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His Wayes Disgrac'd Are Grac'd: Edward Taylor's Metrical History

of Christianity as Puritan Narrative


Jane Donahue Eberwein
Early American Literature, Volume 38, Number 3, 2003, pp. 339-364
(Article)
Published by The University of North Carolina Press
DOI: 10.1353/eal.2003.0038
For additional information about this article
Access provided by Univ of Arkansas @ Little Rock (11 Dec 2013 19:45 GMT)
http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/eal/summary/v038/38.3eberwein.html
,.i io.u0i ivivwii Oakland University
His Wayes Disgracd Are Gracd
Edwaid Taylois Metrical Histcry cf
Christianity as Puiitan Naiiative
And thus we see how Tiuth doth cleaiely shine,
When Smootheid out in these daike times,
By hei Pole Stai to Steei oui line
The Skies fogd with thick Rimes.
And now I pass having thus come to Spie
The Shine of Giace allthough but dim
Of Patience biight, and Justice high
That doth adoin oui king.
And of Eciency in Spaikling Rayes
And Blessed Tiuth, when tiuths defacde.
Unto oui Loids eielasting piaise
His Wayes disgiacd aie giacd.
Edwaid Tayloi, Metrical Histcry
Among the many paiadoxes associated with Edwaid Tayloi is that
his most ambitious woik is also the least available, least iead, and least ad-
miied of his known poetic pioductions. A Metrical Histcry cf Christianity,
with its appioximately :o,ooo lines, equals in volume Gcds Determinaticns
Tcuching His Elect, the Preparatcry Meditaticns, and all his occasional and
minoi veise combined, and Tayloi evidently felt pleased enough with his
manusciipt to bind it in book foim. Accoiding to Donald Stanfoid, it was
caiefully piepaied with iuled maigins and stoutly bound, piobably by the
poet himself. The handwiiting is piecise and neat. Notes in the maigin
give legible ieadings of some illegible coiiections, andStanfoidconcluded
fiom this evidence of authoiial attentiveness that the poet attempted to
pieseive this poem as caiefully as he did his othei woik (Edwaid :8o).
Tayloi piobably anticipated a widei audience foi this poem than otheis,
judging fiom textual evidence I will discuss latei and because its useful-
{ ,,;
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ness need not be iestiicted to paiticulai categoiies of anxious souls as was
the case with Gcds Determinaticns, his othei majoi pioject with signi-
cant naiiative qualities. Yet foi twenty-ist-centuiy ieadeis encounteiing
A Metrical Histcry, theie is a sense of caveinous distance between its au-
thoi and us that conims Jeiey Hammonds wise obseivation that theie
was a Puiitan way of ieading and it was not like ouis (x).
Questions I set foi myself in this essay aie those that confiont todays
ieadeis tiying to make sense of this puzzling and often aggiavating text:
What is this poem, and what does it tell us about Edwaid Taylois sense
of poetic vocation and Puiitan poetics moie geneially: Beyond that, an
ongoing inteiest in eaily Ameiican naiiative poems impels me to won-
dei how this massive specimen (moie than twice the length of Anne Biad-
stieets The Foui Monaichies) ielates to Puiitan stoiytelling appioaches
in piose as well as veise. I am guided in this eoit by Hammonds advice
that in oidei to make Puiitan poetiy come alive in a mannei that con-
ventional ways of ieading simply do not peimit, the modein ieadei must
make an eoit to iecovei a sense of how Puiitans felt when they wiote and
iead veise (ix).
That woik of iecoveiy begins with the text, foi which we have Stanfoid
to thank foi decipheiing Taylois notoiiously dicult penmanship and
piepaiing the typesciipt that makes this book modestly available. Stoied
oiiginally with family papeis, Taylois manusciipt has ieposed in the Red-
wood Athenaeum in Newpoit, Rhode Island, since I,__. Stanfoid intio-
duced it to the woild with a I,oI American Literature aiticle. Since then,
biief exceipts have appeaied in piintone passage even giacing the covei
of Early American Literatures special Tayloi issue in wintei I,,o. Ten pages
of exceipts conclude the Yale edition of The Pcems cf Edward Taylcr. As
Tayloi left his manusciipt untitled (oi his title disappeaied with the open-
ing pages), Stanfoid diiected attention to its genie, content, and scope by
calling it A Metrical Histcry cf Christianity although Kail Kellei latei pio-
posed the moie sensationalistic Taylcrs Bcck cf Christian Hcrrcrs, cr, New
Englands Legacy (Example II). Kellei thought Tayloi could have begun
this pioject in the eaily Io8os, judging fiom seimon iefeiences at that time
to its chief souice (Example I_). Thomas Davis places its composition
ioughly between Io,o and I,o, (Tayloi, Mincr, II,), and Stanfoid dated the
actual binding of the manusciipt to the ist yeais of the eighteenth cen-
tuiy (Edwaid :,,). Much iemains unceitain about this woik, howevei,
including whethei Tayloi intended it as one poem oi two.
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Taylois Metrical Histcry { ,:
The text divides into two quite distinctive and dispiopoitionate sec-
tions involving dieient souices. Those souices tuin out to be suipiis-
ingly limited foi so compiehensive a histoiy. Stanfoid convincingly dem-
onstiated that Tayloi ielied heavily foi the main section of A Metrical
Histcry, a centuiy-by-centuiy ieview of Chiistian histoiy fiom the ciuci-
xiontoabout midway inthe eleventhcentuiy, onthe Ecclesiastica Histcria
IntegramEcclesiae oi Magdeburg Centuries by the Geiman Matthias Flacius
and his associates. Taylois six-volume edition of Flacius ended with the
twelfth centuiy, and the many chuich histoiians he cites tuin out to have
been cited oiiginally by Flacius (Intioduction to The Pcems lxi, Edwaid
:8_). This was a paiticulaily useful souice as ecclesiastical histoiy fiom a
specically Piotestant peispective, though it dated fiomthe mid-sixteenth
centuiy. The second section, peihaps intended as a sepaiate poem, ielates
the sueiings of EnglishPiotestant maityis inthe ieignof QueenMaiyand
is heavily based on John Foxes Actes and Mcnuments oi Bcck cf Martyrs.
Wheieas the ist pait follows Flacius in its oiganization by centuiies, the
second divides by yeais and places and is iestiicted to the yeais fiomI,,, to
I,,8. Theie is little attempt at oiiginality inTaylois assemblage of infoima-
tion, though he intioduced his distinctive touch in the unifying device of
exhibiting histoiy as evidence of the shines oi iadiations of Gods giace,
patience, justice, eciency, and tiuth, as well as by ielating his naiiative in
a faiily piedictable cycle of veise foims. The manusciipt iemains incom-
plete, with pages missing fiom both ends. The book, as we know it, opens
without any soit of piologue and with paits of the manusciipt illegible
and ends mid-sentence, two lines into what ought to be a foui-line stanza.
Theie is no sense of closuie and no tiansition between the two sections.
If Tayloi attempted to announce his plans foi the poem, the most likely
places foi him to have done so have been lost.
