Imagery and symbolism in Redemption

A dramatic twist

The whole poem is a single piece of symbolic writing. The central image of tenant/landlord is given a dramatic twist at the end, and the expected scenario finishes quite differently from what the reader may have anticipated. In the fairy story tradition, we might expect the landlord to be found among humble people, but not being beaten up by low-life scum – and certainly not dying!

Strange truth

This is the whole point of the story - to make us realise how unexpected it all is. Herbert, realising how easy it can be for familiar ideas to lose their impact, realises he has to find new ways to bring the message alive.

Investigating Redemption
  • In Redemption Herbert wants to jerk people back to a sense of the strangeness of the story
    • How well do you think he has succeeded?
    • Does the story seem seriously strange to you?

The theological symbolism

The details of the theological symbolism have been interestingly thought out. The old lease is the Old Covenant or Testament. What the poet is seeking, therefore, is a new agreement, the New Testament, which Christ's death achieves for him. So he couldn't have been granted this new lease a moment sooner. Herbert's simplicity hides a few surprises.

Investigating Redemption
  • Consider the theological symbolism in Redemption
    • Why could the tenant not have been granted his lease sooner?
    • What is the significance of the land the landlord had done to repossess?
    • Does the poem suggest something about the manner of Christ's coming to earth?
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