Ecclesiastical Sonnets by William Wordsworth

Start Your Free Trial

Download Ecclesiastical Sonnets Study Guide

Subscribe Now

"Dropped From An Angel's Wing"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The concept of a series of sonnets dealing with ecclesiastical matters was born in December, 1820, when Wordsworth accompanied a beloved friend in a walk through different parts of his estate to determine the site for a new church. Of the sonnet sequence, the poet later commented: "My purpose in writing this series was, as much as possible, to confine my view to the introduction, progress, and operation of the Church in England, both previous and subsequent to the Reformation." In this particular poem, Wordsworth is paying tribute to the churchmen of the past, such as Richard Hooker, John Donne, and George Herbert–extolled by Isaac Walton in his Lives. The poet describes these lives as "stars on high,/ Satellites burning in a lucid ring," the exemplars of a strong and mighty faith. He writes:

There are no colours in the fairest sky
So fair as these. The feather, whence the pen
Was shaped that traced the lives of these good men,
Dropped from an Angel's wing. With moistened eye
We read of faith and purest charity
In Statesman, Priest, and humble Citizen.