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Meditation 29

John 20:17

My shattered fancy stole away from me

(Wits run a-wooling over Eden’s Park)

And in God’s Garden saw a Golden Tree,

Whose heart was all divine, and gold its bark.

Whose glorious limbs and fruitful branches strong 

With saints and angels bright are richly hung.

The opening image of this poem is remarkable. His “fancy” runs away! At this time “fancy” referred particularly to the creative imagination. We would say this is a “flight of fancy,” a running away of the imagination. 

It is interesting that his fancy has been “shattered.” Why or how it became shattered is not said. It as if we have come upon a crime scene or a moment of chaos. His imagination has taken off.  His “wits” – his thoughts have run off.

The phrase “a-wooling” does not appear in the Shorter OED. The verb “wooling” appears in the Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases from 1854 where it refers to picking up scraps of wool (this usage is also attested by the OED). The meaning her seems to mean something like our usage in the phrase, “wild and woolly” – his wit is completely out of control.

But where is it out of control? In Eden’s Park. This is an interesting turn of phrase: it is meant to allude to the Garden of Eden – but he uses the word “Park” would here mean a very orderly garden – a wealthy estate, well laid out and maintained. But his imagination is blasting through this precise park.  

The use of the word wool suggests a ram running wild across a pristine green park with well-attended trees.

This park is not merely Eden, it becomes “God’s Garden” which transports us from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22:

Revelation 22:1–5 (KJV 1900) 

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner offruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. 

And here with find the Tree of Life transported from Eden to God’s Garden.

Thus, Taylor’s wild fancy has run from Eden to the New Heavens and New Earth in one wild run.

Since we will look more at the tree and branches later in the poem, we will pass that and look to the tree: it has a heart. What sort of tree has a heart? This is not a normal tree but it is something more. 

And there is one final point which cannot be missed here: Taylor is laying hold upon a sight of Christ by his imagination. I do not mean that he is speculating. As we will see, he is intensely scriptural in each place. This is a sort of picturesque theology. But he is imaging this event: he is making it present and real by seeing it. 

This is certainly not the most common of spiritual practices of present– at least for someone who would hold Taylor’s theology.  I do not believe I have ever heard a sermon which extolled imagination. This of course is what Taylor is doing throughout his meditations. But in this place he makes that paramount.

The only explanation I can have for his fancy being shattered is the overwhelming beauty of his vision.