WAKE, sad heart, whom sorrow ever drowns;
Take up thine eyes, which feed on earth;
Unfold thy forehead, gathered into frowns;
Thy Saviour comes, and with Him mirth:
And with a thankful heart His comforts take.
But thou dost still lament, and pine, and cry,
And feel His death, but not His victory.
Arise, sad heart ; if thou dost not withstand,
Christ’s resurrection thine may be;
Do not by hanging down break from the hand
Which, as it riseth, raiseth thee:
And with His burial linen drie thine eyes.
Christ left His grave-clothes, that we might, when grief
Draws tears or blood, not want a handkerchief.
George Herbert was a both pastor and one of the 17th century metaphysical poets. These poets, including John Donne, Henry Vaughan, and Andrew Marvell, liked to use elaborate word-plays or conceits to tie their poems into a pleasing package. So, in the poem above, Jesus’ grave-clothes become a handkerchief to dry the eyes of all mankind, and we are raised from grief and sorrow by Christ’s resurrection.
1. Always read poetry out loud. Hide in a closet if you must, but poetry read aloud is much easier to understand and feel.
2. Read each poem more than once. I suggest you read the poem aloud three times at least.
3. Don’t try to understand every word or phrase. Grab onto the phrases or images that do make sense to you, and enjoy those. Little by little , the poem may come to be meaningful as a whole.
Try it; you may like it.