Essays On Edward Taylor

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An entertaining and enlightened understanding of what it means to be a Puritan can be gained by reading the poems of Taylor.

Taylor’s verse is always passionately meditative as he seeks to understand the larger problems of the world through application to himself.

Certainly no other religious figure so steeped in organized Puritanism has so far exhibited such an equally extensive and profound understanding of and talent for writing verse.

For Taylor, much of his most effective poems are genuinely impossible to unlink from his day job; he worked out many of concepts that would show up in his sermons through poetry.

Therefore, rather than compromise his religious principles, he emigrated to Boston in 1668 and, bearing letters of introduction to prominent figures such as Increase Mather, soon entered Harvard College with advanced standing.

It was probably there that he took the decision to study theology.In that same year he began to compose his "Preparatory Meditations before My Approach to the Lord's Supper", so-called because they accompanied the writing of the sermons he delivered before administering Holy Communion.These sermons were especially important for Taylor because the Eucharist, along with baptism, was one of the two covenants of Grace, offering the promise of eternal life, that the Puritans believed in.His work reveals a powerful intellect and a technical proficiency surprising for a Puritan minister in the American colonies.Like his Puritan predecessor Anne Bradstreet, Taylor wrote much of his poetry for private purposes.The naturally harsh conditions of life on what was then the western frontier included the threat of attacks from hostile Indians.That threat was especially severe during the bloody King Philip's War of 1675-6, which cost the lives of one out of every twenty New Englanders.Perhaps if Edward Taylor had allowed his poetry to be published during his lifetime or in the event of his death, course of how Puritanism would come to be viewed might have forever changed.Until the bulk of Taylor’s truly prodigious output was discovered in the 1930’s the words “Puritan poetry” remained practically oxymoron.After graduating in 1671, he accepted an offer to be the minister in the small frontier community of Westfield, one hundred miles southwest of Boston.The journey to his new home on horseback took him eight days; but there he remained for the rest of his life, eventually marrying twice and fathering fourteen children, many of whom died in childbirth.


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