Huswifery Essay

Puritan language is the most striking in the doubleness of its
appeal. It looks both ways: to radical voluntarism, yet to utter submission; to absolute authority, yet to limited authority, defined as duties
more than powers and constrained by mutual obligation from God on down; to God the father, yet to God the mother; to the Word as strict
law, yet to the Word as spiritual milk; to the self filled with filth as lustful pride, or anger, yet to the self reborn of the Father in infantile ecstasy or collectively married to Christ in virgin purity
(Leverenz, 7).

It is possible that all of these traits that Leverenz describes in Puritan language exist in this poem. However, those that are most obvious are
the doubleness of God as both father and mother as well as the doubleness of radical voluntarism to utter submission.
In portraying God as a spinster, one who will “[Taylor’s] Distaff make for [him]” and “knit therein this Twine,” Taylor is essentially offering his soul up to a patriarchal and authoritative God, one who will “clothe” his “ways with glory” and who will “make [Taylor] [His] Loom.” This authoritative and omniscient God coincides with that which is easily interpreted as a father figure, one to which both the individual and the community submit in reverence. This figure represents the patriarchy so evident in Puritanism but it is also
the existence of this patriarchy that Leverenz doubts.

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Though God is being employed in this poem as a dominator and a creator, God is also unavoidably portrayed as doing a woman’s work or “huswifery”. God
is implicated as a maternal force as well, one which will nurture and make “[Taylor’s] Soul [Her] holy Spool to be.” In this respect, Leverenz is correct
in assuming the “doubleness” of Puritan language – a language which cannot be solely patriarchal or emanating a paternal authority because of the maternal implications of God that exist alongside it. This doubleness is also made manifest by the fact that Taylor both supplicates to God but makes a demand from him as well. The language of the
poem is strictly imperative, commanding God to “make [his] affections Thy Swift Flyers neat” and to “weave the Web [Him]self. The yarn is fine.” It is almost as if the poet is designing that which God will weave – the glorified Taylor –
and God is merely the employee. However, at the same time, Taylor still consistently objectifies himself to God, making the job imperative to Taylor’s
dressing himself in clothes suitable to the glory of God and representative of his submission to God.
The language of this poem and the way in which Taylor makes use of both the commonly accepted Puritanical God who is paternal and authoritative and to whom the individual is automatically subordinated also explicitly portrays this
second part of Leverenz’ double nature of Puritan language – that which allows for a more maternal God as well as deviance from pure submission and reverence.


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