Study Guide

Easter Wings Religion

By George Herbert

Religion

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store
Thou foolishly he lost the same (1-2)

Okay, okay, it's easy for our speaker blame it all on Adam. God gave him a garden and a wife and the chance to just laze around with the tame tigers without even getting dressed—and he totally blew it with that apple. That first human mistake, which introduced a whole lotta bad into the world (we're talking pain, work, and evil), is the reason everyone else keeps losing money and getting sick.

And sing this day thy victories (9)

"This day" refers to Easter, a holiday that commemorates Christ's biggest victory: giving death the smack down and rising out of the tomb to eternal life. Good Christians celebrate by singing hymns or, if you're a poet named Herbert, writing shaped poetry called "Easter Wings."

Then shall the fall further the flight in me (10)

Adam's fall was bad, no doubt about it. But Herbert voices a unique take on the badness in this last line. It's only because Adam fell that it's necessary for the speaker to rise up out of human sin and poverty. And that opportunity to rise is actually a good thing and not just because flying is awesome. It gives the speaker the chance to worship God and get closer to him.

My tender age in sorrow did begin (11)

Gosh, Adam really ruined it for the rest of us—at least for Christians, like the speaker, who believe in original sin. This idea assumes that Adam's sin is passed down like a chromosome. Everyone inherits it at birth, meaning that everyone is born with at least some sin and enters a world where the sorrow only increases from day one.

And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sin (12-13)

Herbert doesn't make it clear whether this "sin" is original (inherited from Adam) or the speaker's own doing. But to God sin is sin and must be punished. Sickness is part of living in a world that is Not the Garden of Eden (we have microbes now), so that's Adam's fault. And the speaker's shame could apply to either the universal badness of life (thanks Adam) or to his own wrongdoing.

With thee
Let me combine (16-17)

These may look like throwaway lines, but they're actually theologically essential to Easter and this poem. On his own, the speaker is thin and sinful. It's only when he acknowledges this and asks for God's help that he can be saved.

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