Edward Taylor, My Shattered Fancy.5


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This stanza presents a question without an answer, but it does mention the response.

My Lord, what is it that Thou dost bestow?
The praise on this account fills up, and throngs
Eternity brimful, doth overflow
The heavens vast with rich angelic songs.
How should I blush? How tremble at this thing,
Not having yet my gam-ut learned to sing.

The introductory question, “What is that thou does bestow?” is not directly answered. The implied answer is, An engrafting of your life into my life, which results in you being brought into my web of relationships.

The rhythm of the first line puts the emphasis on the first word of the question, “What”. It does this by placing the word immediately after a pause and accented syllable. 

my LORD, WHAT is IT that THOU dost BEstow?

Yes, what is it? The rhythm makes it impossible to run past the question. 

It is now interesting that the question is not answered.  It is assumed by the word “this”

The praise on this account fills up, and throngs
Eternity brimful

But he never clearly says what “this” is.  He does raise the matter of relations again in the next stanza, “Thy graceful family”.  But here it is merely implied.

The result of this “this” is unceasing praise throughout heaven:

The praise on this account fills up, and throngs
Eternity brimful, doth overflow
The heavens vast with rich angelic songs.

In this, Taylor is again on solid scriptural ground. First, Taylor has come to a gathering:

Hebrews 12:22–23 (KJV 1900)

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Second, the most common scene in the pictures of heaven is one of singing:

Revelation 5:8–14 (KJV 1900) 

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 

11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; 12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. 14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever. 

The picture of heaven being “brimful” and overflowing with song is remarkable. We normally do not picture songs as occupying a space, but here the songs are palpable. 

As is most common in Taylor, he pauses for a moment at the fact that he is not fit to be present in this company. Taylor’s treatise on the Lord’s Supper begins with a discussion of the scene in Matthew 25 of the man who is present at the wedding feast but lacks the proper garments. That image seems to lie behind Taylor’s unfitness which these preparations were met to remedy.

He says:

How should I blush? How tremble at this thing,
Not having yet my gam-ut learned to sing.

His gamut would be the full range music. The original usage from Gamma (the Greek letter) which in Medieval music was on tone lower than middle A + ut. The concept developed into the full range of musical notes which a voice or instrument could produce. In our modern usage, the origin in music has dropped out and now the concept is merely the full range. Here, Taylor has the musical usage in mind:

How can I possibly participate in this singing and not be ashamed – I don’t know how to sing with these angels.

Edward Taylor, My Shattered Fancy.4


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These two stanzas go together. Each stanza begins with “I being graft in thee.” From that follows the nature of the relationship which now exists between the two. The first of these stanzas speaks of the particular relationships which have come into being. The poet primarily takes on the feminine role; the Lord the masculine. Hence he is sister, mother, spouse. Dove is neutral but in the allusion to Canticles, dove is feminine:

Song of Solomon 6:9 (KJV 1900)
9 My dove, my undefiled is but one;
She is the only one of her mother,
She is the choice one of her that bare her.
The daughters saw her, and blessed her;
Yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.

The ESV translates “undefiled” here as “my perfect one.”

The one characteristic which is unambiguously male is “son”. But in this context, it is the diminutive position, because the Lord is “father.”

Sister is likewise from Canticles (or Song of Solomon). Before reading this it should be noted that “sister” carries the emphasis of the intense closeness of the relationship is not meant to suggest something untoward:

Song of Solomon 4:9–12 (KJV 1900)
9 Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse;
Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes,
With one chain of thy neck.
10 How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse!
How much better is thy love than wine!
And the smell of thine ointments than all spices!
11 Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb:
Honey and milk are under thy tongue;
And the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
12 A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse;
A spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

As for “mother”, one may ask how the poet could be in the position of “mother” toward the Lord. The answer is from the Lord himself. When Jesus’ family heard he was in a house teaching, “his family heard of it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’” Mark 2:20-21.

