Explain the relationship between family and religion in Edward Taylor‘s work the “Prologue” and "Meditation 8" ( first series).

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the "Prologue ," the narrator addresses God directly, asking if there is any way that he, a lowly writer ("a Crumb of Dust"), can match God's creation of nature. God is a "Boundless Deity," but this writer—even if he were given his pen by the angels—can only "blot...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In the "Prologue," the narrator addresses God directly, asking if there is any way that he, a lowly writer ("a Crumb of Dust"), can match God's creation of nature. God is a "Boundless Deity," but this writer—even if he were given his pen by the angels—can only "blot and blur" and make mistakes unless God steps in to help him. The narrator asserts his own insignificance but vows that he will write only to praise God; he will do everything possible to write as beautifully as he can. He asks for inspiration and assistance, hoping God will overlook his "failings" because they have come from God's own "Crumb of Dust." In this way, the speaker seems to position himself as God's child. For that reason, he hopes God will "guide [his] pen" and help him to better glorify God in his work.

In "Meditation 8," the narrator discusses the way God provides for his children, namely, by offering up his "deare-dear Son," Jesus Christ, so that all souls may "Eate thy fill" of "Heaven's Sugar Cake," a metaphor for Jesus. Christ was sacrificed so that all of God's children might "Eate, Eate . . . and . . . never dy." Thus, religion is really meant to be like a family. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. He is likewise our brother, and all of us are provided for through his sacrifice. God is the father of us all, not just a Creator, but one who continues to provide for us by sustaining our souls. In this way, God is more than an earthly father who might provide for his children's bodies; God, the Father, provides spiritual nourishment and eternal life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First, let's set the contextual scene a little bit. The speaker in "Meditation 8" starts off lost and utterly hopeless. After original sin and the fall of man, he wonders, how can man possibly redeem himself? The speaker is hungry for salvation, and the poem is littered with references to food—or, more accurately, the lack of food:

And while my puzzled thoughts about it pore
I finde the Bread of Life in't at my doore.

For the speaker, the Bread of Life that nourishes his spirit is nowhere to be found. He feels alone and adrift. He compares his lost soul to a Bird of Paradise starving in a cage:

It fell into Celestiall Famine sore:
And never could attain a morsel more.

Your question was about the relationship between religion and family in the poem, though, not the relationship between religion and food, and that's where the son of God comes in. The speaker tells us that God gave the Bread of Life to the world in the form of his only son, Jesus Christ:

…And he to end all strife
The Purest Wheate in Heaven, his deare-dear Son
Grinds, and kneads up into this Bread of Life.
Which Bread of Life from Heaven down came and stands
Disht on thy Table up by Angells Hands.

The speaker isn't claiming that God literally ground up his son to feed him, of course; rather, he's saying that God feeds man's starving soul through the sacrament of holy communion: the body of blood of Christ. God, the holy father, loves the speaker so much that he's willing to sacrifice Christ for the good of all his "children." By the end of the poem, the speaker feels comforted by the fact that, through his faith in God and communion with Christ, he'll never go hungry—at least not spiritually:

This Bread of Life dropt in thy mouth, doth Cry.
Eate, Eate me, Soul, and thou shalt never dy.

What's more, the speaker tells us, those who find salvation through God not only won't go hungry again, they'll escape death completely and be rewarded with life everlasting. The speaker's feelings of hopelessness earlier in the poem are assuaged by God's promise to love him unconditionally, as a father loves his children.

Now, onto "Prologue." In this devotional poem, Taylor's speaker doesn't start out lost or hopeless. Instead, he's dedicated—both to God and to his own salvation. He's humble before the Lord and sings God's praises:

I am this Crumb of Dust which is design’d
To make my Pen unto thy Praise Alone…

Taylor isn't demeaning himself when he refers to himself as nothing more than a speck of dust; he's reflecting on his place in the universe. He may be tiny, but he's not insignificant, and for that he's thankful to God. For that, he'll worship God and devote his life to showing other people just how awesome God is:

[I would] Write in Liquid Gold upon thy Name
My Letters till thy glory forth doth flame.

Taylor's speaker knows that he's going to face challenges to his beliefs and righteousness, and that he's going to fail from time to time, but he's also confident that God will forgive him for his screw-ups, just as God forgives all his children. The last stanza makes this clear:

Let not th’attempts breake down my Dust I pray
Not laugh thou them to scorn but pardon give.

Here, the speaker is asking God to forgive him when he stumbles.

Inspire this Crumb of Dust till it display
Thy Glory through’t: and then thy dust shall live.

In these lines, the speaker's asking for strength and encouragement to live a godly life, for only in living a godly life will the speaker truly live.

Its failings then thou’lt overlook I trust,
They being Slips slipt from thy Crumb of Dust.

Finally, the speaker alludes to the fact that, ultimately, he's just a man, and men make mistakes—that's part of what makes them crumbs of dust and not, say, mighty boulders. While "Prologue" finds him questioning his worth, he's confident that God, the Father, will overlook his failures and love him no matter what.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team