What are the main themes of George Herbert’s poem “The Pulley”?

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Vikash Lata eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem presents God as a benevolent, loving and caring father. When He created man, He bestowed upon him all the “blessings” and “the world’s riches” He could think of. Strength, honor, wisdom and pleasure—He gave him all He could.

However, man is essentially mortal by nature and these gifts can’t provide him eternal happiness. If he gets too indulgent in these gifts, he might forget his Creator. Instead of following God’s path and seeking salvation, he might fritter away his invaluable life merely in self-gratification.

He would adore my gifts instead of me,

And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature...

To avoid his doom, God didn't grant him rest. The insatiable human heart would always desire for more, whereas the fleeting nature of these worldly pleasures would always keep him discontented. His pursuit of joy and delight would make him restless, finally making him weary.

If not out of gratitude or goodness, he would certainly turn to God out of “weariness” and “restlessness.”

If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

 May toss him to my breast.

In this way, Herbert's highly spiritual poem directs a person towards their Creator. It does so by revealing to man the transient nature of worldly pleasures and showing the way that would lead him to attain perfect happiness by turning to God. 

So, we see that the main themes of this poem include God's love and benevolence for mankind, man's mortal existence, the ephemeral nature of worldly joys, and the main goal of man's life.