Undeistandably, A Metrical Histcry has diawn little scholaily attention,
and Stanfoid zeioed in on piime conceins foi ciitics in this iemaikably
foithiight evaluative comment: I doubt that anyone in his iight mind will
edit and annotate the entiie poem. Much of it is a venomous attack on
Popeiy wiitten in scuiiilous and scatological languagea shocking ex-
ample of howlowthe mind of a Calvinist Puiitan elect could sink undei the
stiess of theological hatied. Howevei, theie aie a few lyiical outbuists of
meiit, one of which, Giaces Biight Shine, is in the Yale edition (Poems
8). Stanfoids own appioach, intioducing the poem, was to desciibe it and
seek out passages most likely to giatify a modein ieadei aesthetically, those
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aie chiey lyiic sections seiving tiansitional puiposes that fieed Tayloi up
fiomhis piose souices. Yet Stanfoid found much moie in the poem(s) to af-
fiont contempoiaiy taste thiough Taylois moibid inteiest in toituie and
painand little aitistic iewaid in plodding thiough long passages of the
most deadly doggeiel (Edwaid :,:, :,I). Kail Kellei, who desciibed A
Metrical Histcry as cantankeious, contentious, and ciude (Acting Poet
I,o), linked the scatological natuie of this wiiting to its authois ieligious
expeiience, aiguing that Taylois exciemental viewof life and eiotic view
of salvation are his Puiitanism (Example I,:). In this, he somewhat an-
ticipated John Gattas iecognition of the festival fiame of spiiit and holy
amazement to be found in Taylois poetiy (xvixvii). Jeiey Hammond,
placing this poem in the bioadei context of its authois Puiitan spiiitu-
ality, ndsinstead of the Satanism Kellei claimed to detecta basically
hopeful peispective aoided by faith: Even whenTayloi apologizes foi the
coiiuptions that he ielates, he conims that histoiys haish tonic oeied
a cuie that led to spiiitual healing (I,_).
Readings of A Metrical Histcry, then, highlight tensions between piety
and ciuelty, beauty and tastelessness to be found as well in Taylois bettei-
known wiitings. Thomas Davis, although not gieatly inteiested in A His-
tcry itself, establishes the context in which Tayloi woiked on it duiing a
span of yeais when he was also wiiting neaily half his Preparatcry Medita-
ticns, a veise paiaphiase of the Book of Job, his elegy foi Samuel Hookei,
The Gieat Bones Dug up at Clavaiock, and piose woiks (chiey sei-
mon sequences) known to us as the Treatise Ccncerning the Lcrds Sup-
per, Upcn the Types cf the Old Testament, Christcgraphia, andpeihaps
closest to A Metrical Histcry in teims of ambitionThe Harmcny cf the
Gcspels (neaily ,oo pages in folio manusciipt, though incomplete) (Tay-
loi, Mincr, II,).
1
Theie aie, besides this, textual links connecting at least
the Pope Joan mateiial in A Metrical Histcry to An othei answei . . . ,
one of his eaily poems wiitten in England, and to multiple fiagmentaiy
veisions of Veises on Pope Joan that Davis has edited as late wiitings
(Tayloi, Mincr), while an elegy foi Inciease Mathei iesembles A Histcry in
its anti-Roman passion. Compaiisons aie inevitable with Gcds Determina-
ticns, wiitten eailiei,
2
as an example of Taylois developing something like
a naiiative poem, though often handled diamatically oi in lyiic voice.
Just how Tayloi would have seen this massive naiiative poem in iela-
tion to his othei liteiaiy and pastoial eoits iemains unknown, and why
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Taylois Metrical Histcry { ,,
he committed such intensive and extensive eoit to the endeavoi iaises
speculation. Kellei peiceived him as clinging to the past: while the iest
weie making new lives foi themselves and dying of adventuie in colonial
Ameiica, he was making doggeiel with which to hold onto a woild that
was neai an end (Example II). On the othei hand, Davis has suggested
that this histoiy ieects the poets hope of dening the place of the Puii-
tan sagaand by extension, his placein the scheme of Gods design, the
Magnalia Christi fiom the beginnings to Westeld (Intioduction to Tay-
loi, Mincr xix). Daviss allusion is well taken: A Metrical Histcry stiongly
iesembles Cotton Matheis epic celebiation of the Chiistian ieligion ovei
a less daunting span of time and moie limited geogiaphic compass. Yet it
is veiy much Taylois woik in its style, tone, and spiiit.
3
This is the best
example we have of the tenacity of Taylois intelligence, on which Louis
Maitz commented in his foiewoid to Stanfoids edition of Pcems (xxi),
and Tayloi may well have iegaided it as an especially impoitant and even
successful liteiaiy achievement. Recognizing that achievement, howevei,
iequiies an eoit of histoiical contextualization foi todays ieadeis.
Although histoiy wiiting has lately become the exclusive piovince of
expositoiy and analytic piose, genie boundaiies weie fai moie poious in
Taylois time. Foi one thing, the ultimate model foi any Piotestant poet
was the Bible, and most of the Bible iecounts histoiy fiom Cieation to the
Second Coming. Its histoiical sections aie chiey in piose, of couise, but
these aie complemented by woiks of piophecy that inteisect with histoii-
cal naiiative and often ventuie into poetiy and by the psalms, whichTayloi
would have iead in ielation to piose accounts in Kings and Chionicles.
4
Fiom the Bible, he might have taken inspiiation foi the design of A Met-
rical Histcry with its layeied appioach to each centuiy and its blending of
naiiative, piophetic, and lyiic voices. Gospels also seived as diiect souices
of infoimation foi the poems eaily pages, though Tayloi quickly shifted to
the Magdeburg Centuries foi infoimation to ielate. Othei souices in Tay-
lois libiaiy at Westeld piovided additional examples of Papist hoiiois,
also in piose.
5
On one of his bookshelves, though, he had Anne Biadstieets
Several Pcems, which may have been a gift fiom hei son Simon, Taylois
Haivaid classmate. In that, he would have seen The Foui Monaichies
pioudly displayed, its _,,,: lines iepiesented almost half hei total poetic
pioduction, and the title page to The Tenth Muse had announced this vei-
sied iewoiking of Sii Waltei Raleighs Histcry cf the Vcrld as the books
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piime attiaction. Theie aie inteiesting paiallels between Biadstieets and
Taylois mannei of ielating histoiical naiiative, chiey in theii use of iough
iambic couplets foi exposition, theii judgmental tone, and the tendency
each showed to iattle on with events as though needing to wiap up each
plot element succinctly even while the poem itself was allowed to spiawl.
He must also have known Benjamin Tompsons New Englands Crisis and
New-Englands Tears, which piovide veisied accounts of episodes in King
Philips Wai. The most populai naiiative poem in seventeenth-centuiy
New England was Michael Wiggleswoiths Day cf Dccm, a poem Taylois
ist wife had at least paitially memoiized and that seived him as an ex-
ample of how a ministei could use poetiy to achieve pastoial goals.
Poetiy, foi Puiitans, was a bianch of ihetoiic intended to inuence
ieadeis. It was not valued foi its oiiginality, veise paiaphiases of sciip-
tuial and histoiical souices weie admiied. Noi was it appieciated chiey
foi aitistic meiits. Indeed, The Bay Psalm Bccks caution that Gods Altai
needs not oui pollishings applied to all kinds of poetiy and not simply
sciiptuial tianslations (). Excessive attention to aitistic ciaftsmanship
would be suspect, and Taylois fiequent admissions of his stylistic failings
(like apologies oeied by viitually eveiy Puiitan New England poet) seive
to show his deteimination to keep ait in its place as decidedly suboidinate
to the message he deliveis and the seivice he peifoims both foi his ieadeis
and his God:
Sweet Tiuth I come at last to Kiss thy Hand
With maimed Sapphics ciippled
My dull Pentameteis do stand
Wiinckled and iippled.
I in thine Honoui do ingague my quill.
My veiy Heait I tiuely mean.
These muddy puddles do fulll
Thy Holy bieathed Veans. (MH _I)
As ihetoiic, poetiycalledonthe poet todeploy skills inguiative language,
but Taylois tendency to shift iapidly among tiopes ieects Puiitan anxi-
eties about metaphoi that Robeit Daly nds in A Metrical Histcry and the
many eaily New England poems that compiise its liteiaiy context (I8o).
If liteiaiy context helps explain why Tayloi would have thought of vei-
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Taylois Metrical Histcry { ,,
sifying his account of chuich histoiy, his own histoiical situation suggests
ieasons foi his tuining to this ambitious topic and handling it the way he
did. Why, in light of the Refoimation and appaient tiiumph of Piotestant-
ism(at least fioma NewEngland peispective), would he place so much em-
phasis on the Daik Ages and the coiiuptions of the medieval chuich: Why
iepiesent the Piotestant Revolution almost entiiely thiough the sueiings
of Maiian maityis: Wheie in this histoiy aie Luthei, Calvin, and Win-
thiop: Suiely, Tayloi counted on his ieadeis knowing about these heioes,
and he piobably also ielied on them to pick up hopeful signs of pioto-
Piotestant iebellion in his admiiing iefeiences to dissenteis like Albeitus
Gallus a biave pious man who took the gantlet . . . against Romes Cheats [
Unmaiidness, Saints, Reliques Soveieign [ Headship and Puigatoiy, and
like feats (MH :_8). His unusually extended and laudatoiy piole of the
Veneiable Bede featuies his anticipation of Piotestant scholais in making
the Saxon Tongue the Sciiptuie baige [ And it tianslate into that tongue,
that so [ The ieading Saxons might the Sciiptuies know (MH:I). In fact,
this section ieads much like the foimulaic life of a Puiitan ministei in the
Magnalia in its account of Bedes pious childhood, education, ministiy,
acceptance of sueiing, and holy death even though Tayloi iecoiled fiom
the monastic cultuie Bede iepiesented and used much of his poem to at-
tack it. That attack may well have been aimed at pioblems he encounteied
in his own time to which he iesponded indiiectly in A Metrical Histcry.
Why such iabid anti-Catholicism: Kellei obseived that the Catholic
thieat was extiemely iemote fiom New England at the time yet seived a
puipose analogous to Communism in Cold Wai Ameiica as an enemy to
give the wiitei a name and a place foi his devil (Example I_). Whethei
Tayloi himself iegaided the thieat as extiemely iemote stiikes me as
less cleai, especially as he took an expansive view of Catholic thieats that
ieached way beyond the pope in Rome, Jesuits in Quebec, and Spanish
and Fiench colonists thioughout much of the New Woild to include in-
suciently iefoimed oi downiight ietiogiade tendencies in the Chuich of
England. Foi someone upiooted fiomhis native land by the Act of Unifoi-
mity that mandated lituigical piactices he found oensive, it made sense
to inveigh against Pope Seigys medieval edict that An Agnus Dei Song
that jings. [ At Mass, be thiee times Sung (MH _I,). Even gianted that the
Catholic thieat iaised by the iestoied Stuaits and theii Fiench-educated
couitieis may have been successfully counteied by the Gloiious Revolu-
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tion, English Piotestantism itself seemed at iisk to a Puiitan stalwait who
dened Piesbyteiianism as iened Pielacy at best in An Elegy upon . . .
Mi. Samuel Hookei (Pcems 8o). The chief oenses of pielacy, foi Tayloi,
weie its aiiogation of authoiity to the see of Petei, dictation of dogma, tol-
eiance of coiiuption, and tendency to dischaige foule stieams [ Of supei-
stition, Eastei, and] Shapd-Ciowns while demanding cleiical celibacy
and fosteiing monasteiies and convents in which Pooie Viigins by theii
paients misled Zeale [ Oi by theii own . . . [ May iathei bioile in lust oi
Steale [ A Bed, than wed (MH :oI, _I,). Such pitiful yet menacing nuns,
along with piiests of vaiious Catholic oideis, weie still at laige in Canada
while Tayloi wiote this poem. Foi some ieason, he declaied Wee pick
it still with iegaid to the vogue of Abby-Lubbeis in Englands Congill
(MHIoo), although England was usually his piime example of a Piotestant
nation, in medieval histoiy he enjoyed seeking out signs most in biittain
cleaie of lay and cleiical deance of papal contiol (MH :oI).
Even in New England, theie was evidence of declension fiom Puii-
tan piety, as evidenced by jeiemiads, the Halfway Covenant, and Taylois
incentive to wiite Gcds Determinaticns to cope with spiiitual anxieties
of his time. Although A Metrical Histcry lambastes popes foi theii at-
tempts to contiol doctiinal oithodoxy, Tayloi took a moie favoiable view
of chuich councils, which anticipated New England synods in iesponding
to heiesies. When Aiianism challenged the doctiine deaiest of all to Tay-
loi, Chiists theanthiopy oi dual natuie, he iepoited with appioval how
The Nicene Counsill then was summoned [ By Constantine notably a
civil leadei, not pope oi bishop] this Hydia to behead [ The which they
biavely did (MHo,). Seveial of the heiesies he attacked most passionately
ielated to Aiminian tendencies even then seeping into some New England
chuiches. Pelagius, though an Englishman, disgiaced himself by pieaching
That man was boin with natuie puie fiom sin
Not Adams falt oi stain was found in him,
And that his Will was fiee and also could
With oeid giace get gloiy, if he would. (MH Io,)
It iemained foi Jonathan Edwaids to assail that paiticulai Hydia in the
Connecticut Valley, but Tayloi was alieady aleit to Aiminian dangeis as
well as the temptation of Puiitans to place excessive value on woiks as
signs of salvation and peihaps even contiibutions to it, as though good
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Taylois Metrical Histcry { ,,
woiks could wash away mens sins, and justify [ Befoie Gods thione. (Heie
Patience sighs, Oh Phy) [ To meiit paidon, and Eteinall bliss (MHI,). In
the afteimath of King Philips Wai, Taylois many goiy accounts of maityi-
doms cannot have seemed iemote, even if his ieadeis might piefei not
to diaw connections between the fates of eaily Chiistians and Maiian-eia
Piotestants and those of Quakeis and suspected witches iight in Massa-
chusetts.
Theie was also a positive inducement foi Tayloi to immeise himself in
obscuie chuich histoiy, incentive connected with eoits to ienewthe Puii-
tan covenant at a time of declension. Taylois fiiend and mentoi, Inciease
Mathei, uiged his ministeiial colleagues to gathei evidence of Gods piovi-
dences in human aaiis and in the natuial woild.
6
Although Matheis chief
puipose was to ieinfoice awaieness of divine caie foi New Englands Puii-
tan plantations, Taylois studies both extended that fiame of iefeience and
complicated it. Mathei could ieadily inteipiet human and natuial phe-
nomena in teims of Gods judgment on his covenanted people, but how
was Tayloi to inteipiet stoiies of wondious deliveiance, like this one, that
seemed to demonstiate the Almightys caie even foi papist sinneis:
Leo the Ninth could not the Cup wheiein
His Claik had poison put, take up (Stiange thing)
Fiom th Altai, and enquiiing of Chiist, Why
The people piaying piostiate, Suddenly
The Divell doth the Poisonei Suipiize.
Hence he the ieason of the mattei Spies.
And foi the Altai bids to keep the Cup
With Chiists blood, as a Relick safe up shut. (MH _8o)
Geneially, Tayloi scoed at these tales as snaies to bamboozle ciedulous
believeis even while oending God, classifying the poison legend among
Innumeiable things with such black face
. . . to be found which Giace divine disgiace
And gieatly exeicise Gods Patience so
In that they do his gloiy iich undo. (MH _8o)
On the othei hand, evidences of Gods judgments on those who sinned
against iefoimed ieligion weie to be accepted unquestioningly, such as
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Queen Maiys humiliating false piegnancy and the piovidential come-
uppances of peisecutois who caiiied out hei vendetta against the saints:
And to begin, ist Justice layes a Tax
On Moigan, who adjudged to the Axe
Jane Giay, the Paiagon of Ladies biave
That soon he doth giow mad, and in his Rave
The Lady Jane, the Lady Jane he Ciies
While Life iemains, and (as a madman) dies.
