[The Temple, Detail of Model]from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert:


¶ The bunch of grapes.

JOy, I did lock thee up: but some bad man
                            Hath let thee out again:
And now, me thinks, I am where I began
        Sev’n yeares ago: one vogue1 and vein,
        One aire of thoughts usurps my brain
I did towards Canaan draw; but now I am
Brought back to the Red sea, the sea of shame.

For as the Jews of old by Gods command
                            Travell’d, and saw no town;
So now each Christian hath his journeys spann’d:
        Their storie pennes and sets us down.
        A single deed is small renown.
Gods works are wide, and let in future times;
His ancient justice overflows our crimes.

Then have we too our guardian fires and clouds;
                            Our Scripture-dew drops fast:
We have our sands and serpents, tents and shrowds;
        Alas! our murmurings come not last.
        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.

But can he want the grape, who hath the wine?
                            I have their fruit and more.
Blessed be God, who prosper’d Noahs vine,
        And made it bring forth grapes good store.
        But much more him I must adore,
Who of the Laws sowre juice sweet wine did make,
Ev’n God himself being pressed for my sake.

1 vogue: the principal or foremost place in popular repute or estimation. (Oxford English Dictionary) [Return]

Woodcut Illustration: The Bunch of GrapesFulfillment of The Promised Land. Numbers 13:23,24 And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs. 24 The place was called the brook Eshcol ["cluster"], because of the cluster of grapes which the children of Israel cut down from thence. The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

Scriptural Note: Herbert compares and contrasts Israel in the Wilderness with the Christian's progress, the Old Testament with the New, and the Law and the Prophets (Noah) with Christ's gift. The image that delineates this contrast is "the grape and the wine."

Problem: Who is the "bad man" in line 1? Who would let Joy loose after the persona had captured it/him/her? [This is a hard answer.]

"The bunch of grapes" condenses the progress of The Temple. A microcosom pinpointing the rise to joy and perfection and return to sin and affliction, a cycle that improves, conversely to La Dolce Vita, until the escatology poems and the final union.

Essay "On Joy In The Temple."

Paranthetical note: Outlandish Proverbs # 207 reads ". The river past, and God forgotten."

Modern version
1633 Poem Index George Herbert & The Temple Home Page