The motto for this mediation is
1 Corinthians 3:21–22 (AV)
21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
Paul is warning the congregation to cease to make the approval of other men the primary goal of life. They were seeking glory; and seemed to see Paul in a similar light. Paul specifically disclaims such glory and urges the congregation to look beyond such glory.
The weight of this poem and Taylor’s emphasis from the motto lie upon the fact that for the congregation “all things are yours.”
The poem works through a history of the world and brings this into a history of Taylor. At the first, he had Paradise he was “begraced with grace.” But that original innocence and blessing was lost. The poem will end with a prayer and a praise that in Christ he has received all things.
Begraced with glory, gloried with grace,
In Paradise I was, when all sweet shines
Hung dangling on this rosy world to face
Mine eyes, and nose, and charm mine ears with chimes.
All these were golden tills the which did hold (5)
My evidences wrapt in glorious folds.
Summary: The poet places in himself (impossibly) in Paradise before the Fall, where all was “very good” in the language of Genesis 1. Everything for him was “glorious”.
Begraced with glory: Grace is unmerited, undeserved gift from God. Any good received from God is a grace. Glory is an aspect of God. The ideas are of beauty, blazing light, and honor; in contrast to the broken, fallenness of a world of sin and shame. So to be given grace is to give one glory.
The line is a antimetabole: “Repetition of words, in successive clauses, in reverse grammatical order.” http://rhetoric.byu.edu Grace – glory – glory – Grace.
In Paradise I was: This can only be accessed by means of imagination. Thus, by means of imagination the poet is accessing this place out of time.
All sweet shines: everything good.
Golden tills: a “till” is a box for keeping money or valuables. The phrase is ambiguous, because it is unclear precisely what constitutes the till: did his sense bear such things or does he refer to the beauty of the various things which perceives?
My evidences: This is an interesting phrase, evidence of what. This line from a near contemporary Thomas Watson may help, “The saints’ graces are weapons to defend them, wings to elevate them, jewels to enrich them, spices to perfume them, stars to adorn them, cordials to refresh them: and does not all this work for good? The graces are our evidences for heaven; is it not good to have our evidences at the hour of death?” Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial; The Saint’s Spiritual Delight; The Holy Eucharist; and Other Treatises, The Writings of the Doctrinal Puritans and Divines of the Seventeenth Century (The Religious Tract Society, 1846), 18.
The combination of “grace” and “evidence” (a not uncommon concept in Puritan theology of the Taylor’s period) is apparent in this first stanza. To be graced is to have an evidence. While his vision of this beauty could be seen as an evidence that is in Paradise, I think it better to see the experience of such bliss as evidence of the grace. The glory evidences the grace; and the grace makes possible both the glory and the sight of glory.
The evidences here are wrapped in “glorious folds”.
Musical: The first word should be read “be-grac-ed” as three syllables for the line to scan properly. The play on the “g” sound in grace, glory, gold, works quite well in this stanza.