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Third Stanza 

Eternal love an object mean did smite

Which by the Prince of Darkness was beguiled,

That from this love it ran and swelled with spite. (15)

And in the way of filth was all defiled

Yet must be reconciled, cleansed and begraced

Or from the fruits of God’s first love displaced.

Summary: Eternal love rescued the poet. The poet was unworthy of such love. This rescue and reconciliation were necessary or the poet would have been lost. 


Here he continues with the striking metaphor of the violent overthrow brought about by God’s love.  In the first stanza, he spoke of God’s grace being a torment to him as he sought to find words to express this wonder. 

In this stanza he uses a similar metaphor: Eternal love, which is another way to refer to God’s grace, actually strikes him violently as in a war. He could only be stopped by a violent act of God overthrowing his rebellion.

In this way, there is a relationship between this poem and Donne’s sonnet, Batter my heart

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you 

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; 

That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend 

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new. 

I, like an usurp’d town to another due, 

Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end; 

Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, 

But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue. 

Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain, 

But am betroth’d unto your enemy; 

Divorce me, untie or break that knot again, 

Take me to you, imprison me, for I, 

Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, 

Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

The work of God’s love is violent from the perspective of the poet in his state of rebellion. God to redeem the poet and show him love, had to first overcome the utter refusal to be reconcile to God. Note the elements of the poet’s pre-conversion status:

Which by the Prince of Darkness was beguiled,

That from this love it ran and swelled with spite

And in the way of filth was all defiled

The poet had been taken over to the enemies camp: he had been seduced, beguiled by the Prince of Darkness. (For this name for the devil, consider Luther’s hymn, A Mighty Fortress, “The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him.”

The poet did not merely refuse God’s love but actively rejects such love to the point of running away from God. And, he did not merely run away, but he actively hated God. He describes himself as having “swelled with spite.” This is an interesting phrase because it plays off the idiom “swell with pride.”  To swell with pride was a phrase used by other writers, for instance, “See the difference between an heart that is swelled with pride, and that which is ballasted with humility>”

Thomas Watson, The Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson, Comprising His Celebrated Body of Divinity, in a Series of Lectures on the Shorter Catechism, and Various Sermons and Treatises (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1855), 510.

But this phrase, “swell with spite” is exceptionally rare. Even an internet search came back with only one use of the phrase. I found nothing in the published books catalogued by Google, and nothing in the writings of the contemporary Puritans. 

The poet describes himself as being stuffed with spite for God. 

And so he was a member of the opposing forces. He sought to evade God at all costs and he hated God. Finally, he was morally corrupt:

And in the way of filth was all defiled

Here again he plays upon a common idiom, “Way of life.”  Here is an apropos example of the common idiom: “Who would lose that which is certain and present, for the hope or fear of that which is to come and doubtful, when they suspect or believe it not fully? No wonder they go on still in the paths that lead down to the chambers of death, and are prejudiced against the ways of life. But why are men such infidels as to future things?” Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 2 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1871), 367.

But rather than being in the “way of life,” the poet was in the way of filth. 

Think again about the picture painted here: A man seething with hatred is running away from a fearsome enemy. In his struggle to escape his enemy, he is plunged into an open sewer, wading through the refuse and vermin, defiled – disgusting. And then his enemy overtakes and smites him in the midst of rebellion and escape. 

But what is the nature of this attack, “Eternal love.” 

Now consider the necessity mentioned in these lines:

Yet must be reconciled, cleansed and begraced

Or from the fruits of God’s first love displaced.

There are two sorts of necessity: One sort is merely conditional necessity. In this instance, if God does not rescue Taylor, Taylor will not be rescued. It is as simple as that. “He must be reconciled” or he will be lost as a conditional matter.

But there is a second sort of necessity, the necessity of compulsion. Taylor speaks of a sort of compulsion in the love of God.