As the family pressed for admittance, the matter came to Jesus’ attention:

Mark 3:31–35 (KJV 1900)
31 There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. 32 And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. 33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

This also being another reference to “sister.”

As spouse:

Isaiah 54:5 (KJV 1900)
5 For thy Maker is thine husband;
The Lord of hosts is his name;
And thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel;
The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

The most extensive discussion of marriage in the New Testament, Ephesians 5:21-33, speaks directly of human marriage and then applies the same to Christ and the church.

I being graft in Thee, there up do stand
In us relations all that mutual are.
I am Thy patient, pupil, servant, and
Thy sister, mother, dove, spouse, son, and heir.
Thou art my priest, physician, prophet, king,
Lord, brother, bridegroom, father, everything.

The relationship of prophet, priest, king are considered to be the formal offices of Christ, as set forth in the Westminster Confession.

It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only-begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man,1 the Prophet,2 Priest,3 and King;4 the Head and Saviour of his Church,5 the Heir of all things,6 and Judge of the world;7 unto whom he did, from all eternity, give a people to be his seed,8 and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.9
As for Father, there is the refrain made famous in Messiah:

Isaiah 9:6 (KJV 1900)
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
And the government shall be upon his shoulder:
And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God,
The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

In the next stanza on relationship, Taylor says that by being brought into relationship with Christ, he is brought into all of Christ’s relationships. Being in Christ, the relationships an angel has toward Christ are now Taylor’s relationship:
“I thy relations my relations name.”

I being graft in Thee I am grafted here
Into Thy family, and kindred claim
To all in heaven, God, saints, and angels there.
I Thy relations my relations name.
Thy father’s mine, Thy God my God, and I
With saints and angels draw affinity.

The relating of my God-your God, my Father, your Father comes Jesus’s words as he takes leave of Mary Magdalene following the Resurrection:

John 20:17 (KJV 1900)
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

And so these two stanzas work out the nature of the new relationships gained by the poet upon his union with Christ. First, there are the transformation of the relationships between himself and Christ; and then the transformation of his relationships to others, because he is in Christ.

It cannot be developed here, but at the Fall in Genesis 3, the totality of relationships between the humans and Creation have fundamentally changed for the worse. But here, in God’s Garden, by being brought into relationship in Christ, there is a complete restoration of relationship between God and human; human and all other creatures.

From The Descent of Man


(If it is not apparent, I find the sentiment expressed by the late Mr Darwin repellent and sinful. The passage and comment come from Dembski’s The End of Christianity)

Thus, in The Descent of Man, the sequel to the Origin, Darwin noted,

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. . . . The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.

Just so there is no doubt, Darwin saw, as a consequence of his theory, that whites (whom he regarded as “superior”) would exterminate blacks (whom he regarded as “inferior”).

An apology for vanity



Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural in old men, to be talking of themselves and their own past actions; and I shall indulge it without being tiresome to others, who, through respect to age, might conceive themselves obliged to give me a hearing, since this may be read or not as any one pleases. And, lastly (I may as well confess it, since my denial of it will be believed by nobody), perhaps I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity. Indeed, I scarce ever heard or saw the introductory words, “Without vanity I may say,” &c., but some vain thing immediately followed. Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor, and to others that are within his sphere of action; and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of life.

Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography

Edward Taylor, My Shattered Fancy.3


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The third stanza picks up on the concluding clause of the second stanza. The second stanza ends with the unfinished idea Thou’lt make me.

The third stanza begins, Thou’lt make me then its fruit

So second through third stanze read:

             Thou’lt make me

Thou’lt make me then its fruit

The chaining of the end-beginning clauses creates musical effect of speed, which is not common in Taylor’s often jagged verse. The effect is joyful and expectant. He will become a tree which shall not be moved though wind blow and hell attacks:

Thou’lt make me then its fruit, and branch to spring,
And though a nipping east wind blow, and all
Hell’s nymphs with spite their dog’s sticks therat ding
To dash the graft off, and its fruits to fall,
Yet I shall stand Thy graft, and fruits that are
Fruits of the tree of life Thy graft shall bear.

