From Meditation Fifty-Six (ca. 1682)
Should I with silver tools delve through the hill
Of Cordilera for rich thoughts, that I
My Lord, might weave with an angelic skill
A damask web of velvet verse, thereby
To deck thy works up, all my web would run
To rags and jags; so snick-snarled to the thrum
Thine are so rich; within, without refined
No work like thine. No fruits so sweet that grow
On th’ trees of righteousness of angel kind,
And saints, whose limbs reeved with them bow down low.
Should I search o’er the nutmeg gardens shine,
Its fruits in flourish are but skegs to thine.
The clove, when in its white-greened blossoms shoots,
Some call the pleasantest scent the world doth show,
None eye e’er saw, nor nose e’er smelt such fruits,
My Lord, as thine, thou Tree of Life in’ts blow.
Thou Rose of Sharon, valley’s lily true,
Thy fruits most sweet and glorious ever grew.
Thou art a tree of perfect nature trim,
Whose golden lining is of perfect grace,
Perfumed with Deity unto the brim,
Whose fruits, of the perfection, grow, of grace.
Thy buds, thy blossoms, and thy fruits adorn
Thyself, and works, more shining than the morning…
Nature doth better work than art, yet thine
Out vie both works of nature and of art.
Nature’s perfection and the perfect shine
Of grace attend thy deed in every part.
A thought, a word, and work of thine, will kill
Sin, Satan, and the Curse; and Law fulfill.
Thou art the Tree of Life in Paradise,
Whose lively branches are with clusters hung
Of lovely fruits, and flowers more sweet than spice.
Bend down to us, and do outshine the sun.
Delightful unto God, do man rejoice
The pleasantest fruits in all God’s Paradise.
Lord, feed mine eyes then with thy doings rare,
And fat my heart with these ripe fruits thou bearst;
Adorn my life well with thy works; make fair
My person with apparel thou prepar’st
My boughs shall loaded be with fruits that spring
Up from thy works, while to thy praise I sing.
Edward Taylor (ca. 1642-1729) was a colonial Anglo-American Congregationalist minister who emigrated in 1668 and served the congregation at Westfield, Massachusetts for 58 years. He wrote a series of complex metaphysical poems, the Meditations, as part of his devotional preparation for receiving Holy Communion. The poems were discovered and first published in 1937, and have led many to deem him colonial America’s finest poet.