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My soul, Lord, quails to think that I should be

So high related, have such colors fair

Stick in my hat, from heaven: yet should see

My soul thus blotcht. Hell’s livery to bear.

What thine? New naturalized? Yet this relation

Thus barren, though’t’s a privilege-foundation?

The motto for this poem is again 1 Cor. 3:23, and here he has come to the words, “You are Christ’s.” And so, the poet contemplates what does this mean, I belong to Christ.

In this stanza, he compares himself to an attendant upon a king who wears the king’s uniform and yet seems himself as the ultimate imposture: I belong to this King in all my privilege and uniform, but look at me! I am not what my title claims.

The effect of this incongruity is fear and confession

My soul, Lord, quails

Quail is an archaic if not obsolete word by our day. The root meaning is along the lines of becoming ill. Entymology online gives this useful note: “Sense of “lose heart or courage, shrink before a danger or difficulty, cower” is attested from 1550s. According to OED, the word was common 1520-1650, then rare until 19c., when apparently it was revived by Scott. Related: Quailed; quailing.”

And thus, the word “quail” is especially fitting here: The poet is losing heart, I will be found out and found to be an impostor.  It is also interesting that it is his “soul” which quails. My life at its base, the thing I am: I am growing fearful at my core.

The break in the second foot, and the piled accents, opens the poem in a slow, even deliberate manner:

my SOUL [pause] LORD [pause] QUAILS

It frames the whole of the poem.

The poem then moves paradoxically to not a fearful thing but something which would seemingly bring joy:

                        to think that I should be

So high related, have such colors fair

Stick in my hat, from heaven

He has a claim to relationship with the King. He has fine clothing “colors fair”. Next there is a “stick in my hat.” I don’t know the details of 17th century court dress well enough to know if there was a stick which was displayed in a hat, or whether this was a mistake for “stick in hand,” which would then refer to some sort of cane.  The whole is “from heaven.”

What then is the problem?

                        yet should see

My soul thus blotcht.

Even though I dress so well, my soul – the soul has now returned as the scene of the crime—is “bloched.” His soul is stained. Underneath the heavenly dress, hidden from view in the soul, is a stain. I look like one thing but in my soul, I am another.

The whole is then reversed: Rather than being heaven’s livery, he is bearing the livery of hell!  His fearfulness is not merely the fear of the impostor, it is the fear of the traitor. I am in the court of a king and I am showing loyalty to his enemy.

At this point, an aspect of Taylor’s psychology, which is profoundly different from our post-Rousseau, post-Freud world. He does not look at the “natural” bent of his desire as good and “authentic” and his “true” self. That is the posture of therapy which seeks to have us feel good about desires (whatsoever they may be). Instead, Taylor would see this self as “natural” and corrupt. He does not begin with the premise that whatever he happens to want is morally neutral and good only because he wants it (“love is love”).

What is good and true is not defined by the desires of Taylor’s soul, but by the Lord of Taylor’s soul. The Lord has come to raise Taylor up. That is an idea which lies at the heart of Taylor’s project, but it is an idea which utterly foreign to our culture.

Taylor’s calls this rebellion, “Hell’s livery.”  And this is the paradox in Christianity: God’s love for his enemies. But it is not a love which merely receives the “prostitutes and sinners,” but a love which transforms them. Our culture would be fine with a God who merely receives but does not forgive (because there is nothing to be forgiven).

And that leads to the conflict in Taylor: God forgives and transforms: this is granted. But then why has God not transformed me:

What thine? New naturalized? Yet this relation

Thus barren, though’t’s a privilege-foundation?

I belong to you? I am a new citizen of this Kingdom? How is it that having received such a privilege, beginning from such a privileged place, I have produced nothing: I have a new relationship and there is nothing to show for it?

This is a struggle with identity: Who am I? I am really in Christ? Do I really belong to Christ?