Edward Taylor

 Comments & Themes


  • Taylor seems always to have been aware that, as a Puritan, it was his duty to devote every aspect of his life to God. This is also true of his poetry. Each one of his poems can therefore be read as an illustration of some particular tenet of Puritan belief. Which Puritan creeds can you find expressed in the various poems included here?

  • How is Taylor's lament for the death of his children ("Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children") similar to Anne Bradstreet's laments for the death of her grandchildren? What important differences can you find?

  • "Huswifery" is one of Taylor's bestknown poems, possibly due to the success of the extended conceit comparing the faithful Christian (the poet himself) to a spinning wheel. Give an explanation of every one of the details of this intricate analogy.

  • A similar explication could be given for other religious allegories such as "Upon a Spider Catching a Fly", "Upon a Wasp Chilled with Cold" or "A Fig for Thee, Oh! Death". In the first two, however, the allegory is based on a comparison with phenomena observed in the natural world. Consider how poems like these reflect the characteristic Puritan

    desire to discover evidence of God's beauty and will in God's creation, as can be seen in prose writings such as Bradstreet's Meditations Divine and Moral or Jonathan Edwards' Images and Shadows of Divine Things.
  • "The Preface" begins with these two lines: "Infinity, when all things it beheld / In nothing, and of nothing all did build". Notice that the series "all . . . nothing . . . nothing . . . all" is repeated at several points that follow, becoming a kind of motif through which Taylor develops the main ideas of the poem. Discuss the various uses of this motif and how it embodies Taylor's concept of the Creation and the Fall of man.
  • Taylor elaborates a brilliant multiple pun on the word "knot" in "Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children". Explain the different meanings of "knot" as he employs it in stanzas 1 and 3 and how these meanings are all related.

  • We could say that "Upon a Spider Catching a Fly" contains two lessons, or morals: one secular and the other religious. What are they? Which one do you find more convincing or satisfying, and why?

  • Find as many examples as you can of domestic or commonplace items and activities that Taylor employs to express abstract religious themes or ideas (such as the spinning wheel in "Huswifery"). Consider the ways in which this use of the concrete and simple to represent the spiritual and complex anticipates one of Emily Dickinson's primary modes of poetic expression.