As explained with respect to the second stanza, the language of graft recalls the letter to the Romans. Here Taylor echoes Psalm 1. The blessed man whose delight is in the law of the Lord:

he shall be like a tree

Planted by the rivers of water, 

That bringeth forth his fruit in his season;

His leaf also shall not wither;

And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The rhythmic effects are interesting here. Two lines of regular rhythm are jarred by the accent on the first syllable of the third line, 


The enemy thus is emphasized. The fourth line scans

To DASH the GRAFT OFF, and its FRUITS to FALL,

The spondee GRAFT OFF followed by a pause, slows down the line and places emphasis on this attack. The damage is further emphasized in the second half of the line by the alliteration, “fruits/fall” which draws the two words together – but also harkens back to the f in Graft and Off.

The words “graft” and “fruit” then take the foreground in the final lines of the stanza. Notice how the repetition of the words also draws the two words together due to the alliteration of “f”, “r” and “t”:

To dash the graft off, and its fruits to fall,
Yet I shall stand Thy graft, and fruits that are
Fruits of the tree of life Thy graft shall bear.

The work which God does by grafting Taylor into the tree is a work which shall not be lost. This is a picturesque display of the doctrine of perseverance. Simply put, if God does a true work in a heart, that person will not be lost; God will cause them to continue. 

This is the understand of the doctrine of election: It is a comfort: you will not be lost. Unfortunately, it is sometimes raised a barrier: you cannot enter. Taylor puts the emphasis in the right. The tree will be battered; the graft will be tried: but, the graft will stand, because it is God’s work. This is shown in the first line of the stanza:

Thou’lt make me then its fruit, and branch to spring

God’s work will stand. Hell will raise against it, but Hell will prevail.

Thomas Adams, Politic Hunting.2

Adams goes onto the second aspect of the description of Esau: he was a cunning hunter and a man of the field. 

His exegesis at this point becomes a fanciful, but the observation is interesting. He takes this to be flatterers, whom he compares to spaniels, “They fawn, and fleer, and leap up, and kiss their master’s hand: but all this while they do but hunt him;…For they love not their master’s good, but their master’s goods.”

Adams then spends a few pages mocking psychics, astrologers and the like (the starting for this is the fact that both Jacob and Esau are born at the same time and lead such different lives. This is similar to the observation of Augustine in Confessions). 

He then comes to the “moral application to ourselves.”  He thinks about the sort of moral “hunting,” the wickedness among us humans, and the hunting of the poor. The language here is striking:

There is law against coiners; and it is made treason, justly, to stamp the king’s figure in forbidden metals. But what is metal to a man, the image of God! And we have those that coin money on the poor’s skins: they are traitors to the King of kings. 

Thus the poor man is the beast they hunt; who must rise early, rest late, eat the bread of sorrow, sit with many a hungry meal, perhaps his children crying for food, while all the fruit of his pains is served into Nimrod’s table

He then ends with a series of animals which ravage the commonwealth. The boar, “hath two damnable tusks: money, to make him friends and to charm and connivance; and a wicked conscience, that care not to swim to hell in blood.” 

The fox, “the crafter cheater.” “He sold his conscience to the devil for a stock of villainous wit.”

The “bloody wolf; the professed cut-throat, the usurer.”  The badger, who sells at an excessive cost. The camel, whom he calls one who begs and steals. 

If you be disposed to hunt, hunt these beasts that havoc the commonwealth; they the lambs alone, they do much good, no hurt. 

Politic Hunting.1 (Thomas Adams)


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Thomas Adams is known as the Puritan Shakespeare. He was a friend of the great English poet and fellow clergyman, John Donne. His collected sermons are little known, and so I will endeavor to provide some brief summaries of such from time to time. 

Here is the first sermon from the first of three volumes, “Politic Hunting.” 

