Donne vs. Herbert: The Similarities and Differences Between Poems

Introduction

The poem ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne is a lyrical literary work that describes a travel of the poet to the west who thinks about the crucifixion of Jesus. It is a religious meditation that was written at a crucial point in John Donne’s life. His joining the Church of England and becoming a preacher inspired him to create that poem. The poem ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert also refers to the religious subject. However, it depicts the downward spiral of a human life. One should say that the theme of Christ’s resurrection is also present here. Consequently, this compare and contrast essay intends to compare the poem ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne and the poem ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert to underline the similarities and differences between them.

The Similarities between Poems

The poems ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne and ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert have many similarities. First, they both address the religious theme and aspects of the Easter events. George Herbert wrote about the global consequences of Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection (Lines 13-14). The poet underlines the significance of those events in terms of the eternity. Moreover, this poem regards Christ’s crucifixion as a universal fact that is in the imagination of every religious person (Lines 15-18). George Herbert sees Christ as the symbol of humanity and desire for transformation. The author reminds people of the events of Good Friday that have become a part of the religion and human life (Lines 13-14).

The poem ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert is similar to ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne as it also emphasizes on the religious elevation of Christ for His sacrifice. The poet names Christ the Lord that proves his admiration and commitment (Line 1). One can say that even the title of this poem indicates the similarities united with the Easter events. Moreover, it becomes evident that George Herbert, as well as John Donne show their devotion to God. Both poems sound like hymns of elevation and glorification of Christ’s sacrifice that was made for the sake of humanity. For example, George Herbert feels the unity with Him and would like to do the same (Line 7). Another similarity between poems is that they depict Easter events as the ways for admitting their sins.

In his poem ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’, John Donne chooses many images to reinforce the theme of Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection. The author uses such image as the journey making it a symbol of the way into the religious and sacral life (Lines 9-10). The spheres and intelligence are related to medieval astronomy that contradicts to religious studies (Lines 1-8). The picture of the Cosmic Christ is another imagery signifying that the whole world is in His hands. Consequently, the crucifixion of Christ is the desire of sinners to deprive Him of power. Nature is personified in this poem in the form of the servant of God that can also punish. Consequently, Christ’s incarnation is the way of entering the sacral world.

In his poem ‘Easter Wings’, George Herbert chooses the similar images that are related to the world creation, the entity of sins, and the significance of Christ. The author uses such natural objects as birds and their flights to underline the entity of Easter and resurrection as good news. Moreover, this poem reveals the essence of sins as the physical weakness of human beings. The similarity between the images in both poems refers to the Easter events. Both authors use travelling as a way of reaching God. However, ‘Easter Wings’ is based on the flight. Consequently, wings are symbols of faith and commitment (Lines 9-10).

In his poem ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’, John Donne uses the meter that forms heroic couplets evoking the majesty of the subject. Moreover, the author rhymes his poem in iambic pentameter. ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ consists of 42 lines that remind a triple sonnet. One should say that there are no rhyme scheme and stanza breaks that are made up of couplets. Even the form and structure of the poem evoke the Trinity that proves that the author pays attention not only to the meaning but to the poetic form. One should say that the literary work is based on the contrast that makes it more expressive (Lines 16-18).

In his poem ‘Easter Wings’, George Herbert also pays a substantial attention to the form as the way of expression of his thoughts and inner state. The similarity in structures of ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne and ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert is not very evident. ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ has a more traditional structure, especially when compared with ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert that catches the attention. As to ‘Easter Wings’, it looks like the flight of a bird (Lines 38-42). However, both poems are similar as they are rhymed, and this makes them more melodic and rhythmic.

The overall tone of ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne is religious and sacral. It is a sincere meditation to commemorate the Crucifixion of Christ. There are no satire and sarcasm in this literary work. It means that John Donne is serious and realistic about the Easter events. One should mention that the tone of the poem is based on the contrast of a positive influence of Christ’s sacrifice on the humanity and negative activities of people who crucified Him. This contrast helps to see the problem from two sides (Lines 7-8).

The overall tone of ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert is similarly serious as it explains the ideas of Christian thought. However, this poem is also unusual as it combines a playful experimentation with the theological sophistication. The author plays with his readers using such stylistic devices as wordplay, assonance, and alliteration. The tone of the poem is between joy and pain. It means that the Crucifixion of Christ provokes the feelings of joy and excitement as it was the sacrifice for the sake of the humanity. However, it provokes pain and sadness, because Christ died. Moreover, the similarity between both poems refers to describing their personal experiences and beliefs that prove their awareness of the matter.

