As Anna often reminds me in a joking way, I tend to remember a great deal of what I read or hear.  I can often remember about where a phrase or comment occurs in a book, enough of a magazine article to look it up several years later (assuming it’s accessible to Google) etc…  Given this, you might understand my frustration at not being able to find a poem which contained a line that I thought would be a wonderful illustration of the Anglican pastoral tradition, and the respect for even the most mundane of everyday tasks that it lifts up.

The line as I remembered it was “to sweep a floor as though for Christ,” but I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I remembered that I had read the poem sometime during my chaplaincy training (CPE) but I couldn’t find it or any reference to it.  I asked others who probably would’ve remembered a line like that, and they couldn’t think of where the line came from.  Finally, by chance, I was reading and essay in The Study of Anglicanism the other day and this section of George Herbert’s The Elixir was quoted:

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in any thing,
To do it as for thee […]

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgerie divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.

As you can see, I somehow misremembered the line.  I think I summarized it that way for someone, perhaps in the midst of a chapel devotional, and it got stuck in my head as “to sweep the floor as though for Christ.”  At any rate, It’s good to know I’m not completely mad, or dreaming things up.  If you’d like to read The Elixir in its entirety, click below.

The Elixir
By George Herbert

TEACH me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into action ;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.

All may of Thee partake ;
Nothing can be so mean
Which with his* tincture (for Thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine :
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold ;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.