2 Corinthians 5:14–15, ascension, Christ as High Priest, Edward Taylor, High Priest, Holy Spirit, Jonathan Edwards, joy, Literature, Meditation, poem, Poetry, Puritan Poetry, Raptures of Love, Union with Christ
Raptures of love, surprising loveliness,
That burst through heavens all, in rapid flashes,
Glances guilt o’re with smiling comeliness!
Wonders do palefac’d stand smit by such dashes.
Glory itself heartsick of love doth lie
Bleeding out love o’re loveless me and die.
Rather than begin with the expected iamb, the poem begins with an accented syllable: Raptures. (One might have expected something like “Now raptures”.) Taylor intends to convey the sensation of being startled.
Rapture is an interesting word because it means to grab something and transport it elsewhere. The love which Taylor sees does not merely stand before him like picture: it grabs hold of him. He does not merely see the “flashes” (line 2), he is being transported.
The Scripture makes plain that God’s love does stand idly outside of the human being, but rather the love of God in Jesus Christ must transform us:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Taylor puns on the word “love” by using it as a noun and as an adjective. The effect is to make “loveliness” mean more than mere delight — it is something which is attractive because it contains and conveys love.
“Heavens all”: Since the word “heaven” refers to the atmosphere, “outer space” and the place of God beyond the physical creation [heaven is not simply “far away”], the biblical writers will use the word “heavens” to refer to all three.
Jesus Christ at this time sits at the right hand of majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3). He is communicated to us by operation of the Holy Spirit.
“Guilt o’re” covered in gold. The accented first syllable forces the movement forward in rapid fashion, thus the structure mirrors the content.
“Wonders” are looking on at the beauty of Christ the High Priest and feel shame and wonder.
Glory personified looks at the glory of Christ and falls lovesick. The image seems to be suggested by Canticles 5:8, “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.”
Taylor expresses the conflict of the saint who knows more than he feels. He knows that he should be as enraptured with the beauty of Christ as Wonder and Glory, but also sees that his affections are cold–thus, he is “loveless”.
It is strange and unfair that Puritans are thought to be dour, passionless people. While they openly condemned sin it was because sin is the cheat of joy and passion. Taylor, in full accord with Puritan teaching, hopes for greater passion and more love. The desire for passion and joy lay at the heart of Puritan teaching. Go to edwards.yale.edu and search for the words “beauty” (2480 entries) “joy” (3379).
Taylor will look upon his loveless in the 7th stanza (What strange congealed heart have I).
The last verb “die” is a bit ambiguous because the form is first person singular (die) not third person (dies). However, it seems best to understand Glory which is bleeding with love to be the subject who dies. The “wrong” form was dictated by the rhyme.