And Bishop Moigan Faiiais iy judge
That buint him, and Succeeded him, the giudge
Of Justice Gods iight hand did take him by
The thioat, that made his Swallowd food up y
Back thiough his nose, oi mouth while life iemaind
Most hoiiible to see, till death him gaind. (MH :)
Geneially, the ieadei is left to deduce tiuth claims foi most of these stoiies
by positioning within the text: If used to illustiate the shine of Gods pa-
tience, we should piesume a stoiy false, if illustiating the shine of justice,
we can piobably iely on it.
About midway thiough the book, Tayloi intioduced a section on the
shine of eciency in which he ielated a staitling iange of things that
hap not oidinaiily and aie piesumed to ash glints of divine gloiy, al-
though not always subject to ieady inteipietation(MH:__). Among piodi-
gies hastily listed fiom the eleventh centuiy, foi instance, is this cainival
of oddities:
Lightning in Saxony a Temple buins.
A Sow did pig a pig having its head
Like to a mans. A Sitting hen out tuins
A foui legd Chicken. England gieat Stiis bied,
Ileland. And Noi]mandy: God payes theii Vice.
A Sacialegious mans destioid by mice. (MH _8,)
If that Temple, weie, as seems likely, a hotbed of papism, then its de-
stiuction made as much sense as the saciilegious mans hideous death. We
aie unlikely to know, howevei, what gieat Stiis bied in England, Iieland,
and Noimandy oi to what eect. And what aie we to make of giotesque
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biiths in Euiopean bainyaids: Despite being lled with stoiies suscep-
tible to piovidential ieadingoi even because of that emphasisA Met-
rical Histcry calls into question the value of collecting such iemaikable
piovidences as Inciease Mathei publicized and contiibutes in its own way
to the decline of such piovidential thinking at the stait of the eighteenth
centuiy.
In many ways, A Metrical Histcry biings Cotton Mathei to mind, even
moie than Inciease, in ielation to Tayloi. This linkage is piompted in pait,
as mentioned befoie, by the ambitious scale of the Magnalia and A Met-
rical Histcry and paitly by the ways in which both woiks connect to myiiad
othei wiitings by the same menmany of them in piocess simultaneously
and the biggest of themleft incomplete. Constance Posts study of Paterna,
the youngei Matheis spiiitual autobiogiaphy, calls attention to the dif-
cult balance of methodical and spontaneous disciplines in spiiitual life
chaiacteiistic of Puiitanisminhis time, whichwas alsoTaylois. Whencon-
sideiingTaylois ieasons foi undeitaking his Metrical Histcry andplodding
along with it foi yeais duiing which he was also haid at woik on seimons,
meditations, andoccasional poems, as well as all the counseling andseivice
commitments associated with his fiontiei ministiy and family obligations
as husband and fathei, it is essential to iecognize that his own spiiitual
condition had to have been of centeiing concein on his eaithly pilgiim-
age and that his wiitings had value to him as they contiibuted to his self-
examination and ieections on his ielationship with God. Posts conclu-
sion that Cotton Matheis stienuous yet vaiied eoits at spiiitual discipline
ieveal a diive to ioutinize the iandomand iandomize the ioutine applies
as well to Tayloi (I,). Veise meditations settled into a soit of stiuctuial
and piosodic ioutine that could be counteibalanced with extended histoii-
cal naiiative, itself in need of balance by othei long-sustained intellectual
and spiiitual exeicises.
Although ceitainly not tempted to attiibute his conveision to his own
meiitoiious woiks oi anything but Gods aibitiaiy and amazing election
of his sinful self as one of those justied by Chiists covenant of giace, Tay-
loi knew that good woiks weie outgiowths and signs of the sanctifying
piocess following conveision. In his case, as so many concluding stanzas
of meditations make cleai, the good he might hope to accomplish was as-
sociated with musical language: Let thy iich Giace mee save fiom Sin,
and Death: [ and I will tune thy Piaise with holy Bieath (Meditation
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,,o i.viv .mivic. ii1iv.10vi: voi0mi _8, 0mviv _
I, Second Seiies, Pcems Io,). Theie aie many connections between the
Preparatcry Meditaticns and A Metrical Histcry, chief among them his de-
ployment of his distinctive meditations stanza foi sections on justice and
eciency but also his fondness foi theologically meaningful puns (Gods
meicies Petiide in papal miteis, MH __), and his distinctive diction.
Meditations piovided Tayloi a mechanism foi ieecting on his own soul,
his giounds foi hoping he might be included among the saved, and his ie-
lationship with God the Fathei thiough Chiist. Woiking simultaneously
on these and A Metrical Histcry allowed him to expand the context of his
study to encompass the whole chuich in all its sinfulness and in its occa-
sional yet ieassuiing ieections of saving giace. The pastoial concein he
showed in Gcds Determinaticns foi assuiance of anxious souls found quite
a dieient outlet heie in looking foi signs of the advancement of Chiists
kingdom evenoi especiallyin times that seemed least piomising.
Like Gcds Determinaticns and the seimons, though unlike the Prepa-
ratcry Meditaticns, A Metrical Histcry is diiected to an audience beyond
the poet and God. Its unpublished status and Taylois oveiall indieience
to disseminating his wiitings in piint (despite long-teim fiiendship with
Inciease Mathei) suggest that Tayloi expected a smallei ieadeiship than
that to which the Matheis aspiied. Still, theie aie good ieasons to sup-
pose that the poem ciiculated in manusciipt. Peihaps that is how it lost
opening and closing pages befoie Tayloi got aiound to binding his bulky
manusciipt. Piobably, he would have shaied this ambitious compilation
of leaining with othei New England ministeis moie than with Westeld
neighbois, peihaps hoping to encouiage those engaged in the peiilous and
often discouiaging woik of advancing Chiists kingdom. His ideal ieadei
would necessaiily shaie the poets assumptions about oithodoxy, Tayloi
made no eoit to accommodate peispectives of othei Chiistian tiaditions.
Textual evidence points to the authois expectation of a ieadei as he high-
lights matteis he wishes to emphasize with impeiative veibs (See how
these iadient Peails . . . , MH :,), anticipates theii ieactions (Hence we
sigh, MH ::), and apologizes foi his failuies to meet theii piesumably
boundless appetite foi infoimation (Bewailing now no moie Choice men
Divine [ Woith Pen and Papei honoui Palestine [ I pass oie Heimon and
do iun my line [ Oie Syiia, MH I_o). Tayloi assumes an active ieadei, in
line with Hammonds geneialization that within the dynamics of Puii-
tan ieading, the deepest meaning of a poem lay not so much in the text
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as in the inteiaction of the ieadei with the text and with the Bible as the
undeilying Text to which the poem pointed (Sinful :o).
A paiticulaily inteiesting featuie of A Metrical Histcry is the vaiiety of
metaphois thiough which Tayloi guies his ielationship to his subject and
ieadei. As Kellei obseived and as one familiai with Taylois meditations
would expect, the chief of those metaphois is shining light as] the main
unifying device of the poemspecically the vaiied iadiations of Gods
gloiy (Example I,).
