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Short poem

George Herbert (1593-1633)

The Elixir

              1      Teach me, my God and King,
              2      In all things Thee to see,
              3And what I do in anything
              4      To do it as for Thee.

              5      Not rudely, as a beast,
              6      To run into an action;
              7But still to make Thee prepossest,
              8      And give it his perfection.

              9      A man that looks on glass,
            10      On it may stay his eye;
            11Or it he pleaseth, through it pass,
            12      And then the heav'n espy.

            13      All may of Thee partake:
            14      Nothing can be so mean,
            15Which with his tincture--"for Thy sake"--
            16      Will not grow bright and clean.

            17      A servant with this clause
            18      Makes drudgery divine:
            19Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
            20      Makes that and th' action fine.

            21      This is the famous stone
            22      That turneth all to gold;
            23For that which God doth touch and own
            24      Cannot for less be told.


1] The title, derived from alchemy, means "the substance which can change base metals to precious", or more particularly in the poem, "the belief which can dignify all experience." It is indicated in the first stanza.

8] his: its.

24] told: reckoned.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: George Herbert, The temple. Sacred poems and private ejaculations, edited by N. Ferrar (Cambridge: T. Buck and R. Daniel, 1633). STC 13183. Facs. edn. Menston: Scolar Press, 1968. PR 3507 T45 1633A. Also The Bodleian Manuscript of George Herbert's Poems: A Facsimile of Tanner 307, Introduced by Amy M. Charles and Mario A. Di Cesare. Delmar: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1984. PR 3507 T45 1984 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1633
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.321; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/13

Rhyme: abab

Other poems by George Herbert