George Herbert was a skilled pastor and teacher, as well as an accomplished musician, and this poem is a beautiful illustration of both. Easter was originally two separate poems. But the call in the first verse, 'Rise heart; thy Lord is risen', and the musical images of verses two and three, find their fullest expression in the song of praise of the final three verses.
The poet draws on Scripture to illustrate the poem: the words of praise from Psalm 57:8-10 and the theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans, with its exploration of how people are made right with God - justified - through Jesus’ death on the cross.
Christ, stretched out in death on the wood of the cross, becomes God’s instrument, playing a melody of love to the world. The heart responds to the melody by joining with it, as instrumentalists join together in consort to make music. But since none can sing this tune perfectly, a further strand needs to be woven: that of the Spirit who makes up 'our defects with his sweet art'.
In the following song of joyful celebration, the poet sees the day of Christ’s resurrection as unsurpassed in glory. 'Can there be any day but this' - the sun that rises each day of the year cannot shine as brightly as the Son of God as he brings light to the world.
Vaughan Williams set these words to music in his 'Five Mystical Songs', and the first three verses form one of the hymns composed by Barry Ferguson in the hymnbook 'Another Music'.
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