Themes

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Last Updated on July 25, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 285

The Depravity of Man 

Herbert makes it clear that this world is full of suffering and that we as humans are inherently sinners. This is a core concept in the Christian life—that humanity is flawed. It is because of this that his speaker wishes to escape by way of eternal life in heaven. The speaker talks at length about how mankind has lost its wealth and all the good things God has bequeathed. He also relates how his own sorrow in life began at a very young age, and he wishes that he could escape and be united with Christ’s perfection.

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The Power of God

In this work, Herbert makes it clear how much power God has. He is, first and foremost, the creator of humanity and the benefactor of all good things. Beyond that, Herbert relates the idea of flying to being caught up with Christ in the air—essentially signifying the Rapture and the final joy that those who are taken up to eternal life with Christ will experience. Herbert’s speaker knows that God has the power to end his suffering when He sees fit, and He also has the power to transform Herbert’s life and everything around it.

The Joy of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Christ and humanity’s subsequent salvation and resurrection are this poem’s most crucial underpinnings. Herbert’s speaker looks forward to the day when his suffering can be alchemized into eternal life and bliss in heaven with Christ. The metaphors of wings and allusions to flight relate the rapturous joy and freedom the speaker yearns for and trusts he will experience when he is united with Christ at the end of his life.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 451

“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 habere redemptorum,” which means, “O blessed sin, which received as its reward so great and so good a Redeemer.” The same idea is found in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost (1667, 1674). When Adam learns of the divine plan he says, “O goodness infinite, goodness immense!/ That all this good of evil shall produce,/ And evil turn to good; more wonderful/ Than that which by creation first brought forth/ Light out of darkness!”

The idea is that humans are better off as a result of the outpouring of divine grace that occurred when God sent Christ to save the world than they would ever have been had they remained without sin in the Garden of Eden. The Fortunate Fall does not mean that it was or is a good thing to commit sin, since sin brought suffering into the world. The point is that God was able to use the fact of human sin to bring forth his plan of salvation, which is something even greater than the creation of the world. Therefore sin was necessary, since the Fall that occurred as a result of it was a necessary precondition for the movement of grace in human history.

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