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The All-Important Comma

George Herbert (1593-1633), well-known poet of his age, was born in Wales, educated at Cambridge, and became vicar of Bemerton, Wiltshire, for three years before his death from consumption.


He wrote the words of one of the most beautiful hymns now in the Anglican hymnal, Hymns Ancient and Modern, "King of Glory".

The first verse reads


KING of glory, King of peace

            I will love thee;

And, that love may never cease,

            I will move thee.

Thou hast granted my request,

            Thou hast heard me;

Thou didst note my working breast,

            Thou hast spared me. Alleluia!


A cursory reading suggests that the comma after "And" in the second line is redundant. But a closer inspection discloses the deep, beautiful sentiment of a consecrated heart.

Here the recovered sinner sets forth his petition (move thee) to God to hedge against any dilution or faltering of his love for God. Please, God, he implores, do not let me lose this wonderful adoration for You nor allow anything to rob me of it. And affirming indeed, you have already heard my prayer, you have delivered me from my aching spirit, spared me. The succeeding verses amplify the song of praise.

For a man who died at 40, Herbert cultivated a deep Godliness. His sanctified voice resonates 400 years on.


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