To Keep a True Lent – Robert Herrick

To Keep a True Lent

Is this a fast, to keep
The larder lean?
And clean
From fat of veals and sheep ?

Is it to quit the dish
Of flesh, yet still
To fill
The platter high with fish ?

Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragg’d to go,
Or show
A downcast look and sour ?

No ;  ‘tis a fast to dole
Thy sheaf of wheat,
And meat,
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,
From old debate
And hate ;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent ;
To starve thy sin,
Not bin ;
And that’s to keep thy Lent.

Robert Herrick 1648

Well we are in Lent … and how many of us are refraining from a usual activity of some sort … my guess is not many. Above is a clear message in carefully chosen rhyming words to not ‘close down’ and make a mournful show but to open up and give heartily … ‘a fast to dole / thy sheaf of wheat and meat / unto the hungry soul’ … and your soul as well as other souls perhaps.

So the question is what should/(or can) you do to nourish your soul?

The suggestion is to go to the heart of the matter and … ‘to starve thy sin / not bin.‘ … I really like the nice play of simple easily digested words in this poem … and I think I would not be too far wrong if I said that most people think of Lent as a period of denial in some area of food or drink.

Another interesting thought is on old debates that are passed their use-by-date … in the poem – whether or not to circumcise – so another question … the extent that we are harbouring dead issues (I nearly said tissues).

Your word in my ear ...

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