Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Wings

by George Herbert

Lord, Who createdst man in wealth and store,
        Though foolishly he lost the same,
                Decaying more and more,
                      Till he became
                          Most poor:
                          With Thee
                        O let me rise,
                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
                          Most thin.
                          With Thee
                      Let me combine,
                And feel this day Thy victory;
        For, if I imp my wing on Thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

* * *

This struck me as a good poem to put up for Easter -- especially as I did "The Foggy Dew" last year. (Today, Easter Monday, happens to be the 90th anniversary of the Easter Uprising.) I modernized the spelling to put it up.

George Herbert was one of the Metaphysical poets, of which John Donne is probably the most famous.

This poem is about falling and rising: appropriate, then, the wing shape, which suggests birds swooping down and then up again. Affliction advances flight, as in Hopkins' "The Windhover." It's one of those mysteries of life that seems like a paradox until you experience it. Once you have, you realize that suffering teaches you, and allows you to reach heights an easy life would never have allowed you to find.

4 comments:

Eamonn said...

It isn't actually. The Anniversary of the 1916 Rising is the 24th of April. We had the Anniversary Parade here in Dublin on Easter Sunday only because the Horse Racing started in Fairyhouse on Easter Monday and the Government ministers could hardly miss that to attend a state function...

Sheila said...

Hm. So, was it Easter or Easter Monday when it actually happened? I've confused myself.

(This is what I get for counting anniversaries according to the liturgical year, as I was doing.)

Eamonn said...

It was Easter Monday when the Volunteers actually 'rose', not Easter Sunday. Of course it was Tuesday before the British Army responded because they were all at the races in Fairyhouse, about 30 miles away! The Anniversary proper will be the 24th but if you want to count it liturgically, last Monday is the rule not Sunday.

PS Did you ever think of commenting on September 1913 vs Easter 1916 both by Yeats? Of course, you may already have done, and I just wasn't paying attention.

"All is changed, changed utterly
A terrible beauty is born"

Sheila said...

No, I hadn't -- I haven't read much Yeats. Good idea though: I'll go look them up.