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The Poems of Edward Taylor

Edward Taylor (1642-1729) was a New England Puritan. He was born in Leicestershire and became a school teacher with Puritan sympathies. After the Great Ejection, Taylor left England, studied divinity at Harvard, and eventually became minister of Westfield, Massachusetts.

Taylor was a colleague of Increase Mather and Charles Chauncey, and corresponded with Richard Baxter and other divines in England. He carried on a long-running controversy with Solomon Stoddard over the Lord's Supper, Taylor taking the position later held by Edwards. Donald Stanford says, "Taylor seems to have been endowed with most of those qualities usually connoted by the word puritan. He was learned, grave, severe, stubborn, and stiff-necked. He was very, very pious. But his piety was sincere. It was fed by a long continuous spiritual experience arising, so he felt, from a mystical communion with Christ. The reality and depth of this experience is amply witnessed by his poetry."

A perusal of his poetry shows that Taylor was a thorough going Calvinist. It was his custom to write a poem ("Meditation") before each Lord's Supper. They are wonderful examples of spiritual experience and devotion.

Here is Reformed theology in beautiful dress. The reader who loves Puritan sermons should welcome a chance to dive into this feast of Puritan poetry. They have been minimally edited, but do not be put off by the old spelling or unfamiliar words. Here is great literature that will repay slow examination, or even better, reading aloud.

Meditation 1 (Recommended for a first taste)
     "What Love is this of thine, that Cannot bee
     In thine Infinity, O Lord, Confinde"

I am the Living Bread
     "Which Bread of Life from Heaven down came and stands
     Disht on thy Table up by Angells Hands."

Things Present
     "Oh! that I ever felt what I profess.
     'Twould make me then the happi'st man alive."

I Go to Prepare a Place for You.
     "Who goes away t'prepare's a place most cleare
     Whose Shine o're shines the shining Sunshine here."

Let Him Kiss Me With the Kisse of His Mouth
     "Shall Christ bestow his lovely Love on his,
     And mask his face? allowing not a kiss?"

Our Insufficiency to Praise God Suitably, for His Mercy.
     "Our Musick would the World of Worlds out ring
     Yet be unfit within thine Eares to ting."

And All Drunk the Same Spirituall Drinke
     "A River down out runs through ages all.
     A Fountain opte, to wash off Sin and Fall."

He Sent a Man Before Them, Even Joseph, Who Was Sold, etc.
     All Dull, my Lord, my Spirits flat, and dead
     All water sockt and sapless to the skin.
     Oh! Screw mee up and make my Spirits bed
     Thy quickening vertue For my inke is dim,
     My pensill blunt. Doth Joseph type out thee?

God Commends His Love Unto Us, In That While We Were Yet Sinners, Christ Died For Us
     Gods Love thus Caskt in Heaven, none can tap
     Or breake its truss hoops, or attain a Scrap.

The Cup of Blessing Which Wee Bless, is It Not the Comunion of the Body of Christ? etc.
     Oh! Gracious Grace! whither soarst thou? How high
     Even from thy root to thy top branch dost tower?
     Thou springst from th'essence of blesst Deity
     And grow'st to th'top of Heavens all blissfull flower.

If One Died For All Then Are All Dead
     What did Deaths arrow shot at me thee hit?
     Didst slip between that flying shaft and mee?
     Didst make thyselfe Deaths marke shot at for nice?
     So that her Shaft shall fly no far than thee?

The Joy Of Church Fellowship Rightly Attended
     In Heaven soaring up, I dropt an Eare
     On Earth: and oh! sweet Melody!
     And listening, found it was the Saints who were
     Encoacht for Heaven that sang for Joy.
     For in Christs Coach they sweetly sing,
     As they to Glory ride therein.

An Address to the Soul Occasioned by a Rain
     Shall I be made
     A sparkling Wildfire Shop,
     Where my dull Spirits at the Fireball trade
     Do frisk and hop?

     Make me, O Lord, thy Spinning Wheele compleat;
     Thy Holy Worde my Distaff make for mee.
     Make mine Affections thy Swift Flyers neate,
     And make my Soule thy holy Spoole to bee.

The Reflexion
     Shall I not smell thy sweet, oh! Sharons Rose?
     Shall not mine Eye salute thy Beauty? Why?
     Shall thy sweet leaves their Beautious sweets upclose?
     As halfe ashamde my sight should on them ly?

These poems are taken from "The Poems of Edward Taylor," edited by Donald E. Stanford, U. Of North Carolina Press, 1989. Dr. Stanford gives an well-written introduction to the life of Taylor and makes many informed observations about his theology. This book is highly recommended.

If you enjoy these poems, try The Poems of Michael Wigglesworth

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