George Herbert on Gluttony

This is representative of early 17th century notions of moderation Of passions, George Herbert on gluttony.

The way I am reading it is something like this. You have to “sconses” (fortifications) against it. You can carve the meat and share it (benefiting yourself and other) or you can talk and not eat. After all your body will simply become earth again (your soul is what matters). The point in governing your body is to reign your humors (the four humors) and the passions by God’s rule (even the sun follows a rule). Notice that this is nearly an adversarial approach to desires. Reason is akin to the laws of nature (read: God’s providence), in which man’s have (uniquely) come undone.

“Look to thy mouth: diseases enter there.
Thou hast two sconses, if thy stomach call;
Carve, or discourse; do not a famine fear.
Who carves, is kind to two; who talks, to all.
Look on meat, think it dirt, then eat a bit;
And say withall, Earth to earth I commit.

“Slight those who say amidst their sickly healths,
Thou liv’st by rule. What doth not so, but man?
Houses are built by rule, and common-wealths.
Entice the trusty sunne, if that you can,
From his Ecliptick line; becken the skie.
Who lives by rule then, keeps good companie.

“Who keeps no guard upon himself, is slack,
And rots to nothing at the next great thaw.
Man is a shop of rules, a well-truss’d pack,
Whose every parcell under-writes a law.
Lose not thyself, nor give thy humours way:
God gave them to thee under lock and key.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: