Easter Wings - George Herbert

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“Easter Wings”
George Herbert (1593-1633)

George Herbert's poem is a clear example of Visual Poetry. The poem consists of two ten-line stanzas of varying line lengths. It draws much of its power from the appearance of the poem as a shape, in this case, a pair of wings viewed sideways, and sandglasses viewed straight on. These images emphasize the speaker's desire to rise to heaven to be with the Christian Saviour. The sandglass has a direct connection with the title of the poem. To Christians, Easter is time for repentance and reflection and praying is a much appreciated activity during this time because it helps people to be closer to God. The speaker believes that prayers are like a pair of wings, they are seen as a tool to rise to heaven. The poem’s theme is an admission of sin and a Christian prayer of redemption.

As regards the speaker, as mentioned before, it is a person whose Christian beliefs leads him to pray for his soul’s repentance. And the audience is revealed in the first line of the poem with the use of the word “Lord”, meaning the Christian God who sacrificed his life to save humanity of sin. The first stanza shows the fall of man from the "wealth and store" that God first gave him into the decaying life of a sinful nature. As the stanza's lines decrease in length, the imagery goes from good to depressing, finally ending with the poorness of mankind. But the poem gains steam again in the next stanza, it increases in length and finishes with the "flight" completing the second wing. This stanza is rich in imagery. It seems like this stanza beats its wing against the decline of the first one, showing how the "fall" of man "furthered the flight" in the speaker as it paved the way for the crucifixion of Jesus. It was this action which redeemed man so they could have fellowship with God again.

Considering the formal linguistics aspects of language, both stanzas illustrate examples of non-grammatical structures. Lines 5 and 15 (“most poor”...
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