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Thy grace, dear Lord’s my golden wrack, I find

Screwing my fancy into ragged rhymes, 

Tuning thy praises in my feeble mind

Until I come to strike them on my chimes. 

Were I an angel bright, and borrow could (5)

King David’s harp, I would them play on gold.

Summary: In this stanza, the poet speaks of how painful it is for him to write these mediatory poems. If he had access to David’s greater gift, he would use it. 

General Notes:  What a remarkable introduction to a poem. The grace of God is both a wrack and screw. These implements of torture were in actual use by the English government (of which Taylor was a subject, even though he lived in the New England) at the time was written.

This does make an interesting discussion of Taylor’s creative process: He is faced with an extraordinary good. He finds himself compelled to translate the beauty with which he is faced into poetry. 

However, this process has two effects upon him. As has been the case many of the meditations, the contemplation of the grace of God causes in him an overwhelming sense of his own unworthiness and sinfulness. 

In this poem he references a related though distinct response: Here he finds himself inadequate to the process. He is unable to adequately make the translation.

The compulsion to write, to sense of sin and the inability to match the original he experiences like an implement of torture. In fact, when it comes to actual creation of the poem, the process is a torment, because he is the one operating the screw. 

Instrument Of Torture Stock Photos and Pictures | Getty Images

These responses are interestingly not inconsistent with the biblical account. 

This coming into knowing contact with the holy has a profound effect. Consider two stories of the disciples making a realization of the true nature of Jesus:

Luke 5:1–10 (AV) 

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 

Or in Mark 4, when Jesus stills the storm:

Mark 4:40–41 (AV) 

40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? 

But more to the point in this particular stanza are two instances from the prophet Jeremiah. In chapter 20, the prophet has determined that he will no longer speak because it has become too painful for him:

Jeremiah 20:7–9 (AV) 

O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay

And the Lord speaking to the prophet:

Jeremiah 23:29 (AV) 

29 Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? 

The pain of the first three gives way to an expression: First, there is tuning (line 4) and then striking the music on chimes (line 5). What we have with the poem before us is the tune struck out on chimes. 

The only adequate response to such grace would be found in a heavenly access ot David’s prophetic poetry. Only in heaven could there be sufficient skill and language for this task.

Poetics:

The stanza used is a quatrain of iambic pentameter followed by a couplet. The rhyme scheme is ABABCC.

The effect of the first three lines is striking:

Thy grace, dear Lord’s my golden wrack, I find

Screwing my fancy into ragged rhymes, 

Tuning thy praises in my feeble mind

Until I come to strike them on my chimes. 

There are two pauses in the first line, one after the first foot (thy grace) and at the last foot (I find). By using two pauses and breaking at the last foot, the words “I find” are joined to the second line. The second and third lines begin with an accented syllable. The iamb at the end of line one followed the accented first syllable in line two drives the poem along, almost as if it were falling downstairs.

By repeating the accent on the first syllable of the third line, it creates a parallel structure. Screwing: tuning. 

What is interesting with the second verb is we move from torment to music: It is as the poem begins with the tuning.

The end rhythms of the second and third lines also match: RAGged RHYMES/FEEble MIND. 

Since all end rhymes contain a long “I”, (find/rhyme/mind/chimes) there are full and near rhymes on every line.

The final couplet work similar to the couplet in a Shakespearean sonnet: there is a discontinuance and comment in the couplet upon that which proceeds. 

Here he moves from the discussion of his own creative process to an aside of what could be: If I were David, if I were an angel, this would be better.