Giddiness

I have described myself as “giddy” when I am euphoric or joyful, but the sense of the word in the following poem is more along the lines of dizzy or flighty. The poet muses about his giddy state of mind and how he needs God to save him from it.

We Orthodox are often exhorted concerning this problem of the mind’s whirlwind, and the way to calm it, as in this post: Be Still and Know That I Am God, in which we read: “This constellation of desires and feelings is a constant swirl within the mind. Since it consists of desires and feelings, it is extremely ineffective in guarding against outside desires and feelings. We are deeply vulnerable.”

The human condition has not changed much since George Herbert wrote the poem in the 1600’s. Herbert (1593-1633) was a Welsh-born English poet, orator and Anglican priest. Another more famous poet and priest, John Donne, became Hebert’s godfather when his own father died.

What has changed more is the English language, and besides the word giddy I found in this poem one that had been completely unknown to me: snudge. Merriam-Webster speculates that it is an alteration of snug, and basically means to snuggle or nestle.

But there may be more subtle and unpleasant connotations, having to do with antisocial attitudes or behavior. Crooked Talk: Five Hundred Years of the Language of Crime quotes a 1676 use of the word related to robbery: “[He] gives it to his snudge, who snudges away with it to his [fence] who buyes it.” By the time Robert Nares included it in his Glossary in 1822 he said it meant “a miser, curmudgeon, a sneaking fellow.”

Obviously I am attracted to this word snudge, describing something I am prone to doing, which might be perfectly wholesome — or not. I won’t try to determine which, because that effort sounds like too much temptation for my giddy mind.

GIDDINESS

Oh, what a thing is man! how far from power,
From settled peace and rest!
He is some twenty sev’ral men at least
Each sev’ral hour.

One while he counts of heav’n, as of his treasure:
But then a thought creeps in,
And calls him coward, who for fear of sin
Will lose a pleasure.

Now he will fight it out, and to the wars;
Now eat his bread in peace,
And snudge in quiet: now he scorns increase;
Now all day spares.

He builds a house, which quickly down must go,
As if a whirlwind blew
And crusht the building; and it’s partly true,
His mind is so.

O what a sight were Man, if his attires
Did alter with his mind;
And like a Dolphin’s skin, his clothes combin’d
With his desires!

Surely if each one saw another’s heart,
There would be no commerce,
No sale or bargain pass: all would disperse,
And live apart.

Lord, mend or rather make us: one creation
Will not suffice our turn:
Except thou make us daily, we shall spurn
Our own Salvation.

-George Herbert

8 thoughts on “Giddiness

  1. Very well said. I hope I don’t destroy your pleasure in the word snudge when I say that for me those “udge” sounding words aren’t that pleasant, except perhaps, fudge! Drudge, judge, smudge, budge, pudge (can’t think of any others at the moment). . . even fudge has a negative connotation if I forget about the delicious sweet treat by that name. Although I must admit that “snudge in quiet ” does sound very snuggly and nestled.

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  2. This comment is just a few random thoughts I had while reading your post.

    He is some twenty sev’ral men at least
    Each sev’ral hour. (I think my husband would say, “You are somebody different every minute.)

    “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” 1 Cor. 10:5

    Our thoughts determine our lives…Elder Thaddeus

    Thoughts create emotion…if the thoughts are not true then the emotion is not true. If I then respond with untrue emotion/passion I enter the downward spiral. The climb back up is the painful work of casting down and bringing into captivity…

    A double minded man is unstable in all his ways…

    Except thou make us daily, we shall spurn…His mercies are new every morning.

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    1. Amanda, I don’t think your “random thoughts” are very random, but rather they are very to-the-point and certainly helpful to me in getting all possible good from Herbert’s poem. Thank you so much!

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      1. You are welcome…
        Surely if each one saw another’s heart,
        There would be no commerce,
        No sale or bargain pass: all would disperse,
        And live apart.

        I think the author of this poem gets this wrong..it is not “surely if”, but “surely because”. The war that fractures our love and oneness is won and lost in the mind. I am unable to love if I am schizophrenic. Single-mindedness is just the correct definition of mental health. We are all crazy who cannot be one….mind, body, and soul. One collection, gathered or churched in the body. True prayer brings the mind into the heart and the body into stillness. This is how I teach my children about drugs and alcohol. It is a great sin to fracture the oneness of mind, body, and soul. Mind altering drugs promise an escape from the body…they simulate a release from matter. This is a great temptation in times of suffering…we all have wanted to escape. However, saints are called to suffer and remain one…stay present in the body…remain single-minded…descend into the heart and pray. In a world that is crazy with giddiness, isn’t it a wonder at all the sadness. My own experiences have taught me that giddiness and depression are bedfellows.

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