by George Herbert
Flight, Flying, and Birds
"Easter WINGS" is our first clue: this is either a poem about deep-fat-fried chicken with ranch or a poem about flying. It doesn't take long to figure out that deep-fat-fried anything has no place in Herbert's world. What with Adam's fall and God's punishments, this poem digs a really depressing hole of poverty and hardship—no snacks here. Instead, what the speaker wants is a ticket out of the abyss. How to get out? Rise up with Christ like a bird from a tree.
But why birds? Why not airplanes or frisbees or butterflies? (Not invented, not invented, could be cool, but don't they flit, not fly?) For one thing, birds have been admired and written about for so long that they're really rich in associations. Birds mean freedom and gracefulness and love. They are linked with death and foretelling and hope. Herbert's birds are meant to evoke a lot of these feelings, while introducing more explicitly the ideas of singing and healing.
- Lines 7-9: With this larks simile, Herbert gives a nice, literal flourish to his speaker's rise (he's actually flying!) and links his worship with the beauty of birdsong. The speaker "sings" the news of Christ's Easter resurrection as "harmoniously" as any lark.
- Line 10: A synonym for "rise" in line 7, but now a noun, "flight" adds to the reality of the speaker's move from really bad to triumphantly good. Herbert's not just rising out of the pit; he's freaking flying.
- Lines 19-20: By stanza 2 the larks have flown the coop and suddenly we've got some pet hawks. Herbert doesn't actually ever mention a hawk, but his use of "imp" tells us all we need to know. Although this weird three-letter word is way too hawk-specific to ever be on the SAT, if you know that it means to repair a damaged wing by attaching part of a new feather, you're good to go. Good birds don't let other birds fly sick. Here Herbert uses an unusual metaphor to describe his relationship with God: when he's too sick or sinful to recover on his own, God will give him the helping hand—or should we say "wing"?