2 BackgroundEdward Taylor’s work was generally unknown during his lifetime.Some believe that he chose not to publish his poems because their joyousness in the sensory experience countered Puritan attitudes that poetry be for moral instruction only.The discovery in the 1930’s of a stash of Taylor’s poems is considered a major literary find of the twentieth century.
3 HuswiferyCompares the household task of making cloth with the gift of God’s salvation.This extended metaphor expresses Edward Taylor’s deep belief in God and celebrates the divine presence in daily life.The poem is like a prayer imploring God to guide the speaker to do his bidding.By submitting to God’s will, the speaker hopes to achieve eternal glory.
4 Huswifery - Vocabulary distaff: n. staff on which flax or wool is wound for use in spinning.affections: n. Emotionsflyers: n. part of a spinning wheel that twists fibers into yarn.quills: n. Weaver’s spindles or bobbinsordinances: n. Sacraments or religious rites.fulling mills: n. Machines that shrink and thicken cloth to the texture of felt.pinked: v. decorated
5 HuswiferyAlthough this poem uses simple words to describe common household items, Taylor has created a rich, multi-layered metaphor.Increasingly complex connections– spinning wheel to yarn to loom to cloth to holy robes– represent steps the speaker hopes he can follow in life to glorify God and to achieve a state of grace.
6 HuswiferyThe poem begins with an analogy between the writer and a spinning wheel.However, at the end of the poem suddenly he is no longer the spinning wheel, he is now a man wearing the cloth that was spun by the spinning wheel.How could the main analogy of the poem shift so drastically?Actually, upon closer inspection, the shift does not seem so bizarre.The main idea of the poem is followed through from beginning to end.It is the story of a man who is truly devoted to the Lord and how his relationship with the Lord evolves from the point where he is seeking God in his life to the point where he has found him and become a changed man.As the man changes, the analogy within the poem must naturally evolve to keep up with his changes.
7 HuswiferyIn the first line, Edward Taylor asks that God be the master spinner behind his spinning wheel self which indicates his desire for the Lord to take control of his life and to use that life to create what He will.He then expounds upon this idea by incorporating many of the parts of a spinning wheel into the analogy.Taylor asks that all that he believes come from the Holy Word (his distaff) and that all that he longs for be kept in line with the Lord's wishes by His "swift flyers".He wants his conversation to spring forth from that which the Lord is creating in him, just as the thread, once spun, does not change in nature as it is wound around the reel. Essentially, in this stanza, he is saying: Lord, take me and mold my heart for I am Yours.
8 HuswiferyThe second stanza starts off saying much the same thing. It expands upon the idea of wanting the Lord to mold his heart and shape the kind of person that he is.He again gives complete control to the Lord as he says, "Then weave the web thyself. The yarn is fine." Going along with the fabric = heart analogy, this would seem to indicate that he wants the Lord to pull together the pieces of his heart, bring together all of his thoughts and affections and focus them into one beautiful creation.The "The yarn is fine." part of the line displays a feeling of fragility. He does not believe that he is capable of shaping his heart himself, and this is why he must hand it over to the Lord. In his mind, if he tries to do it on his own, the pieces will most likely break (since the yarn is thin) and he will be just another tattered rag thrown by the wayside, not usable for its intended purpose.
9 HuswiferyOnce he has been completely woven, and all the essentials of a God-serving heart are completed, he then goes on to ask of the Lord that He not just leave him plain and dull.He wants to be dyed with "heavenly colors choice." and "pinked with varnished flowers of paradise." A garment that has been woven and is left plain is very functional for the owner of that garment, but will not be beautiful or attractive to others. No one else will feel a great desire to have a similar one for themselves.One possible interpretation of this point is to think that the author is now turning away from God and seeking his own glory, asking that others be envious of him. However, this would not fall in line with the very humble, God-serving attitude displayed throughout each of the stanzas. It seems more likely that he desires for others to see his inner beauty that they might desire that same inner beauty for themselves, leading them too to seek after the Lord.
10 HuswiferyNow that the colors and extra frills have been added on to the garment, it is completed. His heart is now a finished work, fully devoted to God - not limited to only himself, but also reaching out to others and bringing others to devote their lives to God as well.And so, in the third stanza the spinning wheel is completely dropped out of the poem which makes sense, for once a machine's work is complete, there is no longer a need for that machine. In essence, he's saying that his life was just a machine for serving and creating hearts devoted to God. Now that this purpose is complete, it is time for him to pass on.But he asks one thing of the Lord. Though his earthly body and life may pass away, he wishes for his eternal soul, for all that truly makes up who he is to be clothed with the virtues the Lord has instilled in him. This is so that his "apparel shall display before [God]" that he is "clothed in holy robes for glory." In other words, he has done his best, followed the Lord all his life, and now he is ready to be taken to his eternal reward in Heaven.