Monday, July 25, 2011

Interpretation of Edward Taylor's Meditation 42 (First Series)

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Like Edward Taylors other Preparatory Meditations, Meditation 4 uses iambic pentameter with mostly ABABCC rhyming stanzas. The structure of the poem is similar to that of a sermon, beginning with a metaphor and a question, moving into the development of this question and metaphor, and finally concluding with a prayer of petition. As the Bible verse at the beginning suggests, this poem is about Gods prerogative where heaven is concerned; in other words, how Gods grace is completely necessary for humankind to obtain the afterlife experience of heaven. Taylor organizes the poem into three parts, beginning with the unified metaphor and problem of the locked heart rusted by sin, which needs to be unlocked to Gods love, moving on the unlocking of Gods wardrobe to bring forth the heavenly robes and a development of the heavenly place, and ending in a final prayer of petition to dwell there.

In the first part, the poet introduces golden applesin silver pictures shrined and the Loveliness in Lumps, tunn¡¯d, and enrined in Jasper Cask, both images that stimulate desire and are pleasing to the senses. These sensual experiences are appealing to him, and his love is personified as birds which fly readily towards these objects of desire. Likewise, he knows that God is as appealing and beautiful and valuable, yet because of sin, his heart is rusty and cannot be opened until God, the metaphorical locksmith, finally discovers among his ten thousand keys on a string, one that can open it. Meanwhile, the Love in the poets heart, rather than flying eagerly like birds as it did to the two images introduced in the first stanza, cringes in a corner, withered and shrunken like an old apple. In the third stanza, he therefore prays to God to renew his lock (heart), rubbing off the rust, removing the sin, and oiling it, and then promises that his Love will respond, enlivened, to Gods love and grace.

Part two (stanza four) describes the metaphorical unlocking of the wardrobe and the distribution of heavenly garments. At this point the poets Love seems ready to wait on His King, who prepares a place for those who love Him, taking them (moving into stanza five) to His palace not only to view, but to join in this kingdom posessing the Crown of Life and the throne of Glory. Here God changes from the Locksmith to the owner of the Land.

And it is a glorious land, comparable to the Promised Land of Canaan with glory, gold, grace, and all Properties Divine. In this final section, the new inhabitants of Heaven (those who love Him; the His in stanza four) are taken by God to the threshold to look over their new home. Its riches suggest an even higher degree of desirability than the objects that stimulated the heart at the beginning of the poem Finally, the poet anticipates the happiness of receiving this blest Heritage, and pleads with God to clothe him in holy robes and to allow him to see Heaven through a peephole. He concludes with a promise that if God takes him in, he will pay the rent in happiness. This final line, Ill pay, when I possess Thy Throne, to Thee the Rent in Happiness could be interpreted in two ways. First, it could mean that the poet will happily pay the rent for entering heaven; mostly likely praise and worship for the rest of eternity. Secondly, it could mean that the rent itself is to be paid with happiness; in other words, his happiness will be so great that it can cover the enormous price of so valuable an estate.

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Meditation 4 is a prayer of hope and anticipation. Taylor is completely assured of Gods ability and sovereignty; all he hopes for is His grace in permitting him to enter the gates of heaven. And this petition is based not on works, but on his Love (capitalized probably to emphasize its key importance), which he firmly believes needs to be fully and wholly directed towards God, ready to fly towards Him, like Birds, at any moment.

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