The Collar

George Herbert

Edited by Jack Lynch

The copy-text is The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (London, 1633). The notes are my own.

The Collar

    I Struck the board, and cry’d, No more.
                        I will abroad.° will go out
    What? shall I ever sigh and pine?° suffer
My lines° and life are free; free as the rode, destiny
    Loose as the winde, as large as store.° [5] abundance
        Shall I be still° in suit?° always — waiting for a reward
    Have I no harvest but a thorn
    To let me bloud,° and not restore to remove blood from me
What I have lost with cordiall fruit?
                        Sure there was wine [10]
        Before my sighs did drie it: there was corn° grain
          Before my tears did drown it.
    Is the yeare onely lost to me?
        Have I no bayes° to crown it? wreaths to honor poets or generals
No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted?° [15] withered
                        All wasted?
    Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,
                        And thou hast hands.
        Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute [20]
Of what is fit, and not forsake thy cage,
                        Thy rope of sands,
Which pettie thoughts have made, and made to thee
    Good cable, to enforce and draw,
                        And be thy law, [25]
    While thou didst wink° and wouldst not see. close the eyes
                        Away; take heed:
                        I will abroad.
Call in thy deaths head° there: tie up thy fears. a skull, a reminder of mortality
                        He that forbears° [30] refrains from
        To suit and serve his need,
                        Deserves his load.
But as I rav’d and grew more fierce and wilde,
                        At every word,
    Me thoughts° I heard one calling, Childe: [35] it seemed to me
        And I reply’d, My Lord.


The Collar
A clerical collar — the distinctive white band worn by priests — but also a reference to restraint, probably a pun on choler, anger, irritability, and maybe a pun on caller.
the board
The “board” may be a table — perhaps a communion table — though others have claimed it refers to the deck of a ship.
no harvest but a thorn
Compare Jeremiah 12:13: “They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns: they have put themselves to pain, but shall not profit: and they shall be ashamed of your revenues because of the fierce anger of the Lord.”
Cordial can mean either “warm and friendly” or “a medicine good for the heart” (usually alcoholic).
rope of sands
A proverbial expression for a futile task.