Tuesday 3 April 2012


Born on this day in 1593 was the great religious poet and all but saintly priest George Herbert. With Easter coming, here is/are his Easter Wings, a fine example of 'pattern poetry' or shaped verse, in which the lines assume a form that illustrates and expresses the meaning of the poem. Here each stanza shortens its lines towards a terse bisyllabic centre, from which they then expand outwards again to complete the pair of wings, an image of the potential (God-assisted) human state, of the wings of angels, perhaps of the contracting and expanding of the human heart. The word 'imp' in the last lines, by the way, means to graft...

Easter Wings

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With thee
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did beginne
And still with sicknesses and shame.
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With thee
Let me combine,
And feel thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

Rather wonderfully, the great Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert was - or believed himself to be - a distant descendant of his namesake George.


  1. In his introduction to a selection he made of GH's poetry (A Choice of George Herbert's Verse) R. S. Thomas wrote: "The
    bridge between . . . [Christianity and literature] is the Incarnation. If poetry is concerned with the concrete and the particular, then Christianity aims at their redemption and consecration. The poet invents the metaphor, and the Christian lives it."

  2. You know, the older one gets, the more Herbert seems not only relevant but essential.