Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Easter Wings” is the work of a poet who accepted the truths of the Christian religion with piety, reverence, and humility. Often in Herbert’s work this attitude of quiet acceptance finds expression in poetry that is at once simple in theme and subtly inventive in poetic style and form. This combination makes Herbert not only one of England’s finest devotional poets but also one of its most admired metaphysical poets.

Although the typographical form of “Easter Wings” is unusual, its theme is not. Central to the poem is the Christian belief that humans were born into the paradise of the Garden of Eden, that they sinned, and that because of this first failure every human is born in a state of Original Sin. God continues to punish humanity because of sin, but humans are redeemed through the saving death of Christ, the Son of God. Humans cannot save themselves by their own efforts. Left to their own devices, they will sink deeper and deeper into sin; they need divine aid. When people sincerely call on God, it does not matter how low they have previously sunk, how far they have fallen from the original perfection. Their souls can soar once again if they are joined with Christ.

Within the orthodox Christian framework, the main theme of “Easter Wings” is that of the Fortunate Fall. This is a common Christian idea. It is found, for example, in the Catholic Latin mass recited at Easter: “O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit...

(The entire section is 451 words.)