7
The biilliant shine is Gods, of couise, Tayloi iepie-
sents his own iole as meiely standing With Candle light and Lanthoin in
my hand to guide the ieadei thiough muiky passages of chuich histoiy
(MH ::,). Anothei fiequent metaphoi involves sailing. The speakei navi-
gates his pleasuie Boate in the bay of tiuth in one unusually extended
passage, iescued by that heavenly Shine when iun agiound, he is guided
by it to discoveiy of tieasuie (MH _,8). His iesponse to that iescue is to
assist the equally endangeied ieadei:
Wheiefoie I set a Shoai and in the Soile
Of Holy Tiuth, the beams of Some iich mine
I theie have delved in, I heie out quoile
Befoie youi Eyes that you may see theii Shine. (MH _,8)
Beginning his section on justice in the eleventh centuiy, Tayloi declaies,
I now stiike Saile and in hei open Couit [ My Pen aiiiving, it will give
iepoit (MH _8,), much as he had announced eailiei that
Entiing the maine of this Eight Centuiy
My Oais I ist in Asia do tiy
And thence unto the iest in oidei come
Seeking to owiish oie my Sailes that hum
Befoie the Aiie. (MH :_o)
The ieadei is to accompany him on this combined pleasuie ciuise and
jouiney of exploiation. Sometimes the tiip pioceeds afoot, when oie the
Stile of the tenth centuiy] [ I climb, and come into hei boideis, iun [
Thiough all hei Coasts (MH _I,). Rathei than hold to one pattein of
metaphoi, howevei, Tayloi tiies out othei ways of iepiesenting his naiia-
tive task. Among these, not suipiisingly, is the language of cloth making
that he deploys to explain his method:
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,,: i.viv .mivic. ii1iv.10vi: voi0mi _8, 0mviv _
And now I come to Patience of whose stock
I take a ioale well caided and to th lock
That at the spindle of last Centuiy
Doth hang, I laying it may spining tiy . . . (MH I)
Biewing imageiy, on the othei hand, does little to stimulate that voiacious
Histcrical Appetite Cotton Mathei assumed in ieadeis of his own chuich
histoiy (,o). Heie is how Tayloi intioduces an account of heiesies, supei-
stitions, and peisecutions:
I come to Eiiouis Hogshead now whose bioach
This Centiey had, wheiewith it did appioach
And tap the same diawing hei Canfulls thence
Up to the biim all foming fiothy, Hence
Ile pouie out that of Heiesies, and biew
It well with that of supeistitions hew
Now in my Uiinall theieby tdivine
The veiy Simptoms of this sickly time . . . (MH :III:)
The ieadei can only hope that this vile compound has some phaimaceuti-
cal benet in puiging tendencies towaid sin. Amoie agieeable image is the
familiai one of the Looking Glass that he holds up to ieect the Gloiy
of Gods Patience (MH I,).
As he consideis what he can oei to delight his ieadei, Tayloi often
iefeis to pleasuies aoided by veisication. Evidently, he consideis this
complex and often soidid histoiy to be sweetened by its ihythmic vaiiety.
How should I choose but make my Feet [ Waie Sapphick Slippeis when
this sweet [ And Gloiious Giace bieaks foith, he asks (MH ,), and he
claims a skillful matching of metei to subject in lines anticipating Emei-
sons discoveiy in Meilin II that Justice is the ihyme of things.
But paidon me, my Muse, in that my feet
Still keep a Distich foi Hexastichs sweet.
Foi justice in Eciency Divine
By miiacles still laiums with hei shine.
The Mattei theiefoie common thus to both,
In tunes, that justice sung foith, thus foigoeth.
But now the iest shall in those measuies iun
Which in the foimei Centuiies weie sung
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Taylois Metrical Histcry { ,,,
Out by Eciency. whose Waiblings gieet
A biisk Tetiastich, with a Distich sweet. (MH _II)
In accoidance with a theoiy of poetiy well established in his time, Tayloi
(accoiding to Kellei) foi yeais . . . tapped out his lines and hunted foi his
ihymes in oidei to make the haid will of God moie delightful by means
of his veise (Example I,). The pleasuie tiip oi jouiney of discoveiy on
which he invites the ieadei to accompany him is, he feels, made all the
moie iefieshing by jaunty ihymes and insistent yet vaiied meteis.
Peihaps to give himself occasion foi such ihythmic vaiiety and to satisfy
the ieadeis ciaving foi auial delights, Tayloi stiuctuies his naiiative in a
way that dees most expectations foi lineai iepoiting. Although he begins
with the ciucixion and gets almost to the twelfth centuiy befoie the hia-
tus that leads towhat may well be a sepaiate poemabout sixteenth-centuiy
England, he follows the Magdeburg Centuries in a centuiy-by-centuiy ai-
iangement that calls attention to paiallels and cycles iathei than pushing
ahead fiom beginning to end. Taylois innovation in iecasting piose as
poetiy was to intioduce a sequence of sections within each centuiy, each
with its chaiacteiistic style and tone. Each centuiy begins liltingly with
Giaces biight Shine, in which Tayloi sings the piogiess of Chiists king-
dom thiough missionaiy advances and othei saintly achievements in Asia,
Afiica, and Euiope. This good news calls foi lyiic veisication, and Tayloi
piovides quatiains composed of thiee ihyming lines of iambic tetiame-
tei followed by a half line that ends in a new sound, which then ihymes
with the concluding woid of the next stanza befoie he intioduces anothei
ihyme to jointhe ensuing paii of quatiains. Stanzas move buoyantlyas Tay-
loi pioclaims giace, even when the actual subject mattei seems as obscuie
as it does in this ieview of the second-centuiy Asian chuich:
In Saidis Chuich that gloiious Light
Choice Melito shining out biight
Who an Apology did Wiite
To Antonine
Who peisecution up aiaisd
Against the Loid, the Loid be piaisd
Foi such biight Lights that out thus blaizd
That thus do shine. (MH I_)
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,, i.viv .mivic. ii1iv.10vi: voi0mi _8, 0mviv _
Aftei The Shine of Giace (iegiettably, usually the shoitest section of
each centuiys account), Tayloi tuins to the shine oi exeicise of Gods
patience. Heie, wheie he details at weaiying length the evildoings that God
toleiates, he concentiates the naiiatives of toituie, maitydoms, and doc-
tiinal conict that oveiwhelm his poem. Wheie mateiial on giace found
geogiaphical aiiangement, this appeais insuchtopical categoiies as Heie-
ticks oi Heiesies, Tyiannies, and Peisecutions. Iambic pentametei
couplets suce foi this exposition. Initially, Tayloi utilizes heioic couplets
also foi the next section, The Shine of Justice, in which he celebiates
Gods vengeance against the peisecutois and heietics just desciibed oi
inteiventions on behalf of sueieis. Sometimes, howevei, he substitutes
his meditation stanza to salute his wiathful Loid:
A Dieadfull Eaith quake doth them teiiify
At Antioch, they theiefoie baiefoot piay.
A man by inspiiation thus doth ciy
This Motto on youi houses wiite to day
Chiistus nobiscum, State, which when done
The Eaithquake Ceast and did no longei iun. (MH I8I)
Midway thiough the poem, Tayloi intioduces two new sections, The
Gloiy of Divine Eciency to iecoid odd events that might seive as in-
stances of Gods maivelous woikings in the woild, and the shine oi gloiy of
Divine Tiuth in which he elaboiates on the moial implications of all pie-
ceding mateiial about a specic centuiy as a means of emphasizing chief
points of his naiiative. Foi eciency, he ietains the elaboiate stanza as-
sociated with justice, while foi tiuth, he chooses iambic quatiains with
an intioductoiy pentametei line followed by two tetiameteis and a tii-
metei with an ABAB ihyme scheme. Heie, foi example, he iecapitulates
his method in concluding his iepoit on the ninth centuiy:
Giace, Patience, Justice, Rich Eciency
And Tiuth Divine tiod undei foot
By Wickedness, shine spaiklingly,
This makes my Hymns thus toote
And Haiping piaises thus I take my leave
In a Sweet Ditty tweedling thus
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Of this ninth Centuiy and bequeath
The tenth my Quill and blush. (MH _I,)
Theie aie some pioblems with this design, not least of them the piessuie
on the poet to nd something to say about each section of the woild in each
centuiy and to illustiate all these dieient pointsoften with the same
mateiial vaiiously deployed.
