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Third Stanza

Poor wretched man Death’s captive stood full chuff
But thou my gracious Lord didst find relief
Thou King of Glory didst, to handy cuff
With King of Terrors and dashed out his teeth, 15
Pluckest out his sting, his poison quellest, his head
To pieces breakest. Hence cruel death lies dead.

Summary: Having passed his introduction, the poet turns to the explanation of his motto, “Death is yours.” The movement is clear: Humanity was under the sway of Death without escape. God found a way to defeat death. Death is now dead.

Notes

The motto:

“Death is yours.” This needs some explanation. The verse cited, in context reads,

1 Corinthians 3:18–23 (AV)
18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
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; 23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

The people of Corinth were playing favorites and counting themselves as part of a faction of Paul o Apollos or Cephas (Peter). Such factions are wisdom of the world. And why would claim only Paul or Apollos?

“This turns their slogans completely on their head, with the significant difference that the pronoun is plural, not singular. Thus, they may not say “I belong to Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas,” not only because that is to boast in mere men, but because that is the precise opposite of reality in Christ. In him, as Eph. 1 will say in lofty cadences, God has begun what he will eventually bring to full consummation, namely “to bring all things in heaven and earth under one head, even Christ” (Eph. 1:10); therefore, all things are yours (plural).” Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 153.

The personification of death:Death is here presented as a monster which God defeats: Death has “capatives”; therefore, Death has the capacity to make captive. Death is the “King of Terrors.” Death has teeth, a sting, poison, and a head. Death has also been killed.

Death holding captives:

This comes from Hebrews 2:14–15, “14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (AV) Here is specifically the “fear of death” which is used to hold us captive.

The Defeat of Death

The primary allusion for this stanza comes from 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, where Paul writes that due to the Resurrection of Jesus, the power of death has been destroyed. Taylor takes much of his imagery from this passage: “54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (AV)

The breaking of death’s head comes from Genesis 3:15, “15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

chuff: here morose, sullen. “full chuff”, does he mean “despair”?

Handy cuff: struck with a hand

Dashed out his teeth
This seems to be an allusion to Psalm 3:7 “7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.” (AV)

King of Terrors, Rosslyn Chapel

King of Terrors This comes from Job 18:14, speaking of one being brought to death as a judgment, “14 His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors.” (AV).
This was understood as a reference to death, “Death is of all terribles the most terrible, and is therefore called the king of terrors. But those who have taken God in Christ for their refuge, have what may comfort and establish them, even in that case. Even from the last enemy God it a refuge.” Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: A Soliloquy on the Art of Man-Fishing, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 5 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1849), 66.

Rutherford used the image with the idea of ruling over men, “By one man’s offence, there was a cruel king, death the king of terrors, who hath a black sceptre, set over all and every man without exception.” Samuel Rutherford, Christ Dying, and Drawing Sinners to Himself (Glasgow: Samuel and Archibald Gardner; Niven, Napier & Khull, 1803), 501.

In this sermon by Matthew Sylvester, we see very similar thoughts and imagery to that used by Taylor: “DIRECTION I. Be thoroughly persuaded of, and heartily affected with, a life to come. (2 Cor. 4:17, 18.)—This is the “poise” and pondus of religion; (Heb. 11:6;) this is the heart and strength of godliness. (Acts 24:14, 15, 25.) It is this that strips that king of terrors, death, of all his frightful looks and strength; this spoils his fatal conquest, gripe, and sting. (2 Tim. 4:6–8; 2 Cor. 5:1–10; 1 Cor. 15:51–58.)”. James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981), 659.

The phrase itself was remarkably common in Puritan writing, whether Public (such as Sylvester’s sermon) or in private correspondence such as this by Thomas Brooks, “Now you should always look upon death under scripture notions, and this will take off the terror of death; yea, it will make the king of terrors to be the king of desires; it will make you not only willing to die, but even long to die, and to cry out, ‘Oh that I had the wings of a dove, to fly away, and be at rest!’ At death you shall have an eternal jubilee, and be freed from all incumbrances. Now sin shall be no more, nor trouble shall be no more, nor pain nor ailments shall be no more.” Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 5 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1867), 454–455.

