Arnold, W. T. "William Browne." The English Poets, edited by Thomas Humphry Ward. Vol. 2. New York: Macmil-lan, 1914.
"BUNCH OF GRAPES, THE" George Herbert (1633) George Herbert included his "The Bunch of Grapes" in the posthumously published collection titled The Temple. He adopts a biblical metaphor, establishing grapes as the raw fruit upon which the production of wine depends. Wine occupied a central role in the life of the Hebrews, and Canaan, a location referenced by Herbert in this poem, contained vast vineyards. When the Jews departed Egypt, Canaan represented their Promised Land, the geographic location the Israelites occupied before their bondage in Egypt. When they returned to Canaan, Joshua, brother to Moses, directed that the land be divided among the 12 Jewish tribes. Herbert establishes Canaan as symbolizing God's promised life to those who will receive his grace. He uses the story of the Jews seeking God's promises to tell the story of one who at first knew "Joy," locking it safely away, but suffered when "some bad man" allowed Joy to escape.
Herbert employs the fertility of Canaan, and by extension, the Christian life, to contrast with the symbolic meaning of the Red Sea, crossed by the Israelites when they first departed their bondage in Egypt. At the place where the Israelites crossed, the land remained so flat the Egyptians could not perceive the shoreline as they chased the Israelites in the fog of night, and so they fell into the trap Moses set when he ordered that the waters part to allow the Israelites to cross the sea safely. While the Red Sea represented a new beginning for the Israelites as the first obstacle they overcame with God's help, they later rejected God to worship an idol and wandered aimlessly around the desert, doubling back to the Red Sea before God at last allowed them to complete their journey at Canaan. Herbert suggests that as the Israelites, his speaker traveled toward God's Promised Land (6), then lost his focus and was "Brought back to the Red Sea, the sea of shame" (7). While the Jews spent 40 years in their wanderings, the speaker has spent "Sev'n years" (40).
The speaker notes in the second stanza another comparison to the "Jews of old" who traveled according to God's commandment, yet along the way "saw no town." In this case he compares to the Jews "each Christian" who "hath his journeys spanned" (10), as has the speaker. The speaker suggests that Christians learn from the story penned by the Jews, that human actions remain of "small renown," while "God's works are wide" and imbued with an "ancient justice" that "overflows our crimes" (12-14). Thus although Christians embrace the promise of a new life based on God's grace, they would do well to pay attention to God's rendering of justice in another age, which was revealed through the Old Testament and its dependence on religious law.
Herbert includes several additional biblical references in his third stanza, comparing Old Testament stories to New Testament parables. Examples include sand, an allusion to the parable found in Matthew 7 of the man who built his house on sand, or worldly concerns, only to lose it when water flooded it. He stands in contrast to the man who built his house on rock, or the word of the Lord, whose house stood firm. Other biblical allusions include "serpents, tents and shrouds" (17), with the serpent primarily sym
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