The text is 

Esau was a cunning hunter, and a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, welling in tents. Gen. 35:27

Adams’ general strategy is to take the two appellations of Esau: cunning hunter, and, man of the field, and think through the implications of such phrases. He will move beyond the biography of Esau and consider these matters more broadly.

As he moves into his subject, he begins with the observation that there is nothing wrong with hunting: 

Hunting in itself is a delight lawful and laudable, and may be well argued for from the disposition that God hath put into creatures.  He hath naturally included on kind of beasts to pursue  another for man’s profit and pleasure. He hath given the dog a secret instinct to follow the hare, the heart, the fox, the boar, as if he would direct man by the finger of nature to exercise those qualities which his divine wisdom created in them. 

What is best in Adams is often his turn of phrase. It is not always picturesque as it is with someone like Watson; but it is often sharp and clear: 

The world is a glass, wherein we may contemplate the eternal power and majesty of God.

This is an understanding which is not unique to Adams, but it is a concise statement of the proposition. 

Following a warning that we not turn lawful recreations into excessive habits, Adams turns to the concept of a “cunning hunter”. He takes to mean, “plain force is not enough, there must be an accession of fraud.” 

Adams then notes the distinction between hunting wild beasts and caring for domestic animals. “This observation teacheth us to do no violence to the beasts that serve us.” 

He then proceeds to consider five sorts of sinful traits which he sees exampled in Esau and shown in the world. The underlying event is Esau coming in from the field and selling his birthright for a pool of soup:

Artwork by Nicolas Tournier, ESAU SELLING HIS BIRTHRIGHT TO JACOB FOR A POTTAGE OF LENTILS, Made of oil on canvas

(Nicolas Tournier)

First, those of a ravenous, intemperate appetite (couldn’t Esau have just waited a few minutes to eat something other than Jacob’s stew at the cost of his birthright?). A sinful greed. 

Speaking of those with intemperate appetites:

That intemperance is not only a filthy, but a foolish sin. It is impossible that a ravenous throat should lie near a sober brain

They have digged their grave with their teeth.

Second: his wrong estimation of things: 

And what, O ye Esauites, worldings, are momentary delights compared to the eternal! What a mess of gruel to the supper of glory! The belly is pleased, the soul is lost. Never was any meat, except the forbidden fruit, so dearly bought as this broth of Jacob. A curse followed both their feedings. There is no temporal thing without trouble, though it be far more worthy than the lentil pottage. Hath a man good things? He fears to forgo them. And when he must, could either wish they had not been so good, for a longer possession of them. 

Nothing then can make a man truly happy but eternity. Pleasures may last a while in this world; but they grow old with us, if they do not die before us. And the staff of old age is no pole of eternity. 

Third, discontentment: 

There are too many, that, in a sullen neglect, overlook all of God’s favors for the want of one their affections long after. 

Fourth: an obstinate adherence to his folly. 

It is wicked to sell heavenly things at a great rate of worldly; but it is most wretched to vilipend them. (Vilipend: to regard as worthless, despise)

Fifth, he was perfidious. 

And so the summary of Esau: 

In all these circumstances, it appeareth that though Esau was subtle to take beasts, he had no cunning to hunt out his own salvation.

Edward Taylor, My Shattered Fancy.2


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Thou! Thou! my dear dear Lord, art this rich tree,
The tree of life within God’s Paradise.
I am a withered twig, dried fit to be
A chat cast in Thy fire, writh off by vice.
Yet if Thy milk-white gracious hand will take me
And graft me in this golden stock, Thou’lt make me.

The first line of the poem breaks the structure of iambic feet with a series of accented syllables:


The repetition and emphasis is emphatic the Lord is the tree. Why the need for this emphasis, what is the effect of it? 

The poet (in his wooling imagination) goes through the Garden of God and comes upon the tree of life, but then something happens to him. The divine tree he realizes to be more than a tree. The tree is already something unreal, it is divine, it is gold – but now something new comes upon his realization: The Lord is the Tree. This tree of life upon which saints and angels live is the Lord himself. 

