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That if he loved himself
he should be merciful
to his beast: the gist
of what Herbert said
to the man whose horse had
“fallen under its load.”

He was on his way
to play music he called
his heaven upon earth;
but stopped to help
the man unload the horse.

I like to imagine that road.
1631. Little more than mud-ruts.
What did it sound like?
A flaring horse. Squeaks
of rope and wicker. Two men,
a poor man and a parson,

grunting. Then exchanging
blessings. And beyond—
in that plain that was still
part wilderness, the wheeling
cry of a lapwing….

Arriving in Salisbury, notably
“soiled and discomposed”
among his musician friends,
Herbert gives an account.
Announces, “Now,
let us tune our instruments.”


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