George Herbert was an English poet and orator, born on 3 April 1593. He spent the last years of his life as an Anglican priest in a small country church in England. He died of consumption at the age of thirty-nine.
“Easter Wings” is perhaps his most beloved poem. It is famous for the layout that suggests its theme: the words were printed sideways on two facing pages so that the lines suggested a pair of outspread wings. This pattern poem , which gave the vision of wings on both pages. had to be turned ninety degrees to be read.
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
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 beginne
And still with sicknesses and shame.
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Let me combine,
And feel thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
“Easter Wings” is a delicate religious poem that deals with the fall of man and the speaker’s desire to rise. By using the shape of a bird’s wings, the poet is able to emphasize the flight, the rise he is experiencing.
The theme of wings and flight is present in both stanzas: the first presents a lark rising to the sky, and the second the author himself, whose broken wings will be grafted onto Christ’s, so he will be able to fly to new life , a sort of resurrection, hence the title Easter.
The first stanza describes the history of humanity according to Christian theology. Man was born into abundance with full potential, but was punished for sin and expelled from paradise into a suffering life.
In the second stanza the poem becomes more personal, a sort of prayer to thank God for the death of His Son and our subsequent salvation.
Previously, the speaker asked to rise up like a lark and sing in worship. Now he asks to combine with Jesus, be grafted on His wings and find strength in Him.
It is the poet’s affliction and fall that furthers his flight: the purpose of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection was to free man of the chains of sin and death.
ALI DI PASQUA
Signore, che creasti l’uomo in ricchezza e abbondanza,
anche se scioccamente le perse
decadendo sempre più,
armoniosamente, come allodola
e cantare in questo giorno le tue vittorie:
sarà la caduta a dare maggior impulso al mio volo.
La mia tenera età cominciò nel dolore:
e anche con malattie e vergogna
tu punisti così il peccato,
così io diventai
e sentire la tua vittoria;
poiché, se rafforzo la mia ala con la tua
sarà l’afflizione a dare maggior impulso al mio volo.
Image: Journal of Northern Renaissance : “George Herbert, The Temple (1633), sigs. B5v-B6r © British Library Board. C.58.a.26”