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Meditation 40

A clew of wonders! Clustered miracles!

Angels come whet your sight hereon. Here’s ground.

Sharpen your fancies here, ye saints in spiracles.

Here is enough in wonderment to drownds.

Make here the shining mark on white on which                              5                                 

Let all your wondering contemplations pitch.


A clew of wonders! A “clew” is a ball or coil: this matches nicely with “cluster” in the second clause.

The pause coming directly after the an unaccented syllable and a full stop (exclamation point) requires a long before we come to

Clustered miracles!

This pair of clauses is a call to come view. It is akin to a hawker calling to the public, Come see this.  He has not provided any “clue” as to what will be review.  The motto for the poem is John 14:2, where Jesus says to the worried disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” But even that is insufficient to know precisely what the poet will display.

We have a specific call to the angels:

Angels come whet your sight hereon. To “whet” is to sharpen a knife blade (for instance). The angels are being called to look upon this wonder and to sharpen their sight. This is an interesting allusion to a peculiar statement of First Peter:

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

1 Peter 1:10–12 (ESV) Of this particular passage, Calvin (an exegete who would have influenced Taylor at least indirectly) writes:

The passage indeed admits of a twofold meaning; either that the treasure we have in the gospel fills the angels with a desire to see it, as it is a sight especially delightful to them; or that they anxiously desire to see the kingdom of Christ, the living image of which is set forth in the gospel. But the last seems to me to be the most suitable meaning.

John Calvin, 1 Peter: Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), 1 Pe 1:12.

Here’s ground. He is a solid reason, a solid basis for sharpening your sight.

Sharpen your fancies here, ye saints in spiracles.

He continues with the imagery of the “whet[stone]” and calls upon the saints to sharpen their thoughts. Saints in spiracles: in breath, in spirit. Thus, being paired with the angels likely is a call to the saints in glory.

Breath of life:

Genesis 2:7 (VGCLEM)

7 Formavit igitur Dominus Deus hominem de limo terræ, et inspiravit in faciem ejus spiraculum vitæ, et factus est homo in animam viventem.

Genesis 7:22 (VGCLEM)

22 et cuncta, in quibus spiraculum vitæ est in terra, mortua sunt.

The breath of the omnipotent:

Job 33:4 (VGCLEM)

Spiritus Dei fecit me,

et spiraculum Omnipotentis vivificavit me.

Job 33:4 (D-R)

4 The spirit of God made me, and the breath of the Almighty gave me life.

Spirit of man, Prov. 20:27, “spiraculum hominis”

Here is enough in wonderment to drownds.

Here is enough wonder for one to drown in (?). I’m not quite certain of the last word’s import.

A final call to everyone, and hence the reader (which is interesting, because Taylor having kept the poems private included to readers beyond himself):

Make here the shining mark on white on which                              5                                 

Let all your wondering contemplations pitch.

Mark this place. All wonder which you will have, put it here. Place upon this thing.

First, Taylor has carefully kept back the cause of wonder. What will be the object of wonder is not stated. Second, it is a call for contemplation.

Modern Christianity (at least as I have experienced) is a religion of action; not wonder. Our wonder is limited. Perhaps we sing about wonder. There are sermons which tell us to wonder but rarely facilitate wonder. That is likely because the preacher has limited experience with contemplation and hence can do little more than tell you contemplate. Contemplation without action is not a common element of piety (again in my experience).

When I have heard any attempt to discuss such contemplation it is always in the context of an analogy to nature. And certainly nature can provide ground for our wonder. But why then is our piety so threadbare as to not afford such things?

But this poem is a call to contemplation, to gaze upon a wonder.

I recently listened to a podcast on how there was a movement from avoiding marvels to calling people to look at marvels and wonders. I should probably give it a new listen in light of this poem to see how if affects my understand: https://historyofphilosophy.net/renaissance-science-daston