The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Huswifery,” written in the late seventeenth century, is perhaps the best known work of Edward Taylor’s poetic canon. It is meditational in form, one of several periodic exercises designed to place Taylor in a correct spiritual posture for communion with Christ, literally through the Lord’s Supper and metaphysically through a spiritual union brought about by faith. Almost always religious, Taylor’s poetry is influenced by the great English Metaphysical poets John Donne, George Herbert, and Richard Crashaw. Like them, he joined disparate fields of experience and often offered bizarre juxtapositions of images.

“Huswifery” takes its unusual rural imagery not only from the primitive location of Taylor’s pastorate but also from his memories of his boyhood home in England, where he earned a living from the soil and perhaps sheared and spun wool as part of his daily labor. In his early youth, Taylor may also have been employed in the weavers’ shops of the nearby town of Hinckley.

Stanza 1 implores God to use Taylor as His spinning wheel and to provide a holder for the flax of faith in the words of Holy Scripture. Taylor breaks down the weaving image further by associating functions of the parts of the spinning wheel with various human characteristics. His affections become the “flyers” (revolving arms which twist the wool into yarn); the soul is the spool which collects the thread; and conversation is seen as the reel which...

(The entire section is 447 words.)