Gratefulnesse by George Herbert

Posted on November 20, 2007 
Filed Under Inspiration, Penmanship, Poetry, Teach Literature


by George Herbert (1593- 1633)

Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.
See how thy beggar works on thee
By art.

He makes thy gifts occasion more,
And says, If he in this be crossed,
All thou hast given him heretofore
Is lost.

But thou didst reckon, when at first
Thy word our hearts and hands did crave,
What it would come to at the worst
To save.

Perpetual knockings at thy door,
Tears sullying thy transparent rooms,
Gift upon gift, much would have more,
And comes.

This not withstanding, thou wenst on,
And didst allow us all our noise:
Nay thou hast made a sigh and groan
Thy joys.

Not that thou hast not still above
Much better tunes, than groans can make;
But that these country-airs thy love
Did take.

Wherefore I cry, and cry again;
And in no quiet canst thou be,
Till I a thankful heart obtain
Of thee:

Not thankful, when it pleaseth me;
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.


This lovely poem is one of my favorites, and I think often of the last stanza. I very much enjoy George Herbert’s way of visually and aurally emphasizing important elements in his poems.

Poetry of George HerbertIn my beautiful old volume of Herbert’s poetry (left), a gift from my oldest son, the last line of each stanza is spaced flush right, so that it is emphasized. I tried very hard to make it appear this way in this post, but it doesn’t show up in all browsers, so you may just have to imagine it. Better yet, use the poem as copywork, and write it spaced this way, and both you and your students will have an increased appreciation of its beauty. Be sure to notice Herbert’s warm, intimate tone, as of a child speaking to a father.

With this, I wish you a joyous Thanksgiving!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about George Herbert and his poetry, be sure to check out Working it Out, a wonderful book that is both a devotional and a model for a simple, helpful way of approaching poetry in general.


5 Responses to “Gratefulnesse by George Herbert”

  1. Rose Denson on November 20th, 2007 3:36 pm

    Lovely. I love the written word don’t you? It can lift the heart in a moments notice.

  2. Kimmie on November 24th, 2007 7:28 pm

    Hi Janice;

    Hard to imagine what ‘writing’ and thought in written from have often become. This was lovely and I wish I could see it as you spoke. Thanks for sharing it-may your heart’s pulse bring the Lord praise ;-)

    mama to 6
    one homemade and 5 adopted

  3. Alison on January 23rd, 2008 7:40 pm

    Well hooray.

    We received a quote from this poem. . . the first two lines plus the last stanza, and our family has memorized it and added it to our repertoire of prayers we say or sing before meals. Nearly everyone who has been with us when our family has prayed it together has asked for a copy of it.

    I’d heard that Herbert wrote it but even ordering an anthology of his works and skimming through it, I still could not locate the poem . . . . I correctly suspected that our copy was a bit off, by a couple words, and our copy also did not indicate that it was a small quote from a larger work. . . . so anyway now after many failed googles I have found it here. . . . and of course your full quote enabled me to easily find it in the anthology I ordered.

    Thanks for posting this.

  4. sheila b on November 20th, 2008 11:51 am

    A priest gave this poem to me several Thanksgivings ago, The first two lines and last stanza and I lost my copy, have been looking for it eversince. Thanks for having it here. It expresses a Thanksgiving perfectly!

  5. Michael G. Cole on November 27th, 2008 7:34 am

    As a long retired Episcopal Priest I was moved again this Thanksgiving after reading ‘Gratefulness’ by George Herbert. In the early 17th century his vision and spirituality was one of the saving graces of the Church of England – the church into which I was ordained in 1960. Thanks for reminding me of this.

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