Herbert's Easter Wings | Harper's Magazine

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Herbert’s Easter Wings

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Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,  
   Though foolishly he lost the same,  
      Decaying more and more,  
        Till he became  
           Most poore:  
           With  thee  
        Oh 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   beginne:  
   And still with sicknesses and shame  
      Thou  didst  so  punish  sinne,  
         That  I  became  
           Most thinne.  
           With  thee  
        Let me combine  
      And feel this day thy victorie:  
   For,  if  I  imp  my  wing  on  thine  
Affliction shall  advance the  flight in  me.

—-George Herbert, Easter Wings from The Temple (1633)

View “Easter Wings” as originally published (1633).

George Herbert’s older brother was Edward Lord Herbert of Cherbury, a well-known philosopher and writer of the Elizabethan and early Stuart era probably best known to posterity as an important collector of music–the celebrated Lute Book of Lord Herbert of Cherbury. The Herbert Lute Book was recently recorded by Paul O’Dette on this Harmonia Mundi CD. Be sure to listen to the beautiful and rarely recorded Sarabande of Jacob le Polonais near the end of the recording.

Listen to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending (1914). Vaughan Williams says he was inspired by George Meredith’s poem of the same name, but his imagery is filled with the English countryside in the early Spring, and it makes a perfect accompaniment to Herbert’s poem as well.

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