"The Pulley," like many of George Herbert's poems, deals with the theme of humankind's inner conflict, specifically from a religious standpoint. In the poem, Herbert suggests that inner conflict is inherent to the human condition, that is, part of humankind's God-given nature.
The poem describes a mythical situation in which God allows all but one of his blessings to pour upon man. Thus, man is granted strength, beauty, wisdom, honor and pleasure, but not the last of God's treasures, rest. Allowing humankind to have rest, God reasons, would remove their need for Him.
"The Pulley" was featured in an anthology published by The Reader Organisation (based in London), entitled "Minted." It was included alongside other classic and celebrated poems that not only deal with the difficulties and conflicts of life, but offer some insight into resolving them, along with some valuable life lessons. Of his own poetry, George Herbert is quoted as saying, "They are a picture of spiritual conflicts between God and my soul before I could subject my will to Jesus, my Master."
George Herbert lived between 1593 and 1633. He died of consumption at 40. His work is known for its precision of language, rhythmical agility and devotional spirit. Fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once remarked, "Nothing can be more pure, manly, or unaffected [than Herbert's diction]."