TRACING the influence of George Herbert’s ‘The Temple’ (1633) has long been a focus of scholarship on the devotional poet, and Sharon Achinstein has done much to explain the appeal that Herbert’s poetry extended to a nonconformist readership in the seventeenth century.1 Two of these readers were the nonconformist minister, Faithful Teate (c. 1626–66), and the Presbyterian manuscript poet, Julia Palmer (fl. 1671–73). I suggest that a hitherto unnoticed layering of imitation connects these writers and their poems on the subject of prayer, drawing on the imagery of Herbert’s ‘Prayer (I)’. Palmer’s short lyric poem ‘Of praer’ appears in her manuscript collection of 200 devotional poems written between 1671 and 1673, now known as her Centuries, while Teate’s verse on ‘Prayer’ comprises part of his lengthy metaphysical verse text, Ter Tria (1658). First published in 1658, Ter Tria was reprinted in 1669 and 1699, and, in tripartite sequences of poems, it expounds the importance of the ‘Father’, ‘Son’, and ‘Holy Spirit’, the values of ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’, and ‘Love’, and the acts of ‘Prayer’, ‘Hearing’, and ‘Meditation’. What I suggest we find in the verses of these poets is an ‘imitative series’, defined by Damien Nelis as ‘two-tier allusion’ in which author C (in this case, Palmer) simultaneously imitates or alludes to a passage or work by author A (Herbert) and its imitation by author B (Teate).2 Herbert’s ‘Prayer (I)’ was cited by several of his admirers as an encomium of prayer, and was listed as such in the index that was added to the 1656 edition of The Temple.3 Within the twenty-seven images that are condensed into its sonnet form, one in particular appears to have stood out for both Teate and Palmer: namely, the image of ascent and descent presented in line four’s reference to ‘The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth’. As Helen Wilcox’s annotations to the poem indicate, a ‘plummet’ is a piece of lead or other heavy material attached to a line, used for measuring the depth of water.4 In Herbert’s poem, this ‘plummet’ is used to indicate the reciprocal power of prayer. Able to turn gravity on its head by both descending and ascending, the figurative plummet of the Christian’s prayer has the power to interrogate the distance between heaven and earth. Herbert’s interest in expressing prayer’s capacity to interrogate the space between the divine and the temporal, using what we might call vertical imagery, is taken up in Teate and Palmer’s own poetic meditations on the topic. Both Teate and Palmer use metaphors that are extremely similar to Herbert’s image of prayer as the ‘Christian plummet’ (‘Prayer (I)’, line 4). In order to see this allusive debt, it is helpful to compare their images side-by-side. First, these two couplets from Teate’s ‘Prayer’: Pray’r is Faiths Bucket (Pray’r doth upward move, Drawing its waters from those wells above) Chain’d to that Bucket of the Blessing, so That that comes down, as this doth upward go.5 Second, the eighth quatrain in Palmer’s ‘Of praer’: By faith, and pray’r, we thrive And doe from heav’n draw down That which will make us soon arive Unto our glorious Crown.6 Here we see Teate and Palmer’s vertical imagery following Herbert’s example of parading, and then dissolving, the boundary between the ‘here’ and ‘there’ of earth and heaven through ascending and descending movements. Just as the watery image of Herbert’s lead plummet could sound both ‘heav’n and earth’ (‘Prayer (I)’, line 4), so Teate and Palmer’s metaphors show their speakers turning conventional directions on their heads. Teate’s bucket ‘comes down’ as well as ‘upward go’, while Palmer can ‘draw down’ as well as ‘arive’ at the ‘glorious Crown’ of salvation. These examples from Herbert, Teate, and Palmer reveal a collective interest in prayer’s reciprocal capacity to allow the Christian to communicate with God, and receive the spiritual comfort that he provides. However, in accordance with Nelis’s definition of a ‘two-tier allusion’, the close parity in the use of vertical imagery by Teate and Palmer also allows us to suggest that, as a fellow moderate nonconformist, Palmer aligns her poetic meditation on prayer with Teate’s Ter Tria as well as with Herbert’s poem. Palmer’s lyric was written between 26 October 1671 and 20 November 1671, and thus not long after the publication of Ter Tria’s second edition in 1669. Consequently, this argument for an imitative series is certainly plausible in bibliographic terms. When it comes to the likelihood that Palmer would have encountered Teate’s text, Aisling Byrne has observed that the two subsequent editions of Ter Tria published in 1669 and 1699 are indicative of its ‘considerable popularity and influence both within and beyond the educated Puritan milieu’.7 Hence, if Palmer had access to both The Temple and the Presbyterian William Barton’s Two Centuries of Select Hymns (1670), as her editor Elizabeth Clarke notes in the introduction to the edited volume of her Centuries, then it is wholly conceivable that she would have been familiar with a similarly popular work like Teate’s Ter Tria.8 After all, the text was well known within puritan circles, and must have appealed to both her spiritual and aesthetic principles. While it is not currently possible to test this hypothesis beyond persuasive probability, the likelihood that Palmer drew textual inspiration from both within and beyond her own puritan niche allows us to take up the call of her editors to place Palmer in the context of wider literary history. At the very least, this imitative series reveals a unity between Herbert and two of his nonconformist admirers, exposing a strong interest in prayer’s communicative power and a shared mode of expression through which to articulate that interest. Footnotes 1 Sharon Achinstein, Literature and Dissent in Milton’s England (Cambridge, 2003), 200–8. 2 Damien Nelis, Vergil’s Aeneid and the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius (Leeds, 2001), 5. 3 George Herbert, The Temple (London, 1656), K1v. 4 Helen Wilcox (ed.), The English Poems of George Herbert (Cambridge, 2007), 179. 5 Faithful Teate, Ter Tria (London, 1658), 174–5. 6 Julia Palmer, The Centuries of Julia Palmer, ed. Victoria Burke and Elizabeth Clarke (Nottingham, 2001), 51. 7 Aisling Byrne, ‘Faithful Teate’s Ter Tria as an Influence on Edward Taylor’, N&Q, lix (2012), 207. 8 Clarke (ed.), The Centuries of Julia Palmer, xiii. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 16, 2018
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