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The title of this poem reflects a vision of God as somebody who carefully works on humans to prepare them for heaven. The word "temper" refers to the way that metal is improved by heating and cooling in order to improve its durability and elasticity. In the same way, the speaker of this poem refers to the way that God works with humans to spiritually purify and "improve" them through his control over their lives, whether that be through suffering or pleasure. The speaker is well aware of the way that he often falls so short of God's plan for his life, as he says in the opening stanzas that although he is able to be good some of the time, often he fails and falls to "hell," symbolically presenting times when he does not obey God's commands. Although he hopes to be connected with God and to end up in heaven, at the same time, he is willing to trust in God's control over his life:
Yet take thy way; for sure thy way is best:Stretch or contract me thy poor debtor:This is but tuning of my breast,To make the music better.
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