George Herbert’s Love (III) begins with a scene in which a figure is hosting the speaker. This figure, simply known as “Love,” at first glance seems powerful, though we never truly discover his identity. Love clearly has some sort of authority or dominance over the speaker, much like a father has authority over his son. The poem opens with feelings of regret and remorse stemming from the speaker, “Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back, Guilty of dust and sin.” Perhaps the speaker has lead an unjust life, but for reasons unknown to the audience, the speaker feels undeserving and hesitant to be in the presence of Love.
As the poem progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that Love is a metaphor for a higher power. I believe that Love in this case, is the Judeo-Christian God, the creator. The speaker speaks of this meeting with Love as someone would speak of an encounter with God. He says in the second stanza (if splitting the poem into three equal stanzas of six lines), “I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear, I cannot look on thee. Love took my hand, and smiling did reply, Who made the eyes but I?” Love has admitted to creating the speakers eyes, and in turn, the speaker as a whole.
In the last stanza, the speaker announces Love as “Lord” a change that makes his identity even more obvious. The speaker pleads his Lord to let his shame go where it deserves to go (perhaps to his own death). The poem concludes with an allusion to the Christian practice of communion or the Eucharist. Love declares to the speaker, “And you know not, who bore the blame? My dear, then I will serve. You must sit down and taste my meat.” Love is asking the speaker to accept his sacrifice and consume his body (figuratively). This last image solidified my belief that Herbert is speaking of a meeting between God and man.