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elijah

View all ye eyes above, this sight which flings

Seraphic fancies in chill raptures high,

A turf of clay, yet bright Glory’s King

From dust to glory angel-like to fly.

A clod immortalized, behold,

Flies through the skies swifter than an angel could.

(The analysis of the first stanza may be found here)

 

Upon the wings he of the wind rode in

His bright sedan, through all the silver skies

And made the azure cloud his chariot bring

Him to the mountain of celestial joys.

The Prince of the Air durst not an arrow spend

While through his realm his chariot did ascend.

(The analysis of the second stanza may be found here)

 

He did not in a fiery chariot’s shine

And whirlwind like Elias upward go.

But th’golden ladders jaspers rounds did climb

Unto the heavens high from earth below.

Each step trod on a golden stepping stone

Of diety unto his very throne.

 

This stanza is interesting on a couple of grounds. First, it seemingly contradicts the previous stanza In stanza two, Taylor describes Christ’s Ascension as an ascent in a “chariot” (the azure clouds his chariot”).  This stanza states he did not ascend in a chariot.

The contrast is in part underscored by the emphatic placement of “He” which begins this stanza and line with an accent

HE did NOT in a FI-ery CHAR-iots-SHINE

There are three things to say about this conflict: two explanations for why the conflict is not as sharp as it may appear. And a third point: the source for Taylor’s shift in imagery.

Why the Conflict is not as Sharp as it may Seem

First, Taylor’s poetry constantly bursts the bounds of language: He is trying to describe things for which there are no good human analog, and thus odd inversions of language may be necessary. Taylor has a Scriptural basis for this: for example Hell is described as both a place of fire and darkness (Matt. 8:12; 2 Peter 2:17; Matt. 25:41). In attempting to describe the glory of the Ascension Taylor simply runs out of language.

Second, the contrast is not as sharp as it may seem. Having said that Jesus ascended in a chariot of the “azure clouds” (itself, an impossible image), Taylor dispels the image which comes to mind by saying, It was not a chariot like Elijah.

Elijah’s chariot is found in 2 Kings 2. Elijah, the aging prophet, takes along his disciple, Elisha. Elisha fears that Elijah will be taken away and thus watches Elijah closely:

11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.2 Kings 2:11 (ESV)

Unlike Elijah, Jesus did not need some assistance to enter heaven: Jesus walks into the Kingdom as King:

Each step trod on a golden stepping stone

Of diety unto his very throne.

Third, the Basis for Taylor’s Shifting Imagery

The rhythm here is stately:  EACH STEP TROD on a GOLD-en STEPing STONE

The three accented words at the beginning of the line require one to slow to speak the words. The addition of 6, rather than 5, accents also makes the line slow. Jesus was not hurried, he entered into his kingdom at a slow stately pace.

Another reason for the difference between the second and third stanza comes from two separate passages which describe the event. In Acts 1, Christ’s Ascension looks like one being charioted by the clouds (to be poetic):

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.Acts 1:9 (ESV)

This visible description is to be read along with the descriptions of the Psalms and Hebrews:

Psalm 24:7–10 (ESV)

          Lift up your heads, O gates!

And be lifted up, O ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

          Who is this King of glory?

The Lord, strong and mighty,

the Lord, mighty in battle!

          Lift up your heads, O gates!

And lift them up, O ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

10          Who is this King of glory?

The Lord of hosts,

he is the King of glory! Selah

 

And:

 

Hebrews 1:6–9 (ESV)

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

“Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels winds,

and his ministers a flame of fire.”

But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,

the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

          You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Thus, when viewed from a human perspective, Jesus is being brought up into the clouds. But when viewed from the the heavenly perspective, he is the King marching into his Kingdom.