In this image, Taylor seems to be borrowing a conceit from the book of Daniel. In the fourth chapter we read of the King of Babylon Nebuchadezzar has a dream a great tree in which all the kingdoms of the world rest is the king (“it is thou O king”). Taylor seems to take that image and rework it to apply to the Lord who is the tree of life which upholds the people of God and the divine beings. 

And so the poet finds something he did not expect to find: it was one thing to find the tree, but to learn the Lord is the tree has taken him back.

This begins a rhetoric turn which Taylor will use though out this poem: the repetition of a phrase:

                                    This rich tree

The tree of life. 

The repetition of the phrase with slight variation is a feature of Hebraic poetry (it is more complex than mere repetition) which would be familiar to Taylor from the Bible. 

The phrase “God’s Paradise” harkens back to “God’s Garden” in the first stanza. Paradise equaling a garden. 

Next he brings up “withered twig”. This brings in two allusions. First is the man with the withered hand whom Jesus heals as recounted in Mark 3. Second is the dead branches which are cast in Jesus’s parable of the vine and branches. I will quote it a length because it’s imagery of vines and branches and fruit underlies a great deal of this poem: 

John 15:1–8 (KJV 1900)

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

Here Taylor begins as a withered branch. But rather than being cast into the fire, he seeks to be grafted into the tree.

He is asking to have the life of the tree flow into his dead life. Which is also a picture from the Gospel of John, “In him was life.” 

But there is yet another passage which lies behind Taylor’s prayer to be grafted into the tree. This comes from Paul’s letter to the Romans. In his image, Paul is describing the relationship of Gentile believers who are coming to relationship with the Jewish Messiah. Paul says the wild branches of Gentiles are being grafted into the existing tree:

Romans 11:16–21 (KJV 1900) 

16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 

Taylor has done something interesting with these various allusions. By using the allusion of a tree and the King of Babylon, the Lord’s position is pastoral and political: he is a protective ruler. The use of “withered” brings to mind Jesus healing the withered arm, which reverses the use of withered in John 15, where the withered branch is burned: Do not burn me, heal me. By then using a branch being grafted onto a tree, Taylor takes the personal prayer and makes it ecclesiastical: To be grafted into the Olive Tree is to be in the Church.

This also alludes back to the final line of the first stanza where the tree holds angels and saints (and again supports the use of the tree as the King). 

By piling up allusions, he creates greater depth in the meaning of the poem.

The third line is well constructed:

I am a withered twig, dried fit to be

The withered in the first half of the line becomes dried in the second half. The repetition again being Hebraic, but also AngloSaxon in the alliterative first and second half of the lines with the rhythm being more of equal stresses than iambs or other regular feet:


The pause between twig and dried puts even more emphasis on dried.  I am … DRIED. 

What has caused his trouble: vice. He has fallen into this state due to sin. This is useful because sin is more than a mere action: it has an ontological component: it is not merely breaking a law it is also to be dead.

The stanza then ends with the incomplete idea: Thou’ll make me. 

Make me what? 

Joseph Caryl, If the foundations are destroyed

If the foundations be destroyed.” etc. The civil foundation of a nation or people, is their laws and constitutions. The order and power that’s among them, that’s the foundation of a people; and when once this foundation is destroyed, “What can the righteous do?” What can the best, the wisest in the world, do in such a case? What can any man do, if there be not a foundation of government left among men? There is no help nor answer in such a case but that which follows in the fourth verse of the Psalm, “The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men;” as if he had said, in the midst of these confusions, when as it is said (Psalm 82:5), “All the foundations of the earth are out of course;” yet God keeps his course still, he is where he was and as he was, without variableness or shadow of turning.—

Joseph Caryl

Luther on the effect of God’s Love

The first part is clear because the love of God, which dwells in human beings, loves sinners, evil persons, fools, and weaklings in order to make them righteous, good, wise, and strong. Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows out and bestows good. For this reason, sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.

Heidelberg Disputations 28