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George Herbert

Easter Wings

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1633

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Summary and Study Guide


“Easter Wings” is a lyric poem by George Herbert, a 17th-century English writer of Christian devotional verse. Herbert was one of a group of English poets writing mainly in the first half of the 17th century who are known as the metaphysical poets. The poem was published in 1633, shortly after Herbert’s death, in Herbert’s poetry collection titled The Temple, which was the only volume of poetry he published.

Easter is the time of year when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and “Easter Wings” is addressed to God. The poet expresses his earnest desire that he may share in the joy of the resurrection, which he hopes will allow him to overcome his sinful nature. “Easter Wings” is typical of Herbert’s work in that it presents a devotional theme in the context of Christian faith. Herbert was a priest in the Church of England (the Anglican Church) and he wrote no secular verse. The poem is also notable as an example of what is sometimes called “pattern poetry”; on the printed page, the lines are arranged to resemble a pair of wings.

Poet Biography

George Herbert was born into an aristocratic family in Black Hall, Montgomery, Wales, on April 3, 1593. He was the fifth son of Richard and Magdalen Herbert. There would be 10 children in all (seven boys and three girls). The eldest son, Edward (1583-1648), who became Lord Herbert of Cherbury, would also become a noted poet and friend of another English poet, John Donne. Herbert’s father died when George Herbert was three years old. Herbert was raised by his mother. When George was about four, his mother moved her family first to Shropshire in England and then to Oxford, and finally to London. She did not remarry until 1609 (to Sir John Danvers).

Herbert attended Westminster School in London beginning around 1604, where he learned Latin, Greek, and music for choir and lute. Then he attended Trinity College, Cambridge. At Trinity, he distinguished himself through his diligence and sober character; after earning a bachelor of arts degree, he was elected Fellow of the college. He earned a master of arts degree in 1616. At the college, he taught Greek grammar and rhetoric and the rules of oratory to undergraduates. He was appointed Reader in Rhetoric in 1618 and then Public Orator at Trinity in 1620, a prestigious post he retained until 1627. At this point, Herbert not unreasonably had ambitions for a career at the court of King James I. He became a Member of Parliament for Montgomery.

However, his hope for high office did not come to fruition, and he decided to take Orders in the Anglican Church. This was not surprising because all Fellows of the college were expected to take Holy Orders within seven years of receiving a master’s degree, and there was never any doubt that Herbert was a devout Anglican. Herbert was ordained as a deacon in 1626, and in April 1630 he was ordained as a priest. He became a country parson at the rural village Bemerton, near Salisbury, in southern England, where he lived with his wife, Jane Danvers, whom he married in 1629. By all accounts he excelled at his duties, always observing the practices of his religion and taking good and compassionate care of his parishioners.

Herbert had often been in poor health, and he died of consumption on March 1, 1633, three years after his move to Bemerton. He was 39 years old. Herbert wrote poetry in Latin as well as in English. Much of the English poetry was likely written from the mid-1620s onward, and it was published a few months after his death as The Temple. It was reprinted many times during the 17th century. After the revival of interest in the metaphysical poets in the first half of the 20th century, The Temple secured Herbert’s honored place in English literature, which in the 21st century shows no signs of fading.

Poem Text

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,

      Though foolishly he lost the same,

            Decaying more and more,

                  Till he became

                        Most poore:

                        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 beginne

      And still with sicknesses and shame.

            Thou didst so punish sinne,

                  That I became

                        Most thinne.

                        With thee

                  Let me combine,

            And feel thy victorie:

         For, if I imp my wing on thine,

Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

Herbert, George. “Easter Wings.” Poetry Foundation.


“Easter Wings” explores a central aspect of Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what that means for the Christian believer. The poet directly addresses God as “Lord” (Line 1). He points out that God created humans as perfect, but Adam and Eve sinned, as a result of which the human condition deteriorated drastically. In the second half of the stanza, however, the poet expresses hope. Because of the resurrection of Christ, which is celebrated by Christians at Easter, humans too have the opportunity for a more exalted and blessed condition of life. The poet requests of God that he may be allowed to share in Christ’s victory over death and similarly rise up, singing like a lark at dawn.

The second stanza follows a similar pattern. In the first five lines, the poet notes that his early life was marked by sorrow, and he has suffered much sickness in his life. He believes that God has been punishing him for his sins. In the second half of the stanza, he again expresses hope. He wants to experience for himself Christ’s triumph over death, and he asks that he be allowed to attach his wounded self to the spirit of Christ. He believes that this will enable his own spirit or soul to soar above its former afflictions.