Ashley Adams Instructor: Adam Helmintoller English section 241-40 16 November 2011 George Herbert’s Imagery The poem “Easter wings” by George Herbert is a poem that contains deep imagery which is shown not only in his words but also his visual structure. Herbert chooses the structure of a pair of wings for many different reasons. He also gives his poem a lot of imagery which should help the reader gain a different perspective to the poem. The poem explains Herbert’s desires to fly with Jesus after his resurrection. Herbert put himself deliberately in the poem by commonly using “I” and “me”.
Herbert then addresses the audience in the first line with “Lord”, meaning Jesus Christ. Yet the confusion is of where the poem starts since it is split in two parts but having to be read sideways. This could be used to invoke visions of both wings, meaning that instead of looking at one large poem there is actually two smaller poems instead. Lord, who createth man in wealth and store” is the beginning of this poem, helping to immediately establish the audience in the first word (Greenblatt 1609). It also reveals the poem as a type of prayer towards God.
Herbert uses the “winged” look in his poem to more or less catch the readers eye an relate to the imagery Herbert uses in the poem with his words. The beginning of the poem describes the fall of men from “wealth” into the “decaying” of life from sinful nature, “Lord, who createst man in wealth and store, Though foolishly he lost the same, Decaying more and more Till he became Most poor:” the structure of the first few lines parallel the content, by having the lines “decaying” in length but also the imagery “decaying” with the fall of mankind (Greenblatt 1609).
Herbert wanted his audience to see the parallelism between the shape and the actual meaning of the poem. Herbert wanted the reader to find the true meaning of the poem by connecting it with the shape. In the second part of the two poems is turning in emotion and finishing with the poet taking “flight” and completing the second wing: “With thee O let me rise As larks, harmoniously, And sing this day thy victories: Then shall the fall further the flight in me. ” This stanza is rich in imagery (Greenblatt 1609).
It seems like the second part of the first poem “beats its wing” against the decline of the first part in the first poem, showing how the “fall” of man “furthered the flight” in Herbert as it created the way for the crucifixion of Jesus. It was this action which redeemed man so they could have fellowship with God again. While in the first part you see Herbert using he and the word man, where as in the second part the poem becomes more personal to Herbert when he uses me.
This part of the poem could be meant as the personal prayer to God thanking him for the death of his son and our salvation. Also of note is the use of “larks, harmoniously” to give a beautiful, resonate feel to the poem; opposite to that of words like “decaying” and “most poor” used in the first stanza. The first three lines of the second stanza, “With thee/ O let me rise/ As larks, harmoniously” tells us Herbert wants to be with Jesus during the resurrection (Greenblatt 1609).
Herbert then uses the word harmoniously suggesting a group of voices and a group of people. And since Herbert is insinuating harmounisly as a group which is most commonly seen as three, this would support the idea of the trinity. The trinity which is specifically the trinity of Jesus as father, son, and Holy Spirit which Herbert wanted to relate to in his poem. If you look more closely to the second part of the poem it’s obvious that it’s just a continuous to the first part while addressing the same audience in the first part.
As the first stanza spoke of the “fall” of man into sin, the third stanza becomes more personal to the poet: “My tender age in sorrow did begin: And still with sicknesses and shame Though didst so punish sin, That I became Most thin”, once again, this part decreases every line like that of the first (Greenblatt 1609). Following the beginning of the second part Herbert explains him not being innocent of sin with the comment of him being “most thin”. This ending should give the reader a feel of loss and unfinished ending.
Ideally, our virtues and wisdom should grow with age; Herbert reveals that this is not necessarily the case. With the passing of time, the poet expresses that his only gain was that of guilt and sin. It is also somewhat impossible to live life without sin. Again the poet picks up from where he left off and begins the next stanza with words of rejuvenation. However, this stanza adds an element of connection: “With thee let me combine, And feel this day thy victory; For, if I imp my wing on thine, Affliction shall advance the flight in me” (Greenblatt 1609).
Herbert then states his want for salvation to “combine” with Jesus and be grafted onto his wings. This would suggest he doesn’t want to be only “with” Jesus but grafted “onto” Jesus, which a much closer relationship would be made. Herbert did this appropriately to show how the course of man’s action, led to the affliction and fall of man. It is difficult to see how negatives such as “affliction” and “fall” could lead to glory but it is this resistance, much like that of a wing beating against the resistance of gravity and air, that furthers not only the flight of the poet but also that of mankind. apricotpie) After analyzing Herbert’s poem, the winged imagery can be seen throughout, and the reasoning for the shape and imagery. Herbert wanted to show people of his time and from then on many truths in the poem. . Not only does the shape and imagery have a great effect on the reader, but the emotional swings and shifting play many “tricks” on the reader as we go through Herbert’s poem. Also Herbert’s original presentation is most unusual and confronts the reader with an awkward dilemma. In order to access the words of his poem the page must be turned sideways.
This turning of the page could be Herbert’s way of changing our point of view. How man’s decline because of sin was defeated by the actions of the cross. So the point of Herbert’s work “Easter Wings” May not actually be understood with maybe just one reading but with multiple readings. . But Herbert did show us that using shape and imagery throughout his poem that many different meanings and points can be made within one poem. . He also helped us to understand his view of right and wrong, Herbert used imagery throughout his poem to give us a sense into his life and his value system.
In doing so he gave the readers of his poems a chance to find all of the truths and meanings in his poem. Lastly in Herbert’s poem he wants us to be grateful of the gift that God has given to us, by allowing his only son to die for the salvation of our sins to wash us clean with grace, it is this action which allows all of mankind, and not just Herbert, to be grafted into Jesus’ wing to “further the flight” in us all. Herbert’s ideas all together try to make a positive feedback onto the reader, beginning with wanting to return with less sin and trying to “fly” with Jesus towards salvation.