One of the most beautiful English poems, of great simplicity and generosity, by George Herbert. Much of his poetry is religious but his expansiveness means that they can and do still resonate with people who aren’t particularly religious. Love features largely in his poems.
I also quote a comment on the poem by Herbert’s biographer, John Drury. This is a wonderful biography which is incidentally a gently-delivered course in prosody – you could read it, and the poems and commentaries it contains, as a home-study course in English literature:
‘A moving poem. Among other things, it moves us because of how it moves. Simply put, a poem, like ordinary language, is a pattern of short syllables and long ones. They are the pulse of its music.’
The full text of the poem below, and for further notes, see also the Poetry Foundation’s article.
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
Source: ‘Love (III)’, George Herbert, quoted in John Drury, Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert (London: Penguin Books, 2014), p. 1-2
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