Edward Taylor

Edward Taylor was an American Puritan poet and minister of the Congregational Church at Westfield, Massachusetts for over fifty years.

Considered one of the more significant poets to appear in America in the 17th and 18th centuries, his fame is the result of two works, the Preparatory Meditations ... (written 1682-1725) and Gods Determinations touching his Elect ... (written 1682?), but he wrote many other poems during his lifetime.

With the exception of two stanzas of verse, his works were unpublished in his lifetime.  He had bound his writings with instructions to his heirs to never have them published.  They were not published until 200 years after his death.

By 1650 the future poet was enjoying the peace and stability of a prosperous midland farm. His poetry is filled with imagery drawn from the farm and from the countryside of both Old and New England.  

Educated by a nonconformist schoolmaster, Taylor taught school for a short time.

His firm religious convictions as a Protestant dissenter were severely tested during the first years of the Restoration. He refused to sign the Act of Uniformity of 1662 and was therefore prevented from teaching school and from worshiping in peace in his home country of England.

On 26 April 1668, he sailed to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The hardships of Taylor's crossing of the Atlantic during the seventy days in which his ship was slowed by calms and buffeted by contrary winds are described in his diary.

On 23 July 1668, Taylor entered Harvard College  as an upperclassman. Taylor's life at Harvard for the next three years was busy and rigorous with recitations, disputations, and lectures carried on in Latin; with studies in Greek, Hebrew, logic, metaphysics, rhetoric, and astronomy; and with daily morning and evening prayers.

After graduating with his class from Harvard in 1671, Taylor was faced with the necessity of choosing a vocation. He decided to become a resident scholar at Harvard, and on November 16 he was, according to his diary, "instituted ... scholar of the house." However, a few days later he was persuaded to undertake the hazardous journey of a hundred miles through deep snowdrifts in the dead of winter to Westfield to become minister to that small farming community in the Bay Colony. He remained in Westfield for the rest of his life, with only occasional visits to Boston and other New England towns.

By the summer of 1674 Taylor had fallen in love with Elizabeth Fitch of Norwich. On September 8 he sent her a love letter written in the florid rhetoric of the period, and the next month he composed for her an elaborate acrostic love poem. They were married  November 5, 1674 and had eight children, five of whom died in infancy. After the death of his first wife he married again, and had 5 more children.

Most of Taylor's poetry was religious in nature--the various ways of God in converting people to Christianity and the spiritual joys of being a Christian. His poems were not published in Taylor's lifetime, but he probably read passages from them to his congregation during Sunday morning worship or at evening prayer meetings.

Two of his famous poems are  "Upon a Spider Catching a Fly" which is an allegory warning people of the pitfalls of evil and  "Huswifery" which is an extended metaphor (conceit) comparing Christianity to spinning cloth.