Here are three Easter poems by George Herbert, one of my favorite poets. As with all poetry, you will get the most out of the poems if you take them slowly and read them through several times, out loud if possible.
“EASTER (1)” – by George Herbert
Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined1 thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.
Consort both heart and lute, and twist2 a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied3
Oh let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.
1. calcined. Burnt to ashes.
2. twist. Weave together, as in polyphonic music.
3. vied. Increased in number by addition or repetition.
“EASTER (2)” – by George Herbert (This is the speaker’s response to his own call in Easter 1.)
I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.
The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.
Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.
“EASTER WINGS” – by George Herbert (Notice how the shape of the words in each stanza resembles a pair of wings.)
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Oh let me rise1
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did begin:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sin,
That I became
Let me combine,
And feel this day thy victory:
For, if I imp2 my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
1. rise. See Isaiah 40:31 and Malachi 4:2.
2. imp. To imp, in falconry, is to engraft feathers in a damaged wing, so as to improve or restore damaged powers of flight.
Source (for poems and footnotes): George Herbert: The Country Parson, The Temple (The Classics of Western Spirituality; 1981)
Click here for more poems by George Herbert.
Click here for more Easter posts.
Click here for an Easter poem by Ray Fowler.