The first stanzas of the poem set out the decision to seek the Rose of Sharon. The second stanza ends with:
the Sparke of Love out breaths
To Court this Rose: and lodgeth in its leaves.
At this point, the poem moves to praise and prayer. Taylor moves back and forth between extolling the beauty of the Rose and praying for the gift and blessing of the Rose.
The first praise is that the Rose exceeds the flowers of “Garzia Horti”. Professor Rainwater explains the reference thus:
‘Meditation 1.4’ refers to the “flowers of Garza Horti”, which is doubtless a Latinized reference to Garcia D’Orta. Debus, Man and Nature in the Renaissance remarks tha a Latin text of D’Orta’s work existed (47)
“‘The Brazen Serpent Is a Doctor’s Shop:’ Edward Taylor’s Medical Vision” by Catherine Rainwater; in American Literature and Science, Edited y Robert Scholnick, 1992 University Press of Kentucky; page 38, fn. 26. D’Orta’s book is available in an English translation as Colloquies of the Simples and Drugs of India here: http://archive.org/details/colloquiesonsimp00orta The book discusses various natural medicines of India. Thus, this initial praise of the poem is that the Rose of Sharon exceeds all other medicines of the world.
Indeed, the poem’s praise and prayer will move from beauty as such to medicinal properties. The third and fourth stanzas concern the beauty of the Rose:
No Beauty sweet in all the World so Choice:
The Rose is “fairest”; it “blushes in beauty bright”. The perfume of the Rose is praised in the fourth stanza and becomes the basis of the first prayer:
19 Lord lead me into this sweet Rosy Bower:
20 Oh! Lodge my Soul in this Sweet Rosy bed:
21 Array my Soul with this sweet Sharon flower:
22 Perfume me with the Odours it doth shed.
Although not the most common element of praise in the Bible, the perfume of Christ is not without example:
14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:14–16 (ESV)
When seen in this light, the movement from perfume to medicinal imagery seems natural. Paul uses the imagery (if you will) of perfume of Christ as that which saves one from death – it brings life. Thus, Taylor, without question familiar with the text, would naturally move from perfume to saving and restoration to life.
In the fifth stanza, Taylor follows this line of thought and raises the matter of blood:
The Blood Red Pretious [precious] Syrup of this Rose
Doth all Catholicons excell what ere.
The blood of Christ is the great “catholicon” (universal remedy) for sin and death. Taylor states that this medicine will “purge”. He then prays that the God use the blood to “purge” his soul. The first detail of what must be purged comes in line 30
Chase all thine Enemies out of my land.
Here, Taylor takes up another strand of Scripture: The prayer for deliverance from enemies:
A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN HE FLED FROM ABSALOM HIS SON. 1 O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 2 many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah 3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 4 I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah 5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. 7 Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. 8 Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah Psalm 3 (ESV)
Now the blood of Christ – which is certainly a reference to his death – was given to destroy the greatest of all enemies:
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26 (ESV)
In the 15th chapter of Corinthians, Paul sets out the Gospel and the hope of the resurrection – which has become possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus:
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:1–8 (ESV)
Taylor in this meditation notes that the great medicine of this Rose is to be had only because the Rose was first killed – and yet the Rose was restored:
49 But, oh! alas! that such should be my need
50 That this Brave Flower must Pluckt, stampt, squeezed bee,
51 And boyld up in its Blood, its Spirits sheed,
52 To make a Physick sweet, sure, safe for mee.
53 But yet this mangled Rose rose up again
54 And in its pristine glory, doth remain.
Thus, Taylor’s meditation is a meditation upon Gospel – the victory of Jesus over death and sin. His remedy is and hope is the hope of glory:
61 My Dear-Sweet Lord, shall I thy Glory meet
62 Lodg’d in a Rose, that out a sweet Breath breaths.
63 What is my way to Glory made thus sweet,
64 Strewd all along with Sharons Rosy Leaves.
65 I’le walk this Rosy Path: World fawn, or frown
66 And Sharons Rose shall be my Rose, and Crown.
In so doing, Taylor continues to meditate in the vein of 1 Corinthians 15, which ends:
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:50–57 (ESV)