Two of George Herbert’s poems appropriate to this day: “Easter” and “I Got Me Flowers,” both published in The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (1633). Herbert, born in Wales, was a Anglican priest. Five of his poems, including the two below, were set to music by Ralph Vaughn Williams as “Five Mystical Songs” between 1906 and 1911. They are among the most beautiful in the sacred music repertoire. Here they are both powerfully performed by baritone Thomas Allen at the 2004 Last Night of the Proms.
RIse heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined1 thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.
Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or, since all musick is but three parts2 vied
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.
I Got Me Flowers.
I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.
The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, & th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.
Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.