May my rough voice and blunt tongue but spell
My tale (for tune they can’t) perhaps there may
Some angel catch an end of’t up and tell
In Heaven when he doth return that way
He’ll make thy palace, Lord, all over ring
With it in songs, thy saint and angels sing.
The poet cannot now come to heaven; for as Paul writes, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. And thus, he prays that perhaps his song spoken on earth might be heard by an angel and delivered to Heaven – and there it might be sung.
The idea that an angel might hear his song and deliver it to Heaven is a remarkable conceit, but that precise idea does not appear in the Bible. There are numerous instances of an angel speaking to a human being, but I can think of no instance in which an angel delivered an earthly message to heaven. It should be understood that the word “angel” means messenger.
The idea of speaking with a rough voice and a blunt tongue seems to be most related to two passages. First, when God calls Moses to speak to Pharaoh, Moses protests that he cannot deliver the message because he is a defective speaker:
Exodus 4:10 (AV)
10 And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
The related passage which also may have informed Taylor’s poem comes from the book of Romans where Paul explains that the Holy Spirit corrects our prayers:
Romans 8:26–27 (AV)
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
In the next stanza, Taylor continues with the theme of his inability. He then addresses the rank absurdity which lies at the heart of Christianity – if God is so great, so perfect, so holy, how could God also love us:
I know not how to speak’t, it is so good;
Shall Mortal and Immortal marry? Nay,
Man marry God? God be a match for mud?
This King of Glory wed a worm? Mere clay?
This is the case. The wonder too in bliss.
Thy maker is thy husband, hear’st thou this?
That marriage was given not merely for human comfort but ultimately as the basis for understanding the relationship between God and human beings is intrinsic to the Christian understanding of redemption. A parable by Kierkegaard can help open this idea:
Once upon a time, there was a prince who was single and very eager to marry a lovely maiden for his future queen. Near his palace was a large city, and often he rode his carriage down to the city to take care of various chores for his father. One day, to reach a particular merchant, he had to go through a rather poor section. He happened to glance out of the window and right into the eyes of a beautiful maiden.
He had occasion on the next few days to return to the section of the city–drawn as he was by the eyes of the maiden. And more than that, he had the good fortune once or twice actually to meet this young girl. Soon he began to feel that he was in love with her. But now he had a problem. How should he proceed to procure her hand?
Of course, he could order her to the palace and there propose marriage. But even a prince would like to feel that the girl he marries wants to marry him. Or perhaps, somewhat more graciously, he could arrive at her door in his most resplendent uniform and, with a bow, ask her hand. But even a prince wants to marry for love.
Again, he could masquerade as a peasant and try to gain her interest. After he proposed, he could pull off his ‘mask.’ Still, the masquerade would be ‘phony.’ He really could not manage it.
Finally a real solution presented itself to his mind. He would give up his kingly role and move into her neighborhood. There he would take up work as, say, a carpenter. During his work in the day and during his time off in the evening, he would get acquainted with the people, begin to share their interests and concerns, begin to talk their language. And in due time, should fortune be with him, he would make her acquaintance in a natural way. And should she come to love him, as he had already come to love her, then he would ask for her hand.
Or a passage from Thomas Watson:
Christ is full of love, as he is of merit. What was it but love, that he should save us, and not the angels? Among the rarities of the loadstone, this is not the least, that leaving the gold and pearl, it should draw iron to it, which is a baser kind of metal; so, that Christ should leave the angels, those more noble spirits, the gold and pearl, and draw mankind to him, how doth this proclaim his love? Love was the wing on which he did fly into the virgin’s womb. 1. How transcendent is Christ’s love to the saints! The apostle calls it a love ‘that passeth knowledge,’ Eph. 3:19. It is such a love as God the Father bears to Christ; the same for quality, though not equality, John 15:9. ‘As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you:’ A believer’s heart is the garden where Christ hath planted this sweet flower of his love. It is the channel thro’ which the golden stream of his affection runs. 2. How distinguishing is Christ’s love, 1 Cor. 1:26. ‘Not many wise, not many noble are called.’ In the old law God passed by the lion and the eagle, and took the dove for sacrifice; that God should pass by so many of birth and parts, and that the lot of free grace should fall upon thee; O the depth of divine grace! How invincible is the love of Christ! ‘It is strong as death,’ Cant. 8:6. Death might take away his life, not this love; and as death, so neither sin could wholly quench that divine flame of love; the church had her infirmities, her sleepy fits, Cant. 5:2 but though blacked and sullied, yet still a dove; Christ could see the faith, and wink at the failing.
Thomas Watson, “A Christian on the Mount, or a Treatise Concerning Meditation,” in Discourses on Important and Interesting Subjects, Being the Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; Glasgow: Blackie, Fullarton, & Co.; A. Fullarton & Co., 1829), 212–213.
The picture of the love between God and humanity being symbolized as marriage is the backdrop for the book of Hosea. In Isaiah, the particular image of maker and husband is given:
Isaiah 54:4–5 (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.
And in the letter to Ephesians, Paul makes plain this point:
Ephesians 5:30–33 (AV)
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.