Before reading Drury’s splendid biography of the poet George Herbert, I knew ‘imp’ only as a small being of occasional mischievousness.

But it is also a falconry term, which the OED defines as: ‘to engraft feathers in a damaged wing to restore or improve its power of flight’. Herbert uses it in this sense as a metaphor in his ‘Easter Wings’ (a poem which in form also echoes the spread of wings), grafting his own weaker wing on to that of Christ:

 

‘With thee

Let me combine,

And feel thy victory:

For if I imp my wing on thine,

Affliction shall advance the flight in me.’

 

Source: George Herbert, ‘Easter Wings’, quoted in John Drury, Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert (London: Penguin Books, 2014), p. 275

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