08 April 2012

National Poetry Month: 8

For Easter, a poem by George Herbert (1593 - 1633). He wrote at a time of intense debate and struggle in England over religious/political matters, when many regarded drama and poetry with suspicion. Yet for him poetry was clearly the best manifestation of his inner spiritual life.

The "fall" referred to in the last line of the first stanza is the Fall of Man, so the whole line refers to the doctrine of the Fortunate Fall. "Imp" in the penultimate line of the second stanza means "to engraft an injured wing with feathers."

(Obviously the shape of the poem is important here, and after struggling mightily with blogger's feebleness, I've concluded that I can't center the text of part of an entry without centering all of it. So please excuse the formatting weirdness. I tried.)


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.


Unknown said...

I spent Easter morning catching up on your last four poetry posts. What a treat to get 8 poems for the price of 4. I was especially interested in the three different translations of the same Psalm, having never realized how much free reign a translator can take. I found the second translation the most accessible.
I love the Auden poem. I start my astronomy unit tomorrow, so good timing.
Happy Easter.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I spent Easter morning (the part when I was home, anyway) cursing blogger's formatting. I finally managed to get the extra lines out so Herbert's wings could spread properly, but not without strain and sacrifice, which I guess is appropriate.

The Mary Sidney translation was the one you liked best? Interesting. Incidentally some of the ending -ed's are accented, something else I couldn't figure out on blogger. Oh well. I'm paying as much for this service as you are for the poems, so I guess we're all even.

I'm glad you liked the variant translations. I love things like that and actually have a translationpalooza planned, but not for this week because I'm too busy as it is. So we all have that to look forward to.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Another thing about the Psalm translations: a lot depends on whether the translators are working from the original Hebrew or St Jerome's Vulgate Latin translation. Also, there have been several centuries' worth of advancing scholarship and understanding of ancient languages. But, yes, the differences are sometimes striking.