assure him of his prayers*. When Mr. Duncon entered the room, Herbert was lying on the bed quite exhausted, but turning to him he said, "I see by your habit that you are a Priest, and 1 desire you to pray with me." When Mr. Duncon asked what prayers he would prefer, he replied "0, Sir, the prayers of my mother, the Church of England; no other prayers are equal to them." He was, however, too weak to hear more than the Litany. Mr. Duncon remained at Bemerton three weeks, when his place was supplied by one of Herbert's dearest friends, Mr. A. Woodnot; who declared, after the lapse of well-nigh forty years, that the patience and resignation of the sufferer were fresh in his memory.
Walton's narrative of the last days of the poet is exceedingly pathetic. On the Sunday preceding his death, he called for his lute, and played and sung a verse from his poem named Sunday. It is a composition peculiarly characteristic of the author:
O day most calm, most bright,
* " On Friday (date not mentioned), Mr. Mapletoft brought us word that Mr. Herbert was said to be past hope of recovery, which was very giievous news to us, and so much the more so, being altogether unexpected. We presently, therefore, made our public supplication for his health, in the words and manner following." The prayer is printed in the appendix to the life of Nicholas Ferrar, in Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical Biography, vol. v., p. 265.
The endorsement of supreme delight,
Thy torch doth show the way.
Which parts their ranks and orders.
The Sundays of man's life,
Thus he continued meditating, and praying, and rejoicing, until he expired. On the morning of that melancholy day, he said to Mr. Woodnot: "My dear friend, I am sorry I have nothing to present to my merciful God, but sin and misery; but the first is pardoned, and a few hours wiUnow put a period to the latter, for I shall suddenly go hence, and be no more seen."
When Mr. Woodnot reminded him of his benefactions to Leighton Church, and his numberless acts of private charity, he only answered, " They be good works if they be sprinkled with the blood of Christ, and not otherwise."
He often conversed with his wife and Mr. Woodnot about his approaching dissolution. "I now look back," he said, "upon the pleasures of my life past, and see the content I have taken in beauty, in wit, in music, and pleasant conversation, which are now all past by me like a dream, or as a shadow that returns not, and are all now become dead to me, or I to them; and I see, that as my father and generation have done before me, so I, also, shall now suddenly (with Job) make my bed in the dark. And I praise God I am prepared for it; and I praise him I am not to learn patience now I stand in such need of it; and that I have practised mortification, and endeavoured to die daily, that I might not die eternally; and my hope is, that I shall shortly leave this valley of tears, and be free from all fever and pain; and, which will be a more happy condition, I shall be free from sin, and all the temptations and anxieties that attend it. And this being past, I shall dwell in the New Jerusalem, dwell there with men made perfect, dwell where these eyes shall see my Master and Saviour, Jesus; and with him see my dear mother, and all my relations and friends."
Thus the hours of his sickness became hours of rejoicing, and a light that went not out shone over the dark chamber, for he felt that he was "going daily towards" his final resting-place.
After this discourse he became more restless, and "his soul," says Walton, "seemed to be weary of her earthly tabernacle; and this uneasiness became so visible, that his wife, his three nieces, and Mr. Woodnot, stood constantly about his bed, beholding him with sorrow, and an unwillingness to lose the sight of him, which they could not hope to see much longer. As they stood thus beholding him, his wife [observed him to breathe faintly, and with much trouble, and observed him to fall into a sudden agony, which so surprised her, that she fell into a sudden passion, and required of him to know how he did. To which his answer was, that he had passed a conflict with his last enemy, and had overcome him by the merits of hisMaster, Jesus. After which answer, he looked up and saw his wife and nieces weeping to an extremity, and charged them, if they loved him, to withdraw into the next room, and there pray, every one alone, for him, for nothing but their lamentations could make his death uncomfortable"
Being left with Mr. Woodnot and Mr. Bostock, he requested the former to look into the cabinet that stood in the room, and take out his will; and having obtained Mr. Woodnot's promise to be his executor for his wife and nieces, he said, / am now ready to die; and soon after added, Lord, forsake me not, now my strength faileth me; but grant me mercies for the merits of my Jesus. And now, Lord—Lord, now receive my soul; and with these words he expired so placidly, that neither of his friends, who hung over him, knew of his departure.
With so much serenity was this Christian poet gathered to his fathers, "unspotted of the world, full of alms-deeds, full of humility, and all the examples of a virtuous life." Wherefore, then; should we weep for the pilgrim who thus early in the summer-time set out for the celestial country, where they whom he loved were gone before, and where his beautiful piety taught him to believe that his mother's arms were longing for her absent son. Although he was young in years, he was rich in good works.
It is not growing, like a tree,
In bulk, doth make man better be.
A lily of the day
Is fairer far in May;
Although it fall and die that night,
It was the flower and plant of light.
The flower was only transplanted into a heavenly garden, where no storm can ever prevail against it*.
Herbert was buried, according to his own desire, with the singing-service for the burial of the dead, by the singing-men of Sarum. We derive this information from Aubrey, whose uncle, T. Danvers, was at the funeral. The parish Register of Bemerton states, that "Mr. George Herbert, Esq., Parson of Fuggleston and Bemerton, was
* See the " Flower," in the Temple.
buried the 3rd of March, 1632." He lies in the chancel, "under no large, nor yet very good marble grave-stone, ■without any inscription*;" and when an admirer of his virtues and poetry made a visit to the church in 1831, he found the altar raised by a platform of wood, and the pavement entirely concealed.
Herbert, we are told by Walton, who had seen him, was of "a stature inclining towards leanness; his body was very straight, and so far from being cumbered with too much flesh, that he was lean to an extremity. His aspect was cheerful, and his speech and motion did both declare him a gentleman; for they were all so meek and obliging, that they purchased love and respect from all that knew him." Aubrey says that he was of a very fine complexion. The benevolent expression of his countenance is known from his portrait t, to which the lines on Sir Philip Sidney, may be applied.
A sweet attractive kind of grace,
A full assurance given by looks,
The lineaments of Gospel-books.
His manners corresponded with the sweetness of his features. "His life," says his eldest brother, "was most holy and exemplary, insomuch, that about Salisbury, where he lived beneficed for many years, he was little less than sainted. He was not exempt from passion and choler, being infirmities to which all our race is subject; but that excepted, without reproach in all his actions." Anger, we may be assured, could never long be the inmate of so gentle a bosom.
His virtues were active, and adapted to the wants of
t Prefixed to his " Works," 1709, by G. Sturt.
Poems, by R. White.
Bromley's Catalogue of Engraved Heads, p. 87.