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Unkey my heart, unlock thy wardrobe: bring

Out royal robes; adorn my soul, Lord, so;                 20

My love in rich attire shall on my King

Attend, and honor on him bestow.

In glory he prepares for his a place

Whom he doth here beglory all with grace.

Notes

The flow of this stanza is easy to follow: Open up your wardrobe and take out a robe to put on me. When I am suitably dressed I will wait upon you like a a courtier waits upon the king.

Unkey my hear, unlock thy wardrobe: bring

Out royal robes; adorn my soul, Lord, so;

Lines 19-20 express a simple prayer: Open up closet and dress me in a robe. The imagery here alludes to the story of the Prodigal Son. The son of a rich father demands his inheritance. The son then leaves his father and wastes the inheritance on debauched living. The son falls to feeding pigs during a famine. In despair he returns home with the hope that he perhaps he take a position as a servant on his father’s estate.  Each movement of the son’s life brings greater disgrace upon the father. To demand an inheritance is to wish his father dead. To live a profligate life degrades his father further. He falls to the lowest of servants and then comes back a virtual slave. The father should reject the son to maintain his honor.

Instead, the father has been patiently waiting for his son to return. When he sees his son “a long way off” he runs through the streets (degrading himself further) to bring his son home. Once home, the father prepares a banquet and dresses his son in his “best robe.” (Luke 15:22)

By alluding to this story, Taylor is putting himself in the place of the son who has degraded his father and then receives grace and mercy in abundance.

The return of the poet for being so dressed is to attend upon the king in love. While no one can increase the honor of God, we can certainly extol his honor, which increases our joy in the Lord. (Think of the analogy. How we praise those things we love and admire because our praise of the thing increases our joy in that object or person. To praise God is not to increase God’s merit but our happiness.)

Let’s now move back to the very first clauses in the stanza:

Unkey my heart, unlock thy wardrobe

The King’s wardrobe is also the poet’s heart. God is not going somewhere else to find the robe. This is the image which has been working its way through the poem. The poet is a chest wherein God should find something wonderful. The love therein is in terrible shape, but the very act of God going to that chest makes it new.

There is a conceit in Christianity that God does not love us because we are lovely. We do not merit God’s mercy and love. But that by loving us, God makes us lovely. His love transforms us.

Taylor ends with this couplet:

In glory he prepares for his a place

Whom he doth here beglory all with grace

In John 14, after the “last supper” the disciples of Jesus are discouraged. He tells them not to be discouraged or frightened: He is leaving. But his leaving is “to prepare a place” for us to live with him.

Christ has gone to prepare a place – and here prepares us here to enter into that place. Here, we are “beglor[ied] all with grace.” Grace is every good kindness which God bestows upon us. Our return to him is love, praise, honor.

This poem then, which extols the glory of God in bestowing grace is part of the honor which the poet promises to render.  The poem is both a prayer and an answer to the prayer (open my heart that I may praise you).