The Differences between Poems

The differences between the poems ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne and ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert are also obvious. First, they are related to the depiction of the theme of the Easter events. John Donne accepts only the thought that the Crucifixion of Christ was the event of sadness, pain, and suffering. As to George Herbert, he regards the Easter events from both sides analyzing them as the reasons for joy as well as sadness. John Donne depicts not only internal entity of religion but its external form. George Herbert pays more attention to the depth and meaningfulness of the Eastern events than his personal experience. Moreover, George Herbert’s poem presupposes more contrast in terms of the comparison with John Donne’s one. It means that every line of the poem provokes hope and despair at the same time. For George Herbert, Easter is the symbol of victory over death. For John Donne, Easter is the day of memory dedicated to the sins of humanity and sacrifice of Christ for the sake of mankind. John Donne has chosen the ride like the way of exploration of this subject (Lines 38-40). As to George Herbert, the flight is a more acceptable and spiritual way of revealing the truth.

The differences between the poems ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne and ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert refer also to the choice and meanings of images. The images of ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ are related to religious beliefs, personal penance, and profound expression. The images of ‘Easter Wings’ are related to the entity of a sinner and his/her reliance on the material values. Weakness is the key meaning of many images. For example, Adam is the weak-willed person, and this leads to his failure. John Donne’s images are more global and universal as they are related to the perception of the universe and interaction of religion with cosmos. The author of ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ feels guilty for humanity’s behaviors. As to George Herbert, he tries to justify humans’ attitudes. The journey of John Donne is less exciting as George Herbert’s flights as he feels shame and uncertainty of human sins in the actions against Christ. The described flight in ‘Easter Wings’ refers to the human escaping from the life full of sins and failures to a more sacral life. It means that the authors’ opinions on the Crucifixion of Christ differ. ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ is a self-analysis, and ‘Easter Wings’ is a meditation.

The differences between the poems ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne and ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert are related to their forms. First, ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ is more symmetric comparing with ‘Easter Wings’. The symmetry of this poem is created with the help of the equal number of lines and sections. The asymmetry of ‘Easter Wings’ is in the application of short and long lines simultaneously. One should also note that the differences apply to the choice of form. As to George Herbert, he pays much attention to the physical form that creates the vision of the flight. As to John Donne, he emphasizes his attention on the internal form. George Herbert underlines the parallel of a visual level of the form and deep meaning of the content. As to John Donne, he takes into consideration the entity of images and personal experience (Lines 9-10).

The differences between the poems are also in the tone of writing. John Donne is considerably serious in his meditations. As to George Herbert, one can hear the notes of sarcasm and satire in his writing. In ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’, the lyrical character is thankful for not being the witness of that horrible event of Crucifixion (Lines 15-19). It means that the author feels fear before God’s Son. In ‘Easter Wings’, the character strives to be the witness. As to George Herbert, he perceives Christ’s sacrifice as an inevitable event that must have happened as the lesson to the humanity. Moreover, ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ is more specific as it pays much attention to the Easter events, rather than Christian beliefs. In regard to ‘Easter Wings’, it describes the downward spiral of a human life, reminding the nature of a sinner. However, the author does not lose his hopeful tone that proves that he is an optimist (Lines 17-18). His future is full of hopes. In terms of John Donne, he feels guilty and shameful even for the actions of humanity that have been made not by him. Consequently, his poem has more notes of pessimism.

‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ is like the way of purification of sins and asking for penance. It reminds the confession and admitting the faults of the previous generations (Lines 37-38). ‘Easter Wings’ is regarding the Easter events as the necessity that has brought the changes in the world. It means that George Herbert justifies the Christ’s sacrifice. As to John Donne, he condemns it and asks for a possibility of the correction (Lines 37-38). ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ is the poem of self-expression and self-criticism that intends to ask for the purification of sins and correction of the behaviors. ‘Easter Wings’ is the poem that expresses the opinion of the lyrical character regarding Easter events.

Conclusion

In conclusion, one should say that the poems ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne and ‘Easter Wings’ by George Herbert have many similarities and differences. The similarities include the common theme of Easter events, the tone of the poems that is religious and serious, the rhymed form that makes both poems rhythmic and melodic. Moreover, the additional similarity is that both authors are interested in the development of Christianity and religious beliefs in the world. Both poems have a lot in common as they use the internal and external forms to express the theme of Easter and Christ’s resurrection.

The differences refer to the form and structure of poems that prove the distinctions in authors’ priorities. Moreover, the tones of the poems also differ as ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ is more pessimistic and full of negative emotions; meanwhile, ‘Easter Wings’ is hopeful and optimistic. ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward’ by John Donne is the poem of confession that aims at addressing God and asking for the correction. It means that John Donne feels guilty and shameful of the Crucifixion. As to George Herbert, his poem regards the Easter events as the inevitable factors that were necessary for the changes.