Love (III)

Love (III) Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Supper/Dining (Allegory)

This poem recounts a specific situation: Love is asking for the speaker to sit down for dinner, and the speaker eventually concedes. This has been read as an allegory by several critics. Claude Summers and others have argued that this is an allegory for mankind's entrance into heaven, while Chana Bloch argues that it is an allegory for taking communion. Either way, the meal shared between God and the speaker is a clear allegory for a Christian rite in which man comes into closer intimacy with God.

Eyes (Symbol)

Eyes appear several times in this poem: the speaker hesitates to look at Love. Then, Love assures him that God himself made those eyes. Although the speaker claims he has “marred” his eyes, Love assures him the blame is not his alone. Eyes and vision are often a symbol for knowledge. Here, the speaker seems to lack knowledge of God’s truth and man’s redemption until Love reminds him.

Courtesy (Allegory)

The dialogue that unfolds between Love and the speaker is somewhat of a battle of wills. However, this battle is played out with the utmost courtesy and kindness. While some contemporary, 17th-century representations of God focused on fury and might, Herbert’s God is, here, infinitely gentle and kind, “sweetly questioning,” “smiling,” and otherwise encouraging the speaker. This relates to the theme of the nature of Divine Love.