Would God I in that Golden City were,
With jasper walls all garnished and made swash
With precious stones, whose gates are pearls most clear
And street pure gold, like to transparent glass.
That my dull soul might be inflamed to see
How saints and angels ravished are in glee.
The reference here is the city of the New (heavenly) Jerusalem:
18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; 20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
Revelation 21:18–21 (AV).
Meter: Note in the first line there is the standard iamb, followed by a trochee which forces attention upon the I: would GOD I in that GOLden CITy WERE. It is his presence in the place which is emphasized in the meter.
Paraphrase: The poet wishes that he could be present in the age to come, in the heavenly Jerusalem come down to earth (for the goal of Christianity is not some far away place, but heaven and earth together). The trouble lies with his “dull soul”. This is a constant them in Taylor: the present inability to truly enjoy the glory of God. In the Ascension poems, he would that he could bare the sight of Christ entering into glory and being seated. Here, he wishes for the age to come. This tension will only be resolved by the resurrection:
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:42–44 (AV).
Were I but there and could but tell my story,
‘Twould rub those walls of precious stones more bright:
And glaze those gates of pearl with brighter glory;
And pave the golden street with greater light.
‘Twould in fresh raptures saints and angels fling
But I poor snake crawl here, scare mud walled in.
Reference “I poor snake crawl here”. I an ironic reference to Genesis 3:1 where the Serpent (Satan) appears as a snake to tempt Eve. Genesis 3:15 makes reference to the “seed/offspring of the serpent”. Being subjected to the Fall and the Curse, human beings have now been brought low.
Meter: “Story/Glory”, end the first and third lines. The line scan 11 syllables with a feminine rhyme on the 10 & 11th syllables.
Paraphrase: The story of the poet’s salvation (his coming to this city) of such a marvel that if it were known, it would impart a greater glory to the place than is possible in the mere stones and gold. Those things are beautiful, but the story of the poet’s salvation is greater still.
May my rough voice and blunt tongue but spell my
My tale (for tune they can’t) perhaps there may
Some angel catch in an end of’t up and tell
In heaven when he doth return that way
He’ll make they palace, Lord, all over ring
With it in songs, they saint and angels sing.
Meter: In the first line of the phrase “blunt tongue” again creates a pair of accented syllables by running a trochee after an iamb. The effect is jarring, underscoring the bluntness of his tongue.
Reference: The purpose of salvation is bring glory to God. As Paul writes in Ephesians:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Ephesians 1:3–6 (AV)
Paraphrase: The poet is unable to sing in any manner worthy of God’s glory (much less saints made perfect or the angelic world). Therefore, he will “spell” his story: he will write it out in this poem. His hope is that by spelling it out, an angel may over his story and bring the story back to heaven where the angel’s far greater abilities will make it possible to recount the story (given in this poem) in a song worthy of God’s gory.
As Charles Wesley wrote:
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honors of Thy name.