George Herbert’s “Easter Wings” delivers a religious message of hope and salvation within an extremely well-crafted poem. In the first stanza of the poem, the speaker addresses God, who created and gave so much to man, through man has lost it all and now has falling onto a state decayed and deprived existence. The speaker than asks if he may rise as the birds do, and join the Lord, and wishes to sing of the victories of God, and His of glorious triumphs. Through all of this, the speaker will be furthered in his flight. The second stanza starts with the Speaker saying that even from an early age his life has been mired in sorrow mixed with sickness and shame. Nevertheless, the Lord has punished sin, but now the Speaker has become weak and thin. The Speaker asks to be combined with Christ and feel the victory over sin. The Speaker says “For, if I imp my wing on thine” (Line 19), Imp meaning to, “Repair a damaged feather in (the wing or tail of a trained hawk) by attaching part of a new feather” (Imp def.2). This use of the word imp shows that and old part of the Speaker is replaced and made new by God. Through this release of affliction the Speaker can now be lifted close to God. Herbert shows that Christ has freed Man from the struggle against sin, with its affliction and weakness, and through this Man can rise up and grow closer to God.
Herbert presents the battle between Man and Sin, and God’s ultimately defeating Sin and lifting Man up out of this battle to be Him. The Speaker laments Man’s (Adam’s) fall from the perfection that was the Garden of Eden: Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store, / Though foolishly he lost the same”(Line 1-2). The fall of Adam is presented as the beginning of the deterioration of the human condition, and this fall all so results in losing the paradise that was the Garden of Eden. The results of Man’s fall now plague the Speaker in his life. “My tender age in sorrow did begin / And still with sicknesses and shame” (Line 11-12). Upon his entrance into the world, the Speaker now engages into the unrelenting struggle with Sin, and a growing cost of this battle takes its toll on his soul and body. The Lord has come and ended this conflict of the Speaker and Sin by saving him from death:
Let me combine,
And feel this day thy victory:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me. (Line 17-20).
Christ has beaten Sin and provided a way for mankind be free from its worldly effects on the human soul. Man can now be brought back together with God, and exist with Him as He originally intended in the Garden of Eden before Adam’s choice and Man’s fall. In Herbert’s “Easter Wings” he present the trials and triumphs of a man as he lost, and then found by God and brought closer to Him.
The subject of Herbert’s poem may be due in part to his struggle in balancing his desire for worldly recognition and living a life of service to God. Gottlieb observes, “George Herbert...