Love Bade Me Welcome by George Herbert
Questions and Answers
1. In the first stanza, what or who is the “Love” to which Herbert refers? How do you know?
The “Love” that Herbert refers to is actually the Lord. We know this because shortly after, in the third stanza, Herbert addresses the love he has been speaking to as Lord.
2. What is the term for renaming the subject in a poem, for example, calling the Lord “quick-eyed Love” in the first stanza?
The term is an epithet.
3. Why is the speaker hesitant to accept the Lord’s invitation to sit with him? Find an example from each stanza.
In the first stanza, he is hesitant because he is “Guilty of dust and sin.” In the second, he calls himself “unkind, [and] ungrateful.” Third, he admits his eyes have been “marred” by sin.
4. Why does the Lord still invite the speaker to sit with him?
The Lord reminds the speaker of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the practice of communion: “And know you not…who bore the blame?” Since the speaker seems repentant of his faults, and because of Christ’s sacrifice, the Lord still invites the speaker to sit “…and taste My meat.”
Summary/Analysis of the Poem
This poem is clearly a religious one, as George Herbert was a Christian, and even a priest for the latter part of his life. This Poem perhaps a guess as to what the poet’s first encounter with God would be after he left this world. In the background of this poem, love here is personified and is God, as the persona refers to Love as “Lord” in the final stanza.
” Love bade me welcome.”
I- the short, easily comprehensible sentence emphasises the simplicity of God’s forgiveness of sins and welcome into Heaven – Christians believed that once you leave a confess your sins and proclaim your faith in Christ, you are Heaven-bound.
“Dust and sin”
-sibilance represents the hissing of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, showing readers that this phrase is particularly negative in meaning;
– “dust” is a reference to original sin, as Adam, one of the original sinners, is made from dust;
– also can be a reference to the damnation of mankind in death, as the saying goes “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust;”
– “sin” is direct reference to the evils that caused the downfall of man.
– emphasises God’s quickness to forgive His children when they repent.
“Drew nearer to me”
– shows that God takes the initiative to go to the persona, showing His willingness to save him.
– to say these words requires the lips to be in a kissing shape;
– kissing is an act of love and compassion;
– this shows, through what God asked, His love for His children.
“If I lacked any thing.”
– even as the King of Heaven, He asks the persona about his needs;
– this shows God’s ever-benevolent selflessness.
“A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:”
– the caesura in this phrase slows the pace of which it is read;
– it displays the persona’s nervousness in the presence of God.
“Love said, You shall be he.”
– even God, speaking to a mortal soul, capitalises the “Y” in “You;”
– this is God showing the persona his worthiness in His eyes.
“Unkind and ungrateful”
– the repetition of the “un-” prefix emphasises the negativity in the persona’s life.
– this implies that it is physically impossible to look straight at God;
– it is believed that even the highest ranks of angels, God’s divine creations, could not look directly at God for fear of burning in His glory (the reason behind having many wings: to cover their eyes).
“Love took my hand”
– taking one’s hand is a gesture of compassion and closeness;
– it also shows that the relationship between God and the persona is a personal relationship, as holding of hands is usually reserved for people whom you share personal relationships with.
– friendly gesture;
– it shows God’s eagerness to save His child.
“Truth Lord, but I have marred them:”
– caesura again slows the pace;
– it shows the persona’s shame in his confession, as would be normal for sinners to feel when confessing to a priest.
“Let my shame
go where it doth deserve”
– the enjambment quickens the pace, presenting the persona’s eagerness to accept his damnation that he feels he deserves as a result of his sinful life;
– “shame” can be seen as a metaphor for his soul – his life was so full of sin that he feels that his soul is naught but shameful to him;
– “go” implies that his destination is far, and as we are aware, Hell is very much distant from Heaven;
– the alliteration of the “d” in “doth deserve” is a hard sound to signify the hard punishments that the persona expects to befall him.
“Bore the blame”
– the alliteration of “b” is bouncy and lightens the tone of the phrase;
– it is a happy thing that Christ died for our sins.
“You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:”
– the caesura here slows the pace, but it gives the phrase a more gentle and caring tone;
– the change to present tense in “says Love” shows that what is being said here by God will be said forever, as He never forsakes His children;
– “my meat” is a reference to the soul-healing Body of Christ that saves a damned soul from eternal punishment.
“So I did sit and eat.”
– the poem ends with another simple sentence, further emphasising the simplicity of God’s forgiveness and acceptance of mortal souls into His kingdom;
– the monosyllabic nature of this sentence further adds to the emphasis of its simplicity.
The rhyme scheme: ababcc
– the rhyme scheme, split into a quatrain and a couplet, may be seen as representations of a mortal, imperfect soul and its healing;
– abab would symbolise the sinner, unsettled in his morals, imperfect, and unworthy;
– cc would symbolise the sinner becoming settled and perfect through faith, receiving God’s forgiveness, and made worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Love” as a personification
– Love here, as mentioned earlier, is a personification of God;
– personification is to give something human qualities, and is often used to allow readers to build a more personal relationship with the subject;
– Christians believed that it is important to have a close, personal relationship with God, therefore the use of personification in this poem would be viewed to present that message.