What is the attitude of the speaker toward God in "The Pulley"?

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In "The Pulley," George Herbert imagines what God might have thought on the day that he "first made man." In the opening stanza, God is presented as generous and benevolent. He decides to "pour" upon man all of the "blessings" and all of "the world's riches" that he...

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In "The Pulley," George Herbert imagines what God might have thought on the day that he "first made man." In the opening stanza, God is presented as generous and benevolent. He decides to "pour" upon man all of the "blessings" and all of "the world's riches" that he has. In the second stanza, these "blessings," or "riches," are listed as "beauty...wisdom, honour [and] pleasure." However, at the end of the second stanza, God pauses for thought. He thinks to himself that he shall keep one blessing back, and not give this blessing to man. This one blessing is the ability to "rest."

In the third stanza, the speaker imagines that God kept this one blessing back because otherwise man "would adore [his] gifts instead of [him]." This seems like rather a miserly, vainglorious reason for depriving man of the ability to rest. Indeed, God decides to subject man to a life of "repining restlessness" just so that man worships him rather than his "gifts" or "blessings." God hopes that man will become dependent upon him for rest and worship him in order to one day find this rest.

"The Pulley" was first published in 1633. In 1629, George Herbert became a priest. The speaker's attitude toward God in "The Pulley" seems an unusually critical attitude for a priest to adopt. However, priests, just like other people, must occasionally question God's grace and God's benevolence when there is in the world so much misery and anguish.

However, one might also infer from the poem that the speaker has a more positive attitude toward God. Indeed, one might infer that God doesn't let man rest in order to keep man humble and to make sure that man will always return, through "weariness," to God's "breast." Given that, from a religious perspective, God's breast is the best place for man to be, God might actually be acting in the interests of man. Perhaps the speaker means to imply, therefore, that God is being cruel to be kind. By denying man rest in the short term, he is making sure that man stays humble and secures rest in the long term.

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