In this poem, Taylor begins with the image of love being locked within a silver chest looking for an object fit for its attention. First, this “spark of love” must pass through the temptation presented by the world
The gawdy World me Courts t’unlock the Box,
A motion makes, where Love may pick and choose.
Her Downy Bosom opes, that pedlars Stall,
Of Wealth, Sports, Honours, Beauty, slickt up all.
This image of passing through the world which presents itself as seduction is an image present in the Bible. Thus, in 1 John 2:15-17 we read:
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. 1 John 2:15–17 (AV)
John’s warning to not love the world provides the basic concept of the love of world as a dangerous temptation. However, the citation alone does not tie the imagery to both the multifaceted details of Taylor and the concept of pilgrimage. The concept of pilgrimage was perhaps developed by Hebrews 11, a chapter which details the faith of those saints who had gone on before:
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13–16 (AV)
In Hebrews 11:24-26 Moses chooses the reproach of Christ over the pleasure of this world:
24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. Hebrews 11:24–26 (AV)
The multiplication of items of delight and commerce perhaps suggested itself the description of John in Revelation 18:11-17:
11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more: 12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, 13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men. 14 And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. 15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, 16 And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! 17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, Revelation 18:11–17 (AV)
Thus, the general content of this section could have suggested itself to Taylor from the Bible (and from the common tradition extant at the time, as will be seen later). However, the particular list of temptations is not directly found in the Bible:
Wealth, Sports, Honours, Beauty
Three of the items could easily be understand as basic mainstays of human desire: money, power, beauty which people both desire and can be parlayed into money and power. The strange item on the list is “sports”. While one cannot be dogmatic at this distance, perhaps this was a swipe at the Books of Sports:
Book of Sports, formally Declaration of Sports, order issued by King James I of England for use in Lancashire to resolve a conflict, on the subject of Sunday recreations, between the Puritans and the gentry, many of whom were Roman Catholics. Permission was given for dancing, archery, leaping and vaulting, and for “having of May games, Whitsun ales and morris dances, and the setting up of May-poles and other sports therewith used, so as the same may be had in due and convenient time without impediment or neglect of divine service, and that women shall have leave to carry rushes to church for the decorating of it.” On the other hand, “bear and bull-baiting, interludes, and (at all times in the meane sort of people by law prohibited) bowling” were not to be permitted on Sunday. In 1618 James ordered all English clergy to read the declaration from the pulpit, but so strong was the Puritan opposition to Sunday amusements that he prudently withdrew his command. In 1633 Charles I not only directed the republication of his father’s declaration but insisted upon the reading of it by the clergy. Many of the clergy were punished for refusing to obey the injunction. When Charles was overthrown during the English Civil Wars, Puritan prohibitions against sports and games on the Sabbath again prevailed until Charles II was restored in 1660.
Taylor develops the seduction of the world using plainly sexual imagery:
Her Downy Bosom opes
Due to the bizarre caricatures of the Puritans, one may confuse their absolute adherence to fidelity within marriage and exclusion of sexuality outside of marriage as repression – rather than as the opening for a profound love and passion. Rather than being repressed to the extent denying the existence of sexuality, they would use language which likely startle some more “modern” attenders at church (although the progressively crass language which masquerades as “authenticity” in modern pulpits would aim at the sort of thing which they would have avoided – vulgarity is not authenticity, is is just vulgar). Consider Thomas Brooks’ image of profit and pleasure:
There is an opening of the eyes of the mind to contemplation and joy, and there is an opening of the eyes of the body to shame and confusion. He promiseth them the former, but intends the latter, and so cheats them—giving them an apple in exchange for a paradise, as he deals by thousands now-a-days. Satan with ease puts fallacies upon us by his golden baits, and then he leads us and leaves us in a fool’s paradise. He promises the soul honour, pleasure, profit, &c., but pays the soul with the greatest contempt, shame, and loss that can be. By a golden bait he laboured to catch Christ, Mat. 4:8, 9. He shews him the beauty and the bravery of a bewitching world, which doubtless would have taken many a carnal heart; but here the devil’s fire fell upon wet tinder, and therefore took not. These tempting objects did not at all win upon his affections, nor dazzle his eyes, though many have eternally died of the wound of the eye, and fallen for ever by this vile strumpet the world, who, by laying forth her two fair breasts of profit and pleasure, hath wounded their souls, and cast them down into utter perdition. She hath, by the glistering of her pomp and preferment, slain millions; as the serpent Scytale, which, when she cannot overtake the fleeing passengers, doth, with her beautiful colours, astonish and amaze them, so that they have no power to pass away till she have stung them to death. Adversity hath slain her thousand, but prosperity her ten thousand.
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 12-13.