Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Edward Taylor on the Rose of Sharon

I've been dipping into The Poems of Edward Taylor, edited by Donald E. Stanford, University of North Carolina Press. Taylor (c. 1642-1729) was a Puritan Pastor who served in the small frontier town of Westfield, Massachusetts. He was a prolific poet in the metaphysical style of John Donne. The true value of his poems was not properly appreciated until the 1940's.

One poem is a meditation on Song of Solomon 2:1, "I am the rose of Sharon". Taylor, in common with his contemporaries saw this as a depiction of Christ. I'm aware that The Hebrew indicates that this is probably the Shulamite's self-description, rather than a reference to her Beloved. Also, while I think that the relationship between the Shulamite and her Beloved is a wonderful example of married love and is therefore typical of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33), I'm a little wary of allegorising the details in the manner of some Puritan exegetes of the Song of Solomon. Be that as it may, Taylor's poetic meditation on Christ as the Rose of Sharon is a wonderful piece of devotional literature. Have a read of this verse and note the remarkable play on words in the penultimate line (p. 13).

But oh! alas! that such should be my need
       That this Brave Flower must Pluckt, stampt, squeezed bee,
And boyld up in its Blood, its Spirits sheed,
       To make a Physick sweet, sure, safe for mee.
       But yet this mangled Rose rose up again
       And in its pristine glory, doth remain.

See here for an earlier posting of one of Taylor's poems, which includes a link to more of his work.

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