Poets And Poetry

Poetry Analysis Easter Wings by George Herbert



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George Herbert's "Easter Wings" is written in a form of pattern poetry known as carmen figuration, otherwise known as shaped verse, in which the words and lines are arranged on the page so that they create a visual image or illustration of the poem's subject. However, as important as is the visual image projected by the author's creativity in design, it is the metrical form the poet uses that creates a supporting foundation for the poem itself.

In using shaped verse, the poet creates a visual image of wings. These wings, whether intended to be of angels or of birds, offer a thematic view of the human state. Additionally, as the poet progresses from the first stanza to the second, the nature of man also progresses from God's creation and the gifts provided therein to the fall of man and the required acceptance of Christ. In closing the poem, Herbert references wings, and the repair (healing) thereof to state that with help of God he can fly again and that his purposeful suffering will allow him to progress spiritually.

In rhyme scheme, Herbert uses ababacdcdc in both stanzas, giving the poem a sense of order in the structure. With each stanza representing a different relational aspect of man to God, the first being the fall of man and the second being man's redemption through Christ, the rhyme scheme suggests that even with the failure of man, God keeps balance and order within the universe.

In writing his form of verse in this poem, Herbert forces almost every line to stand on its own by using the placement of hard punctuation at the end of almost every line. Additionally, he forces the aspect that each line is important by capitalizing the first letter on each line. However, his line design of having longer lines at the beginning and end of each stanza as compared to the middle lines does more than just create a visual image. The middle four lines of each stanza are reduced to four syllables on lines four and seven, and only two syllables on line five and six, as compared to ten syllables in each line that forms the cap and base of each stanza. Additionally, in each stanza, it is important to note that each line is shortened by two syllables until only two syllables remain in lines five and six, at which time each line is lengthened by two syllables, giving it a syllabic pattern, per line, of 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10, per stanza.

By developing such a meter as Herbert does in "Easter Wings" he is able to adjust not only the number of accentual placements within each line, but also the number of feet, giving the poem a flow that feels as though the work itself is contracting and expanding, much like the opening and closing of the wings represented in the visual image produced by the layout of the lines, and also possibly the contracting and expanding of man's heart, within which God lives.

In closing each stanza, Herbert uses alliteration to observe where man is in the process of redemption. In closing stanza one, he stresses the word "fall" and alludes that the "fall" is necessary in order to "further the flight in me" (10). In closing stanza two, and therefore the poem, Herbert writes, "For, if I imp my wing on thine / Affliction shall advance the flight in me" (19-20), inferring that by repairing our wings by grafting them to God's, such an "affliction" will allow man closer communion with the Lord.

 

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