Again, paiallels with Magnalia emeige as one thinks of the ways in
which Cotton Mathei ieaiianged and iefocused histoiical mateiial to ll
out seven inteiconnected books. In fact, Taylois appioach in A Metrical
Histcry ielates to tendencies theoiized by John Lynen in The Design cf the
Present as Puiitan naiiative chaiacteiistics evident ist in William Biad-
foids, Edwaid Johnsons, and Cotton Matheis histoiies and latei obseived
in Hawthoines ction. Obseiving that Puiitan histoiies aie, in fact, not-
ably static, Lynen identies one of the ways in which Taylois naiiative
poem ielates to piose stoiytelling within his New England cultuie (,:).
Histoiy, as we know it today, usually ielates tempoial piogiess, yet Lynen
focuses onthe tendencyof the Puiitanimaginationto conceive expeiience
in teims of the puiely piesent in ielation to a total histoiy oi conspectus
of all times (_,_o). What Lynen nds in Matheis histoiy, a meaning
which is always wholly theie and nevei changes, can be identied also as
a chaiacteiistic of A Metrical Histcry (,,), and both books employ a ciicu-
lai moie than lineai methodology. Catholic chuich histoiies would have
stiessedinstitutional piogiessionanddoctiinal stability, but that appioach
contiadicted Taylois values. A moie likely choice would be a teleologi-
cal appioach oiiented towaid the end of histoiy and, peihaps, whatevei
iole he might foiesee Ameiica playing as time moved towaid its close. The
choice he madeto iecount histoiy as a declension fiom the eaily chuich
to the hoiiois of medieval papacyiisked demonstiating Gods loss of
contiol. So Tayloi iepiesented each centuiy as a locus of tensions between
godliness and sin that he found consistent thiough time, yet still tiied to
suggest his expectation of Gods eventual tiiumph.
His iepetitive stiuctuie, coupled with his tendency to embed multitudi-
nous small stoiies within the biggei design, encouiaged a tendency towaid
analogy, which Lynen identies as the most natuial foim of thought foi
wiiteis who nd that eteinity and the piesent aie the only ielevant points
of view (o). Usually, Tayloi left those analogies implicit, though this pas-
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sage linking John the Baptist with John Chiysostom shows the same at-
tiaction towaid analogy one nds in his typological meditations:
Now the Empeiess
Accounts heiselfe ievild: which to iediess
His saucy tongue that thus oie iun its bancks
Heiodias doth fiet a fiesh, she stamps
Afiesh: a fiesh she danceth, and foi this
She seeks a fiesh Johns head biought in a dish. . . .
Hence he again is banisht: and so dies. (MH III)
Hammond suggests, additionally, that Tayloi diewan implicit analogy be-
tween himself as poet-piophet and John on Patmos, John Chiysostom, and
the Veneiable Bede, all of whom he honois in A Metrical Histcry: What
unites Tayloi with these guies, he obseives, is his ability to tianslate
the past into cuiient iedemptive expeiience. His undeilying thesis is that
Piovidence contiols human events now no less than in the past, in bad
times no less than in good (I,:).
An awkwaid consequence of Taylois poetic design, howevei, is that the
happiest examples of holy lives and saving deaths aie likely to come in the
opening sections on Gods giace, which move jauntily and leave little ioom
foi plot development. The veiy ist lines of Stanfoids typesciipt (admit-
tedly not intended by Tayloi foi the stait) piovide a huitling tiibute to
Chiists passion: A Saciice foi Sin, a Piice foi those [ That he Redeems,
and shall to gloiy come [ And foi himself and Cause his Maityiedome
(MHI). Latei, Tayloi evenabbieviates names of apostles tohuiiy his ieview
of theii missionaiy eoits:
Then Zachy, Toby, Benjamin,
John, Matthy, Phillip, they in biing
Senica, Justus, Levi spiing
With Ephiem theie,
Joseph, and Judas too who taught
The gospell tiuth but yet aie thought
All of the Ciicumcision fiaught
Yet godly weie. (MH I:)
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Sometimes he ciowds a potentially expansive stoiy into so few lines as to
leave it almost unintelligible.
Judged simply foi stoiy inteiest, some of Taylois best mateiial comes
in his shine of patience sections, when he ielates supeistitious loie fiom
the Middle Ages, like the tale of a visionaiy jouiney thiough Puigatoiy
(MH :o8II) oi that of a woman who piayed so incessantly foi John the
Baptist to show his favoi by bestowing on hei one of his bodily paits that
the saint in heaven bit o his thumb and diopped it on the altai befoie
which she was piaying (MH :o:). Seeking to balance evidences of idola-
tiy he found oensive, Tayloi piovided othei stoiies meant to inspiie the
ieadei with examples of heioic piety such as the life and maityidom of
Eulalia in fouith-centuiy Poitugal, to whom he devoted ,_ lines, and the
giuesome sueiings of Robeit Samuel in one of Queen Maiys jails (MH
oooI, oo).
It was when he tiied telling stoiies so intensely inteiesting to him that
they showed up in seveial shines within one centuiy that Tayloi faced
his gieatest challenges in sustaining naiiative, and geneially these stoiies
bieak down. The most stiiking example involves his inseiting the Pope
Joan legend (evidently assumed by him as fact) piactically anywheie he
could manage within his account of the ninth centuiy. He began within the
shine of patience with a neaily two-page iecitation of hei complex histoiy
(foi him, an exceptionally lengthy account of any one peison). He told of
hei paientage as the bastaid daughtei of an English piiest who consigned
hei to a Geiman monasteiy. When hei gendei was discoveied theie, the
young woman tiaveled to Athens and eventually Rome in the guise of an
English piiest. Hei exceptional intelligence, manifesting itself as skill in
disputation, iesulted in iapid elevation within cleiical ianks. Advanced to
chuich leadeiship undei the name of Pope John, this andiogynous chai-
actei caiiied out piiestly functions and papal poweis until publicly ex-
posed as both woman and whoie when, suddenly seized with laboi pangs,
she died in childbiith in the midst of a Vatican piocession (MH :8,8o).
Following this naiiative, Tayloi editoiialized on its humiliating implica-
tions foi the Chuich of Rome. He then iecuiied to the tale in his suivey
of Divine Eciency Miiaculous, wheie he iemaiked teisely in his list
of wondeis that Pope John this yeai was Joand (MH _I:). He peisisted
with this theme in his celebiation of divine tiuth, wheie he ist devoted
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ve stanzas to Pope Joan, of which this piovides sucient example of his
attempts at wit:
Its Mothei Chuich indeed. Wheie Hes a Hen.
That laid noe Addle Egge indeed
Although the Shall was bioken when
She laid it making Speed. (MH _Io)
Amused by this phenomenon of the papacys liteially laying an egg, Tayloi
spewed out moie saicasm latei in the same section, with two additional
stanzas of vitupeiation (MH _I,).
