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Price: $2.15
Product ID : SY685
Weight: 0.06 lbs
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8 pgs., 8.5" x 11"
Minimum Order of 4

This is an evocative setting of George Herbert's famous poem, "Bitter-sweet," by Nicholas White.


Conductor Score for Choir and Strings - Digital Download

String Parts

(Edition for Choir and Strings)


Ah, my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise,
I will bewail, approve:
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament, and love.

George Herbert's poem, “Bitter-sweet,” introduces a familiarity and an intimacy between the individual and the Lord. It has proleptic effects in its balancings of contrasts like “love, yet strike,” “cast down, yet help afford,” “complain, yet praise,” bewail, approve,” and the homely “sour-sweet”—so that the linkage of lament and love at the end, a personalized notion here, seems as inevitable as it does fresh. A subliminal paradox of grace and will resides at the last in an instable syntax. The last two lines—“and all my sour-sweet days/ I will lament, and love”—is the sense here that the speaker is bound to lament, and love, for the rest of his days, or that he chooses to lament and love these selfsame days? Free will or grace? And that last comma. The little hitch of it, the hesitant lump in the throat of it. Perhaps a single ordinary day of turmoil is what this poem responds to. No more, no less. Like many of the Psalms, this poem about affliction’s spiritual functions is voiced on a human scale, not a transcendant superhuman scale.

In "Bitter-sweet" let us apply to poetic practice what Herbert says in "The Country Parson," a prose instruction manual from one parson to others and something of a self-help manual for anyone else: what is needed for a sincere poetry is a capacity for “dipping and seasoning all our words and sentences in our hearts before they come into our mouths, truly affecting and cordially expressing all that we say, so that the auditors may plainly perceive that every word is heart-deep.” Herbert does not storm the gates of the divine nor does he need to be stormed and ravaged as his friend John Donne did in his "Holy Sonnets." Instead, Herbert deliberately submits to a stillness that creates the latitude necessary for some crucial reconciliations. There’s cordiality here—contemporary readers of poetry, imagine that! Not poetry as divine struggle. Poetry as plea.

About Nicholas White

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