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There is an explanation of this poem here on eNotes at the link below and I don't have a lot more that I could add to that excellent explication. As indicated, Herbert was an Anglican priest and most of his works were centered on faith and religion. In this poem, there is much religious imagery. The poet is struggling with the same thing that St. Paul describes in the Bible. He knows the things he should do, but his sinful nature prevents him from doing them. The "collar" represents the Christian walk. Sometimes that walk may feel like a slave collar and humans want to rebel, but luckily God is merciful and gives us a lot of "rope" with which we can safely explore life, but when we stray too far, that rope allows us to maintain our connection to God.
The poet asks the question:
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did drie it: there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the yeare onely lost to me?
Have I no bayes to crown it?
No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted?
Has he wasted years of his life? Does he have nothing to show? But, again Herbert expresses the sentiment in the Bible "The Lord will restore the years that the locusts have eaten" (Joel 1:1-4), and says that:
Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
It is as if God is telling him "you have hands, so suck it up, get busy, get out there and bear fruit for me!" The poet resolves his inner struggle at the end by saying that even in the midst of his rantings and ravings and arguments with God over what HE requires, God is gentle with him:
But as I rav’d and grew more fierce and wilde
At every word,
Me thoughts I heard one calling, Childe:
And I reply’d, My Lord.
I think with these ideas, you should be able to read the information on eNotes and go through the rest of the poem to paraphrase it for yourself. Good luck!
The poem is a poem of rebellion, made very clear from the opening line "I struck the board, and cried, no more..." The poem is one that describes distinctly the uncomfortable nature of living a life that is moral and correct in the eyes of God while fighting back the carnal nature of man.
The poem winds through a decision to forego this limited life and to reach out and embrace those carnal pleasures with gusto. At its conclusion, however, the speaker is reminded that he is God's child and that he ought to be willing to live as God would have him live since God is always there.
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