Edward Taylor was a frontier minister who wrote a prolific amount of devotional poetry. The
poems are full of deep piety, learned and quiet, but sometimes an errant wildness runs under the
seams of his words.
It’s said that he wrote poetic meditations to put himself in the correct spiritual state for his
communion with Christ.
I imagine the task swallowing him each time, moving its own patient way like snowmelt. A poem
may hold the unwieldy pieces of the earth together with a whole heart; a poem may cut that heart
His first wife, Elizabeth Fitch, bore eight children; five died in infancy. Taylor wrote more and
more sermons and poems.
Sometimes a conceit makes itself necessary in the safety of the impasse between word and world.
And make my soul Thy holy spool to be, writes Taylor.
His parishioners were called to worship in the wilderness with a beat of a drum, amidst cold
plants, the night coming on, undelivered ashes of stars.
Flocks take to the sky at dusk. I have wondered if the parishioners counted the days.
As in: did they ever travel past the corrective of the afterworld to stand in the strong spine of
rivers? According to Taylor: In heaven soaring up, I dropt an ear on earth: and oh! Sweet melody
—(Or weren’t there deranged cries in the wilderness, too?)
Taylor’s trust appears both adamantine and vulnerable, like the slow plan of the flowering grass
or torn, stilled clouds.
Alone in his study, he writes down some dimensions—
I’m but a Flesh and Blood bag, Oh!
Consider the strange and riotous interior, through which so many nameless things fly.
As weeds continue to idle their tails, leaves molder right on time. In the rafters of the sky, a
pristine star shines with unassailability. It can’t be taught a thing.
The wilderness: I cannot get around the back of it.
From The Wilderness (W. W. Norton, 2013) by Sandra Lim. Copyright © 2013 by Sandra Lim. Used with permission of the author.