“Reversed Thunder”: George Herbert on Prayer

I love this poem by George Herbert.  The different metaphors he employs as descriptions of prayer are as startling as they are edifying.  My favorites:  “the soul in paraphrase” and “reversed thunder.”  I’ve chewed on these descriptions of prayer for several months now.

Prayer (1)

Prayer the Church’s banquet, Angel’s age,

God’s breath in man returning to his birth,

The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,

The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’Almighty, sinners’ tower,

Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,

The six-days world-transposing in an hour,

A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;

Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,

Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,

Heaven in ordinary, man well dressed,

The milky way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,

The land of spices; something understood.


3 thoughts on ““Reversed Thunder”: George Herbert on Prayer

  1. Heather Davis says:

    That final line “something understood” seems so modern compared to the rest, like a bridge from some former century to this. Lovely.

  2. I’ve loved this poem ever since I read the Eugene Peterson book on Revelation called “Reversed Thunder”. Beautiful, beautiful poem.

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