George Herbert: Poem analysis » Redemption » Synopsis of Redemption
In The Temple, the great sequence of his poems Herbert had arranged before his death, Redemption occurs in a sequence on Easter, following a poem called Good Friday. As the poem deals symbolically with the death of Christ, this fits well.
More on Redemption: literally means ‘a buying back'. In the Bible, the term has the sense of a transaction which is necessary before human beings can be saved from God's condemnation for sin and disbelief. In the Old Testament (or Old Covenant), sacrifices were made which symbolised this transaction. The New Testament claims that the death of Jesus on the cross was sufficient to pay for the sins of all humankind. This concept is central to Herbert's beliefs.
Herbert was used to preaching in a rural parish, and here he uses a parable which describes a scenario with which his congregation might well have been familiar: going to a rich landowner to discuss the fact that his lease requires him to pay more than he can afford. As in a number of parables in the Bible, God is presented as the landowner and humankind as the tenant. Jesus is shown telling the parable of the tenants of the vineyard, who eventually killed the owner's son rather than pay their rent.
- In Redemption it is the tenant goes searching for the landlord, not vive versa
- How does that affect the feel of the poem?
- Would you ever naturally use the word ‘redeem' or ‘redemption'? in what contexts?
Having been tenant long to a rich Lord,
Not thriving, I resolved to be bold,
And make a suit unto him, to afford
A new small-rented lease, and cancell th’ old.
In heaven at his manour I him sought :
They told me there, that he was lately gone
About some land, which he had dearly bought
Long since on earth, to take possession.
I straight return’d, and knowing his great birth,
Sought him accordingly in great resorts ;
In cities, theatres, gardens, parks, and courts :
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth
Of theeves and murderers : there I him espied,
Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, and died.