bolizing evil or temptation from the story of the Garden of Eden; tents representing the nomadic life; and shrouds suggesting the linen in which Christ's body was bound, or perhaps an allusion to the fact that humans' concept of God remains clouded, as if one peered through a shroud, which rendered what he sought to see unclear. The speaker notes that such "murmurings" will not be the last ones in the name of God. Then he asks:
But where's the cluster? Where's the taste Of mine inheritance? Lord, if I must borrow, Let me as well take up their joy, as sorrow. (19-21)
Herbert appears to question why he does not enjoy the inheritance specified for the Jews as God's chosen people. That inheritance might be represented in the "cluster" of grapes, produced by Canaan.
In the final fourth stanza the voice at first answers its question with an additional question: "But can he want the grape, who hath the wine?" Herbert extends his metaphor to make the point that while the Jews who await their promised leader from God hold the grapes, or the promise, Christians, who acknowledge Christ as their savior, hold wine, the realization of the promise. He further expands on the metaphor as the speaker praises God for making Noah's vine "bring forth grapes good store." Acknowledging the grapes are worth praising, the speaker adds
But much more him I must adore, Who of the law's sour juice sweet wine did make,
Ev'n God himself, being pressed for my sake. (26-28)
Herbert notes that Christians no longer must abide by old Testament law to try to earn grace, as Christ's sacrifice suffices: it is the wine pressed from God. The image proves even stronger when the reader has some knowledge of the traditional grape press found in Canaan. It consisted of two troughs cut into rock, a fact that allows Herbert to reflect on his previous allusion to the house built on rock rather than sand. The wine press itself sat on the higher level, suggesting God's position in relationship to humans. The higher level proved shallower, with the lower level that human beings would occupy much deeper, forming a reservoir to collect the abundant juice pressed from the grapes. The juice was fermented twice, once in the wine press, then in wineskins or large jars, often strained to remove impurities during the process. Thus, Herbert suggests the process of coming to God experienced by his speaker. That process may involve misdirection, disillusionment, and purification by trial before it reaches any satisfactory completion.
Was this article helpful?