Easter Wings by George Herbert, a poem on resurrection

“Easter Wings” is a poem by the Christian metaphysical poet George Herbert. This of course is a good poem for the Easter season! Below is the poem with analysis and links following. I updated some of the spelling to make it easier for my readers. For purists, you can find the poem in its original spelling at Poetry Foundation.

Easter Wings
by George Herbert


Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
      Though foolishly he lost the same,
            Decaying more and more,
                  Till he became
                        Most poor:
                        With thee
                  O let me rise
            As larks, harmoniously,
      And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did begin
      And still with sicknesses and shame.
            Thou didst so punish sin,
                  That I became
                        Most thin.
                        With thee
                  Let me combine,
            And feel thy victory:
         For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.



The best way to understand any poem is to read it several times. Read it just for enjoyment. Read it slowly. Read it for the rhythm. Read it for the rhymes. Read it for the imagery. Then read it again. But here is some analysis, too.



First, clearly this poem has an unusual layout. It is in the form of wings, two sets of wings. Look at it sideways. This type of poem has been called an emblem. Hear the visual shape of the poem fits with its meaning.


Second, each stanza of this poem has the verses get shorter and shorter in a form of despair, almost slowing down in depression. Then it pivots at the middle to longer and longer versus of joy. This is a sort of taking flight.


Third, the line lengths for each stanza are 5 feet, 4 feet, 2 feet, one foot, one foot, 2 feet, 3 feet, 4 feet, 5 feet. Think of the feet as beats, sounds you could stress or even clap.

Rhymes – a

Fourth, the rhyme scheme is alternating on the way down and up. It is aba’b’cdc’d. This is done for both stanzas or verses.

Rhymes – b

Fifth, note the types of rhymes used on the way down and the way up. On the way down they tend to be more closed, and on the way up they are open. This fits with the compression of going down and the bursting open up going up. For example, compare the down sound of “same” with the rising sound of “victory.” If you were to sing these, you could hold “victory” much longer with its open sound.


Sixth, notice how the first stanza is more a general description of humanity and the second a more personal, autobiographical description of the author.


Seventh, the negative half of the first verse or stanza uses the language of wealth to poverty. The second part of half of the first stanza balances that with the language of birds (larks) singing and flying. The first half of the second stanza is the language of sickness. Its second half is the language of healing and flight. The words in this last part “combine” mean coming together and “imp” I had to look up. It means “to graft or repair (a wing, tail, or feather) with a feather to improve a falcon’s flying capacity” Merriam Webster.

Finally, why is this poem called “Easter wings“? How is it related to Easter. Notice that both of these stanzas are a going down and coming up again. This is like the lord Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. When we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are in Christ. And we rise with Him (Colossians 2:12).

To me, this poem reminded me of the connection between Christ’s resurrection at his first coming with our spiritual resurrection when we believe in him, but also our bodily resurrection when the Lord returns in glory. It also reminded me of the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31).

These are some thoughts I got from following my own advice of reading the poem a number of times.

Christian Poetry