[The Temple, Detail of Model]from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert:


The Altar.

A  broken   A L T A R,  Lord,  thy  servant  reares,
Made  of  a  heart,  and  cemented  with   teares:
Whose  parts  are as  thy  hand did frame;
No workmans tool hath touch’d the same.
A    H E A R T     alone
Is    such    a     stone,
As      nothing      but
Thy  pow’r doth  cut.
Wherefore each part
Of   my   hard   heart
Meets  in  this  frame,
To  praise thy  Name;
That,   if   I   chance   to   hold   my   peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O  let  thy   blessed   S A C  R  I  F  I C E   be  mine,
And    sanctifie   this   A  L  T  A  R   to   be   thine.

  • "George Herbert: 'The Altar'" Understanding patterned or shaped poems.
  • "'To love the strife': George Herbert's Struggle for his Poetry" by Bruce A. Johnson. Renascence, 00344346, Winter94, Vol. 46, Issue 2. [Poems cited: "Praise (III)," "Denial," "Jordan (II)," "Providence," "The Altar," "The Windows," "Aaron," "The Priesthood," "Grief," "Judgement," "Employment (II)," "The Banquet."]
  • Personal Commentary: Tim Nortgren, "The Altar."

    Joseph Addison, in The Spectator, No. 58, Monday, May 7, 1711, argued against ancient Greek poems in the shape of eggs, &c. as false wit. He continued:

         Mr. Dryden hints at this obsolete kind of Wit [shaped poems] in one of the following Verses in his Mac Fleckno; which an English Reader cannot understand, who does not know that there are those little Poems abovementioned in the Shape of Wings and Altars.
           . . . Chuse for thy Command
    Some peaceful Province in Acrostick Land;
    There may'st thou Wings display, and Altars raise,
    And torture one poor Word a thousand Ways.
         This Fashion of false Wit was revived by several Poets of the last Age, and in particular may be met with among Mr. Herbert's Poems; . . . .

  • ''The Altar'' in the 1633 Edition

    Alex Trebeck showed this page on Jeopardy asking what was the verse depicting, but no contestant asked "What is an altar?"

    Modern version

    1633 Poem Index George Herbert & The Temple Home Page