Robert Hass on Edward Taylor

Two quotations from Hass’ “Edward Taylor: What Was He Up To?” in the March/April 2002 issue of The American Poetry Review:

The term baroque was introduced into critical discourse about art by the German scholar Heinrich Wolfflin. He used it to describe the difference between what he saw as the harmonies of the high Renaissance and what came after. “The Baroque,” he observed, “never offers us perfection and fulfillment, or the static calm of ‘being,’ only the unrest of change and the tension of transience.” It was this, perhaps, that the form of the meditative lyric allowed Taylor both to explore and to fend off, just as the worldly specifics in his poems, the processes of brewing and baking and metallurgy, the unguents, and powders and medicines, the children’s’ games and gambling games, allowed him to celebrate a world he was bound in conscience to deplore. (51)

Might Greenblatt see Taylor’s exploration and fending off of the baroque as an example of mobility and constraint? Where did the baroque come from for Taylor? Are there examples in the Preparatory Meditations of Taylor using the “form of the meditative lyric” as this kind of tool for exploring and fending off?

From the same essay by Hass,

So this was a Puritan minster in the 1680s on the remotest American frontier writing an often ecstatic poetry in a style strongly reminiscent of George Herbert but verging on a continental, Roman Catholic baroque, a minister who also, it should be added, was the author of a number of virulently anti-Papist works. The Puritans of Boston recognized the baroque style when they saw it. Michael Wigglesworth, the author of New England’s most popular poem, Day of Doom, sternly rebuked a poetry made of  “strained metaphors, far-fetch’t allusions, audacious & lofty expressions . . . meer ostentation of learning & empty flashes of a flourishing wit,” declaring that such writers “daub over their speech with rhetorical paintments” and “winding, crocked, periphrasticall circumlocutions & dark Allegoric mysteries.” This tells us that there was something un-Protestant about this adamantly Calvinist cleric. (43)

Given how little known Taylor’s work was during his lifetime, who exactly was Wigglesworth rebuking? Were his remarks public enough that Taylor would have been aware of them? Did he seem to feel constrained by his peer’s attitudes toward language? Why not? Finally, is the baroque in Taylor an example of transculturation? What examples from Taylor and Herbert (or other similar writers and writings) might support or refute this idea?

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