1868 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Heywood

George Macdonald, in England's Antiphon (1868; 1890) 135.



About the same age as Ben Jonson, though the date of his birth is unknown, I now come to mention Thomas Heywood, a most voluminous writer of plays, who wrote also a book, chiefly in verse, called The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels, a strange work, in which, amongst much that is far from poetic, occur the following remarkable metaphysico-religious verses. He had strong Platonic tendencies, interesting himself chiefly however in those questions afterwards pursued by Dr. Henry More, concerning witches and such like subjects, which may be called the shadow of Platonism.

I have wandered like a sheep that's lost,
To find Thee out in every coast:
Without I have long seeking bin,
Whilst thou, the while, adbid'st within.
Through every broad street and strait lane
Of this world's city, but in vain,
I have enquired. The reason why?
I sought thee ill: for how could I
Find thee abroad, when thou, mean space,
Hadst made within thy dwelling place [....]

Very remarkable verses for a dramatist! They indicate substratum enough for any art if only the art be there. Even those who cannot enter into he philosophy of them, which ranks him among the mystics of whom I have yet to speak, will understand a good deal of it symbolically: for how could he be expected to keep his poetry and his philosophy distinct when of themselves they were so ready to run into one; or in verse to define carefully betwixt degree and kind, when kinds themselves may rise by degrees? To distinguish without separating; to be able to see that what in their effects upon us are quite different, may yet be a grand flight of ascending steps, "to stop — no record hath told where," belongs to the philosopher who is not born mutilated, but is a poet as well.