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The prior post on this poem may be found here.


I know not how to speak’t, it so so good:
Shall mortal and immortal marry? nay
Man marry God? God be a match for mud?
The King of Glory to wed a worm? Mere Clay?
This is the case. The wonder too in bliss.
Thy Maker is thy husband. Hearst thou this?

My maker, he my husband? Oh! strange joy!
If kings wed worms, and monarch mites wed should,
Glory spouse shame, a prince a snake or fly
An angel court an ant, all wonder would.
Let such web worms, snake serpents, devils, flies.
Less wonder than the wedden in our eyes.

Paraphrase: The poet struggles for a comparison which could match the wonder he discovers in heaven: God loves human beings. In fact, the degree of intimacy is so profound that it can only be understood as a marriage.

Reference: These two stanzas introduce an idea which lies at the heart of Christian eschatology and the biblical narrative: the figure of the marriage between God and his people.

The primary reference here is to Isaiah 54:5. The entire passage reads as follows:

Isaiah 54:4–8 (AV)

4 Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. 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.
6 For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. 7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. 8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.

The concept here is that the degree of love God has for his people is figured in the love which a husband has for his wife. The idea is not there is any actual merger of God and humanity, but rather that marriage is an illustration to make plain the nature of God’s love for his own:

Understanding this explains a great of Christian conduct and language which may seem baffling to non-Christians. Notice how Paul weaves human marriage with the theology:

Ephesians 5:25–33 (AV)

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
It is for this reason that Christians cannot reduce marriage to a personal contract: it is a means given to us to begin to learn what it is to be in relationship with God.

It is this degree of intimacy (an idealized marriage) which amazes the poet.

Moreover, the culmination of Christian hope is to be called to “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).

This line helps to underscore the stark wonder of the poet:


The accent on the first syllable “MAN” requires one to slow down and pay attention. The back-and-back accents on the word “GOD” pivots the line into directions creating a chiasmus: Man God God Man.

A similar move happens here: Glory spouse shame, a prince a snake or fly, with the accent falling on three consecutive syllables GLORY SPOUSE SHAME.