8
Similaily ciicling tieatment attends his multiple accounts of Pope Gieg-
oiys (Hildebiands, Hellishbiands, Hellbiands) encounteis with En-
glands King Heniy, when the despotic pope foiced the king to do public
penance only to have the tables tuined as a iesult of his own villainy. Tay-
lois tieatment of the Noiman invasion of England gets muddled, espe-
cially when linked with his usual aiiay of oddities. The news that Will
Eaile of Noimandy [ Envadeth England wins it justice sheds [ A iecom-
pence foi Godwins Vilany gets mixed up with a two-headed animal and
a comet (MH _,). Tayloi took moie inteiest, evidently, in the villainy of
Eail Godwin in his betiayal of the Saxon piinces and his sudden death as
evidence of Gods punitive justice. Some yeais aftei slaughteiing Piince
Alfied, biothei of the piince who became King Edwaid, Godwin pays the
penalty foi his tieason when, dining with the king, he ieplies to the mon-
aichs complaint that I had had a biothei to my help [ Had it not been foi
you by denying his complicity in the muidei with a iashly ill-consideied
oath:
Wheieto the Eaile ieplies, oh! King, let mee
Be Choakt foithwith, evn with this bit of biead
If anything against thy biothei bee,
By me devisd, oi thee. The bit ins head,
His Jaws aie foith with Closd: hes Choakt out iight
Having his Wish, against his will. Stiange Fiight. (MH _,I,:)
Similai justice dispatched Williamthe Conqueioi as a iesult of his maneu-
veiings in Fiance and his enoimous physical giith but without iegaid to
the conquest of England, which is not iepiesented as having substantive
implications foi the chuich. Oveiall, Tayloi set up this poem as a sequence
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of small paits with little sense of oveiall design and no sustained plot de-
velopment. The geneial impiession is one of human failuie to live up to
the piomise of Chiists giace.
AlthoughAMetrical Histcry is a naiiative poem, its authois hope seems
less to tell any sustained stoiy than to seek out bioad thematic implications
fiom this confused weltei of infoimation. As a pieachei, Tayloi was accus-
tomed to diawing out applications to his congiegation of the biblical texts
he chose, and as a iedeemed sinnei himself, he had developed the habit
of composing piayei-poems that ielated each such text to his own spiii-
tual expeiience. Not suipiisingly, then, Tayloi found eveiywheie in chuich
histoiy abundant mattei foi ieection on theological tiuths cential to his
ieligious cultuie, and he developed those themes emphatically thioughout
the poem in ways likely to have been moie appaient to his oiiginal ieadeis
than to us. This is chuich histoiy fiom a decidedly Calvinist slant.
William Biadfoids Of Plymcuth Plantaticn, a Puiitan naiiative moie
familiai to modein ieadeis than Taylois, begins by establishing the bioad
context in which all human events aie to be placed:
It is well knowne unto ye godly and judicious, how evei since ye ist
bieaking out of ye lighte of ye gospell in oui Honouiable Nation of En-
gland, (which was ye ist of nations who ye Loid adoined thei with,
atei yt giosse daiknes of popeiy which had coveied & oveispied ye
Chiistian woiled,) what waiis & opposissions evei since, Satan hath
iaised, maintained, and continued against the Saincts, fiom time to
time, in one soite oi othei. Some times by bloody death and ciuell toi-
ments, othei whiles impiisonments, banishments, & othei haid usages,
as being loath his kingdom should goe downe, the tiueth pievaile, and
ye chuiches of God ieveite to theii ancient puiitie, and iecovei theii
piimative oidei, libeitie, & bewtie. (_)
Tayloi, undoubtedly a godly and judicious wiitei, made the same as-
sumptions about the combat in this woild between God and Satan, good
andevil, light anddaik. Like Biadfoid, he assumedthat the poweis of daik-
ness would be especially peisistent and vengeful in eoits to undeimine
the Chiistian chuich. In eviy Ciink, he wained, The Divell plays hide,
and seek, [ While moitalls winke (MH :II). Theie can be no question
that iight will pievail at the Last Judgment, but until then Satan is likely to
dominate. The Calvinist God, though omnipotent, is also unknowable to
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man, his ways not oui ways. Sections on justice show him stiiking down
small-scale malefactois as well as conspicuous oendeis like Heiod:
But God goes on and Justice doth thus smite
Him with a Slow and buining Fiie that makes
His bowells iot, a gieedy Apetite,
Woims eating him alive, soie Belly akes
A nasty Piiapism doth abound
In him, and he doth stinck above the giound. (MH )
On the whole, howevei, the most conspicuous and amazing quality of Tay-
lois God is his awesome and quite unexpected patience, his willingness
to toleiate sins continuance and let his chuich sink into coiiuption. The
balance between patience and justice can ultimately be ielied upon, ac-
coiding to Tayloi: The Scales now tuining on theii pin do say [ Theie
is a iighteous God now making Pay (MH :). Still, the poem suggests
no likelihood of the scale shifting entiiely in favoi of light, goodness, and
giace befoie the Second Coming. Gods vision may show histoiy as a soit
of divine comedy, but fiom the human peispective it is a discouiaging and
seemingly inteiminable stiuggle.
And what else would Tayloi expect, given the weakness of fallen hu-
man natuie: A Metrical Histcry piovides abundant evidence of human de-
piavity in eveiy time and place it suiveys and especially within Chiistian
chuiches. The poem confionts us with multitudinous villains but also with
saints who ieect the shine of giace. St. Augustine is one of Taylois heioes:
In whom the Gospell Gloiy shown so biight
Thiough all the Woild as dazleth its sight
A Pillai and a Bulwoik too of Light
Few like him bee. (MH ,,)
Few like him bee, indeed, although Augustine is an ideal example of
natuial man empoweied by conveiting giace to teach and inspiie the peo-
ple of God. Moie of Taylois admiied guies, howevei, appeai as failuies to
the woilds eyespeople like biave Alice Diivei, a Maiian maityi, who
duncd hei judges by theii own Concession but still died at the stake (MH
:o). Theie aie many stoiies told heie of peisons who may oi may not be
saints, stiuggling with theii own tendencies towaid sin as well as the evil
institutions within which they tiied to advance Chiists kingdom. In Gcds
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Taylois Metrical Histcry { ,o:
Determinaticns, Tayloi had shown his sensitivity to the ways even Gods
elect iesist Chiists invitation, fall victim to Satans discouiagements, and
feel oveiwhelmed by theii own sinfulness befoie being oveicome foice-
fully by Meicy and Justice. If iesponse to giace was so hesitant in Puiitan
New England, how much haidei the stiuggle must have been in medi-
eval Euiope wheie the chuich itself loomed as an impediment to salvation
iathei than its instiument.
Whatevei ieadeiship Tayloi intended foi A Metrical Histcry must have
been local, since he appaiently made no attempt to get it piinted. His
goal could not have been to convince Catholics, Oithodox Chiistians, and
insuciently iefoimed Piotestants of theii dangei but iathei to iemind
membeis of his own Puiitan community of the iisks they faced, in com-
mon with all Chiistians thioughout time, in withstanding Satans devious
designs. Beyond that, he piobably intended an oblique soit of ieassuiance.
No mattei how tioubling New Englands decline might seem, conditions
in Chiistian chuiches had been much woise thioughout most of histoiy. If
cleiical colleagues oi membeis of his Westeldcommunity felt discouiaged
about theii failings and the obscuiity in which they toiled, they might take
comfoit in thoughts of eailiei Chiistians who weie hailed as instiuments
of Gods gloiy in Taylois poem even though theii names weie foigotten.
This is decidedly not an epic histoiy. It has no human heio but is the stoiy
of multitudinous humble men and women who somehow sustained the
light of giace against appalling obstacles and weie geneially defeatedas
this woild undeistands defeat. Histoiy, foi Tayloi, could only make sense
in any hopeful way fiom Gods peispective, which no poem, seimon, oi
doctiinal tieatise could piesume to compiehend.
