1 August 2023 Susannah

George Herbert & Easter Wings

George Herbert, The Temple

Have you ever heard of concrete or shaped poetry? It’s where the physical shape of the poem on the page reflects the theme of the poem. Such poems appeared in Ancient Greece, but George Herbert (1593 – 1633), minister and poet, was one of the earliest to write such poems in English, so I thought I’d give you an example this month, with his Easter Wings.

Easter Wings by George Herbert

The poem was published in his posthumous collection The Temple and it was originally formatted sideways, making its resemblance to a pair of wings more obvious.

It’s a religious meditation and it focusses on Christ’s atonement and his physical and spiritual resurrection. The word ‘victory’ is stressed in each stanza. By using the shape of a bird’s wings, the poet is able to emphasize the nature of the fall and rise that the speaker is experiencing. The speaker asks God to permit him to rise out of darkness and rise into light. The hopeful and optimistic lines are the longest and the shorter ones are the depressed ones. It’s a very carefully constructed poem, making use of several literary devices.

Here is a musical version to listen to

but sadly I can’t find a nice version to share with you that is read by someone with an English accent.

Did you enjoy this poem? Let me know by leaving a comment.

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Featured image- George Herbert, The Temple, from https://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/herbert-george-the-temple-sacred-poems-and-privat-90-c-83c44b8823
Body image- Easter Wings by George Herbert from Trinity College Library, Cambridge, https://trinitycollegelibrarycambridge.wordpress.com/2017/05/18/trinity-poets/

Comments (2)

  1. Penny Morris

    Interesting device and I admire the “architecture” but good poetry? Not sure I can support “Thou didst so punish sinne that I became most thinne”. Still it makes one think about what good poetry looks like

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I don’t think it is George Herbert’s best poem, but I do love his writing.

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