Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dove and Olive Branch

Edward Taylor sent a love letter dated July 8, 1674, to Miss Elizabeth Fitch, the woman who would become his first wife (they married on November 5, 1674). The letter included both elaborate drawings of a heart enclosed in a circle enclosed in a triangle, out of which an acrostic poem was formed, as well as a dove holding an olive branch. Lewis Turco writes that "Besides being a sampler and an acrostic (the alphabet is spelled down the left-hand margin), this extremely complicated poem is also a picture poem, a calligramme, and an epistle (a "post") addressed to Taylor's first wife, Elizabeth Fitch".

In the letter, Taylor writes like a man swept almost off his feet:

My Dove:

I send you not my heart, for that, I hope, is sent to heaven long since, and unless it hath awfully deceived me, it hath not taken up its lodgings in any one's bosom on this side of the royal city of the great King, but yet the most of it that is allowed to be bestowed upon creature, doth solely and singly fall to your share. So much my post pigeon presents you with here in these lines. Look not, I beseech you, upon it as one of love's hyperboles, if I borrow the beams of some sparkling metaphor to illustrate my respect unto thyself by, for you having made my breast the cabinet of your affections as I your's mine, I know not how to offer a fitter comparison to set out my love by, than to compare it to a golden ball of fire, rolling up and down my breast, from which there flies now and then a spark like a glorious beam from the body of the flaming sun, but I, alas, striving to catch these sparks into a love-letter unto thyself, and to guide it as with a sunbeam, find that by what time they have fallen through my pen upon my paper, they have lost their shine and look only like a little smoke thereon instead of gilding it, wherefore finding myself so much discouraged, I am ready to begrudge my instrument for, though my love within my breast is so large that my heart is not sufficient to contain it, yet I can make it no more room to ride in than to squeeze it up betwixt my black ink and white paper, but know that it's the coarsest part that's conversant there, for the purest part's too fine to clothe in any Lingua housewifery to be expressed by words, and this letter bears the coarsest part to you, yet the purest is improved for you. But now my dear love, lest my letter should be judged the lavish language of a lover's pen, I shall endeavor to show that conjugal love ought to exceed all other love:

1st. It appears from that which it represents, viz: the respect which is between Christ and his Church (Ephesians v. 25) although it differs from that in kind (for that is spiritual and this is human), and in a degree that is boundless and transcendent.

2nd. Because conjugal love is the ground of conjugal union.

3rd. From the Christian duties which are incumbent on persons of this state, as not only a serving God together, a praying together, a joining together in the ruling and instructing of their families (which cannot be carried on as it should be without a great degree of true love), a mutual giving each other to each other, and a mutual encouraging each other in all states and grievances. And how can this be when there is not love surmounting all other love? It's with them therefore for the most part, as with the strings of an instrument not tuned together, which when struck upon make but a harsh, jarring sound; but when the golden wires of an instrument, equally drawn up and rightly struck upon, tuned together, make sweet music whose harmony doth enravish the ear, so when the golden strings of true affection are strained up into a right conjugal love, thus doth this state harmonise to the comfort of each other and the glory of God when sanctified. But though conjugal love must exceed all other love, it must be kept within bounds too, for it must be subordinate to God's glory, the which that mine may be so, it having got you in my heart, doth offer my heart with you in it, as a more rich sacrifice unto God through Christ, and so it subscribeth me,

Your true love till death,
Edward Taylor

And here is the famous acrostic poem, but be sure to visually view the calligramme here for the full effect:

This Dove &
Olive Branch to
is both a Post &
Emblem too.
These for M[y Dove]
Tender & Onely [Love]
Mrs. Elizabeth Fitch
at her father's house in

The line within the triangle reads:

The ring of love my pleasant heart must be
Truly confined within the Trinity.

The circle reads:

Love's ring I send
That hath no end.

And finally the acrostic itself (the letter J is included in the letter I):

Aspiring Love, that scorns to hatch a wish
Beneath itself, the fullest, chiefest Bliss
Contained within Heaven's crystal pale and shine,
Doth wish its object always, so doth mine.
Elect no more presented in desire:
For Heaven's roof, aye, lets not a wish soar higher.
Got though too dim, none can get to sign
Hear you, (my friend), is strengthened wish of mine.
In drossy silver should, I should by this,
Keep dull my post, and stain my serious wish,
Lest which polluted be, or the fearful Dove
My post-out foiled, I run a ring of Love
New polished, where my centered heart doth reek
Out highest streams of Love, which here do meet.
Presented thus your heart, Love's Ring you'll find
Quest I unless, always best befits the mind.
Reserve mine that. Yet let our secret breast
Set Love the tune which tunes this Ring the best.
The Ring of Love my pleasant heart must be
[Truly confined within the Trinity]
Upon your heart (I pray you) put Love's Ring
V[U]nerringly; Love's Swelt(ering) heart herein
Wear a True-love's-knot at center's set.
Wherewith I send to you an alphabet
Xenodict whence all syllables compelete
[e]Xtracted are to spell what love can speak.
Yea, see, then, what I send. Yet I design
Zion my Ring shall license with her Trine.

No comments:

Post a Comment