King of Glory: This is an allusion to Psalm: 8–10 “8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.” The allusion is quite apt, because the original is a reference to Jesus’ Ascension where he enters having defeated death:

“When Christ ascends into heaven after his sore conflict with his enemies and his glorious victory over them, wherein he appeared to be “the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” [v. 8], and the word was proclaimed to the gates and doors of that everlasting temple of God, that they should be lift up, that the King of glory may come in, the heavenly hosts are represented as inquiring with wonder and great admiration, “Who is this King of glory?”, as being in their eyes a very wonderful person, and one that had done very wonderful things, as though some very new thing appeared, a remarkable person coming, appearing in such wise as never had been before, a person that appeared with very wonderful glory, and such an one as that it was wonderful that one, with those things that had appeared in him of late and now appeared, should have the title of “the King of glory,” as though it was admirable that such glory should be united with those other things that appeared in this person, which yet it most plainly appeared there had, that appeared in him, by which he appears sufficiently to merit the character of the King of glory, viz. his appearing so strong and mighty in battle, as he had done, and gaining such a glorious victory, as he had done. And therefore it is answered, “The Lord strong and mighty,” etc. [v. 8].” Jonathan Edwards, Notes on Scripture, ed. Harry S. Stout and Stephen J. Stein, vol. 15, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (London; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 282.

The Defeat of Death:

Christ before his death had been combating with the powers of darkness and all the subordinate instruments. Death was Satan’s beast of prey that was set upon him; but our Lord foiled it in its own dungeon. The battle between Christ and death was begun upon the cross; he grappled with it there, and they went tugging and wrestling to the grave. Christ, like a prudent warrior, carried the war into his enemy’s country, and there got loose of the grasp of death, foiled it in its own territory. He arose, and left death gasping behind him; so that the quality of the grave is quite altered. Before it was a prison, Satan’s dungeon; now it is a chamber of repose, a bed of ease, ever since Christ slept there.

Thomas Manton, “The Saints Triumph Over Death,” The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 2 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1871), 445

And is it much ‘far better’ to die, that we may be with Christ, than to live here a conflicting life? Why should we then fear death, that is but a passage to Christ? It is but a grim sergeant that lets us into a glorious palace, that strikes off our bolts, that takes off our rags, that we may be clothed with better robes, that ends all our misery, and is the beginning of all our happiness. Why should we therefore be afraid of death? it is but a departure to a better condition? It is but as Jordan to the children of Israel, by which they passed to Canaan. It is but as the Red Sea by which they were going that way. Therefore we have no reason to fear death. Of itself it is an enemy indeed, but now it is harmless, nay, now it is become a friend, amicable to us, a sweet friend. It is one part of the church’s jointure, death. ‘All things are yours,’ saith the apostle, Paul and Apollos, ‘life and death,’ 1 Cor. 3:22. Death is ours and for our good. It doth us more good than all the friends we have in the world. It determines and ends all our misery and sin; and it is the suburbs of heaven. It lets us into those joys above.

Richard Sibbes, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 340.

Death lies dead: I don’t know if he means an allusion here to either Donne’s “Death thou shalt die” or Owens’ “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.”

Prosody:

The first line is hard to scan. The effect depends upon how one takes the word “poor” at the beginning. It could read solemnly, “POOR WRETched MAN,” with a heavy accent on “poor.” But one could read the line Poor filling in like a connective word introducing the topic.

The interesting effects are in lines 15-18:

With King of Terrors and dashed out his teeth, 15
Pluckest out his sting, his poison quellest, his head
To pieces breakest. Hence cruel death lies dead.

There is no way to force these lines into smooth iambs. The pause in line 15 between TERrors – and makes for a run up to DASHED OUT his TEETH. Perphas Taylor had a cheat syllable of DASH-ed to create iambs.

Line 16 I scan:

PLUCKest OUT his STING, his POIson QUELLest, his HEAD – an enjambment: which creates some movement to line 17

Line 17

to PIEces BREAKest.

We get a long pause before when come to the conclusion of death’s death.

The strong initial consonsants:

With King of Terrors and dashed out his teeth, 15
Pluckest out his sting, his poison quellest, his head
To pieces breakest. Hence cruel death lies dead.