The passage fiom The Shine of Divine Tiuth at the end of the tenth
centuiy that I chose foi my epigiaph admiiably conveys Taylois mes-
sage to his Puiitan ieadeis (MH _oo). Those times, peihaps all times, look
daike, and even the poet-histoiians eoits may unintentionally contiib-
ute to the fog that obscuies the saints path and fiightens him. Chiists
tiuth, howevei, iemains the Pole Stai iadiating the Shine of Giace that
enables the Chiistian to glimpse Gods gloiy thiough manifestations of
patience, justice, and eciency. The iesponse we would expect fiom the
poet of the Preparatcry Meditaticns is to sing out oui Loids eielasting
piaise. The last line distills the centeiing paiadox of this whole poemin its
pun on disgiacd[giacd. Even though A Metrical Histcry shows, ovei and
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ovei, how those who call themselves Chiistians and even chuich leadeis
ieject the giaces they claim to ieceive in saciaments and thiough ceie-
monies, Chiists giace pievailssometimes by biinging the sinnei to dis-
giace in teims of conspicuous disastei and sometimes by ill iepute sus-
tained thiough such histoiies as this. Yet, at even the woist eias of chuich
histoiy, saints have iesponded to his saving powei. Tayloi and his fellow
New Englandeis could tiust to that giace, and this poem itselffoi all its
faultscelebiates its might.
Foi Edwaid Tayloi himself, the long eoit to nd meaning and oidei,
even beauty, in confionting the dismal histoiy of ecclesiastical stiuggles
seived as anothei oppoitunity foi ieecting on his ministiy in ielation to
Gods puiposes. Although ieadeis today sense a kind of moial and aes-
thetic disgiace in the ciuelty and coaiseness with which he depicted the
powei of evil, he seems to have found this exeicise of intellectual and spiii-
tual discipline fuithei evidence of divine favoi foi himself as a Puiitan
saint. The poems inevitable eiiois, awkwaidness, and aesthetic failuies ie-
ected his nite human condition, though the sustained eneigy foi wiiting
and the task itself piobably stiuck him as gifts fiom a loving God. In his
last poem, AValediction to the Whole Woild (veision _), Tayloi thanked
God foi favois to him and especially foi letting him live in Gospell times
& places, wheie means of salvation weie fai moie piomising than in the
ciicumstances his imagination giasped all too fiightfully as a iesult of yeais
spent toiling ovei his Metrical Histcry. Had he been boin in Pagan times
without Chiists Light oi in Pagan Papistick places such as this lengthy
immeision in chuich histoiy impiinted on his imagination (Tayloi, Mincr,
:_8), he would piobably nevei have known Gods giace noi pioduced this
staitling woik. This foimidable and often foibidding manusciipt, howevei
bitteily it iails against human failings, still iadiates the tainished shine
of the heavenly giace and gloiy Tayloi consistently dedicated himself to
honoi.
o1is
I. Essays in The Taylcring Shcp, edited by Michael Schuldinei, ieect the quality of
ciitical wiiting on Tayloi inspiied by Davis. Although theie aie seveial essays on
Gcds Determinaticns and otheis on meditations, elegies, and the Valedicticn, no-
body chose to wiite on A Metrical Histcry.
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:. Davis identies the most likely composition peiiod foi Gcds Determinaticns as
ioughly Io,,Io8I[8: on the basis of manusciipt evidence as well as topical con-
ceins (Reading :,:8).
_. Accoiding to Kellei, Taylois name is nowheie on the manusciipt, yet his stamp
is eveiywheie. It is on the devotion with which the woild is mistiusted and the
devotion with which God is piaised. It is on his Puiitan penchant foi extiavagant
language and his insatiable desiie foi the apocalyptic. It is on the scatalogical deni-
giations . . . and the sexual language of iedemption. . . . It is on the use of Justice vs.
Giace foi a life-oiganizing device, as in Gcds Determinaticns, and the celebiation
of faith as an esthetic appiehension of the things of the woild and the things of
God, as in the Preparatcry Meditaticns. His stamp is on the Leicesteishiie dialect
. . . and the aichaic diction. . . . It is on the eaithy images . . . and the incongiu-
ent levels of usage. . . . It is on the mixed metaphois and the homely conceits and
the contentious ministeiial humoi and the eageiness to use language to show his
delight in the haid matteis of his faith (Example I:_).
. The inuence of the psalms on Taylois poetics is ievealingly exploied by Rose-
maiy Fithian Guiuswamy] in Woids of My Mouth, Meditations of My Heait:
Edwaid Taylois Preparatcry Meditaticns and the Book of Psalms.
,. Kellei, who notes that Taylois collection tended mostly towaid the exegetical . . .
and towaid the apocalyptic, identies some of those books as Thomas Tiaheines
Rcman Fcrgeries, Richaid Baxteis Key fcr Cathclicks, and Theophilus Higgonss
Mystical Babylcn, cr Papal Rcme (:I).
o. Kellei diaws a connection between key elements of this poemand the quasiscien-
tic appioach to the theology implicit in Matheis call foi contiibuted stoiies,
suggesting that Taylois Metrical Histcry might even have been wiitten in ie-
sponse to such a call (Example o:).
,. He elaboiates on this image in ielation to Puiitan spiiitual expeiience by noting
that i]n this quasi-Lockean view of histoiy, God emanates foith as light on cei-
tain events and peisons, and the man of faith, the justied man, is made ieceptive
to that light thiough his faith. Just as the sun shines foith on many objects of the
physical woild and the eye of man beholds them as it is intended they be seen, so
the light of God shines foith on the past and the spiiitual eye sees the meanings
intended (Example I,).
8. Taylois compulsive tendency to ielate this stoiy with emphasis on the same few
elements, including witticisms based on gendei distinctions in Latin giammai, is
paiticulaily stiiking when one compaies his tieatment of Pope Joan in A Metrical
Histcry with many fiagments of such mateiial Davis collected foi his edition of
Taylois Mincr Pcetry.
wovxs ci1ii
The Bay Psalm Bcck. A Facsimile Reprint cf the First Editicn cf :oo. Chicago: Univ.
of Chicago Piess, I,,o.
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,o i.viv .mivic. ii1iv.10vi: voi0mi _8, 0mviv _
Biadfoid, William. Bradfcrds Histcry Of Plimcth Plantaticn fiom the Oiiginal
Manusciipt. With a Repoit on the Pioceedings Incident to the Retuin of the
Manusciipt to Massachusetts. Boston: Wiight and Pottei, I8,,.
Biadstieet, Anne. The Vcrks cf Anne Bradstreet. Ed. Jeannine Hensley. Cambiidge:
Belknap Piess of Haivaid Univ. Piess, I,o,.
Daly, Robeit. Gcds Altar. The Vcrld and the Flesh in Puritan Pcetry. Beikeley:
Univ. of Califoinia Piess, I,,8.
Davis, Thomas M. A Reading cf Edward Taylcr. Newaik: Univ. of Delawaie Piess,
I,,:.
Fithian, Rosemaiy. Woids of My Mouth, Meditations of My Heait: Edwaid
Taylois Preparatcry Meditaticns and the Book of Psalms. Early American
Literature :o (I,8,): 8,II,.
Gatta, John. Gracicus Laughter. The Meditative Vit cf Edward Taylcr. Columbia:
Univ. of Missouii Piess, I,8,.
Hammond, Jeiey A. Sinful Self, Saintly Self. The Puritan Experience cf Pcetry.
Athens: Univ. of Geoigia Piess, I,,_.
Kellei, Kail. Edwaid Tayloi, the Acting Poet. Puritan Pcets and Pcetics.
Seventeenth-Century American Pcetry in Thecry and Practice. Ed. Petei White.
Univeisity Paik: Pennsylvania State Univ. Piess, I,8,. I8,I,,.
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Mathei, Cotton. Magnalia Christi Americana. Books I and :. Ed. Kenneth B.
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Post, Constance J. Making the Random Routine and the Routine Random: Ritual
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Stanfoid, Donald E. Edwaid Taylois Metrical Histcry cf Christianity. American
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Tayloi, Edwaid. Edward Taylcrs Mincr Pcetry. Vol. _ of The Unpublished Vritings
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-. A Transcript cf Edward Taylcrs Metrical Histcry cf Christianity. By
Donald E. Stanfoid. I,o:.
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