1642
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To his dear Father Alexander More, Esquire.

Psychodia Platonica: or a Platonicall Song of the Soul, consisting of foure severall Poems; viz. Psychozoia. Psychathanasia. Antipsychopannychia. Antimonopsychia. Hereto is Added a Paraphrasticall Interpretation of the Answer of Apollo consulted by Amelius, about Plotinus Soul departed this Life. By H. M. Master of Arts, and Fellow of Christs Colledge in Cambridge.

Rev. Henry More


Henry More fondly recalls his father "having from childhood tuned mine ears to Spencers rhymes, entertaining us on winter nights" — suggesting that the Faerie Queene was being used in the seventeenth century to teach morality to children, at least in some households. In To the Reader More adds: "Why may it not be free for me to break out into an higher strain, and under it to touch upon some points of Christianity; as well as all-approved Spencer, sings of Christ under the name of Pan?" Sig. B7v.

The Biographia Britannica cites More as a more conspicuous example of "Spenser's power as a Father in begetting poetical children" than Cowley, Milton, and Dryden, who would have been poets anyway (1763) 6:3807n.

Universal Magazine: "it will not seem very strange therefore that Cowley, as himself tells us, first caught this flame by reading Spenser; that the great Milton owned him for his original, as Dryden assures us; and that Dryden studied him, and has bestowed more frequent commendations on him, than any other English poet. However, these three were all born with such poetical talents as would have made a figure in the art, had Spenser never been. The force of whose power, as a father in begetting poetical children, will perhaps be thought more conspicuously displayed in the instance of Dr. Henry Moore, who informs us, that he owed all his poetry to hearing his father read the Fairy Queen to his children, in the winter evenings" "Life of Spenser" 49 (Supplement, 1771) 340-41.

Samuel Egerton Brydges: "This second edition is dedicated to his 'dear father, Alexander More, Esq.' in which he says, 'you have from my childhood turned mine ears to Spenser's rhymes....' In the Address to the Reader, he says he has in this edition enlarged the poem, and 'licked it into some more tolerable form and smoothness;' and has added notes for the better understanding both the poem and the principles of Plato's philosophy'" Censura Literaria 3 (1807) 41-42.

Robert Aris Willmott: "More was a poet in mind; not in ear. He kindled his torch at the shrine of Spenser, whose enthusiasm he imbibed without his music. His verses never beam with any of his master's lustre. What Warburton said of a spirit equally tender and amiable, is also applicable to More. 'Poetry made Milton an enthusiast; enthusiasm made Norris a poet.' Indeed, his own definition of a true poet, is 'an enthusiast in good earnest'" "Henry More and Joseph Beaumont" in Conversations at Cambridge (1836) 226.

Herbert E. Cory: "We approach a figure who was so significant in his own day and such a bare name at the present time that he must be elaborately considered. I have said that the Age of Reason inevitably begot a doubt which scattered into anarchy. Henry More, the Cambridge Platonist, is a figure to be expected at such a crisis. Serene-eyed with the still-deep wisdom of Plato, he turned proudly and calmly from the growing materialism of the day and wrought strange, dim tapestries of mystical dreams. His cult was a power in its time against the rationalism of Descartes so ready to link hands with the ideals of the new classicists, 'vraisemblance,' 'nature,' 'commonsense.' He was one of the many forces that kept this neo-classicism starving in England for a half-century. In 1642 More published his Psychodia Platonica and in 1647 he brought out an enlarged edition of this Platonick Song of the Soul under the general heading Philosophicall Poems. This gigantic affair in Spenserian stanzas was certainly not calculated to captivate the masses who run. But it was the profound if eccentric utterance of a man who stood on the battle-line of a great controversy of the day. More's dedication to his father indicates how much of his idealism must have grown out of a life-long intimacy with Spenser's poems. 'You deserve the Patronage of better Poems than these though you may lay a more proper claim to these than to any. You having from my childhood tuned mine ears to Spenser's rhymes, entertaining us on winter nights, with that incomparable Piece of his, The Fairy Queen, a Poem as richly fraught with divine Morality as Phansy.' To More, then, the poet was a noble priest, a conception too unpopular in our own day since the romanticists have taught us to toy with his seductive music alone. More, indeed, was at the other pole. He was one of those quixotic idealists who reared, with pathetic enthusiasm, towers of Babel in a noble but almost fruitless cause, he wrote in the days when men dared to justify the ways of God to man, though he wrote when the doubting Thomases were becoming legion. In the eighteenth century men took to celebrating in song the cotton industry or The Art of Preserving Health. Today some of us have fallen lower and write for 'Art's sake'" "Critics of Edmund Spenser" UCPMP (1911) 102-03.

William B. Hunter: "It is odd, however, to see him adopting all of the external trappings from Spenser: the complicated stanza, the archaic vocabulary, the old-fashioned syntax. But he unfortunately ignores his model in his omission of both characters and narrative. Perhaps the Mutability Cantos of the Faerie Queene were primarily his model in these respects, but they have a setting, speaking (if purely allegorical) characters, and some sense of conflict, even though their intellectual content, exploring the concept of mutability, outweighs almost every other aspect of the poem. Spenserianism, that is, is More's 'aery vehicle,' and he later found prose a better one; in Ad Paronem he recognizes some of his difficulties" English Spenserians (1977) 398.




Sir,

I know at first sight you'll judge me a Novice in the affairs of the World, in not pitching upon some other Patron: and unacquainted with the Courtship of the times, that holds it more commendable to toy and complement with a stranger, then speak truth of a known friend. But I am meditating no Stage-play of ordinary Apish Civility, but sober Truth: Nor intend this an act of worldly discretion and advantage, but of Justice and Gratitude. For I cannot hope that ever any man shall deserve so well of me as your self has done. Besides what hath hitherto commended you to all that know you; your Faithfulnesse, Uprightnesse, Sedulity for the publick Welfare of the place wherein you live, your generous Opennesse and Veracity. Nor can ever that thick cloud you are now enveloped with, of melancholized old Age, and undeserved Adversity, either dark the remembrance of your pristine Lustre, or hide from me the sight of your present Worth. Sir, I could wish my self a stranger to your bloud, that I might with the better decorum set out the noblenesse of your spirit. But to speak modestly; You deserve the Patronage of better Poems than these, though you may lay a more proper claim to these than any. You having from childhood tuned mine ears to Spencers rhymes, entertaining us on winter nights, with that incomparable Peice of his, The Fairy Queen, a Poem richly fraught within divine Morality as Phansy. Your early Encomiums also of Learning and Philosophy did so fire my credulous Youth with the desire of the knowing of things, that your After-advertisements, how contemptible Learning would prove without Riches, and what a piece of Unmannerlinesse and Incivility it would be held to seem wiser then them, that are more wealthy and powerfull, could never yet restrain my mind from her first pursuit, nor quicken my attention to the affairs of the World. But this bookish disease let it make me as much poor as it will, it shall never make me the lesse just. Nor will you, I hope, esteem me the lesse dutyfull, that without your cognisence I become thus thankfull. For I never held my self bound to ask leave of any man to exercise an act of Virtue. And yet I am conscious to my self, there may have some juvenile Extravagancies passed my pen, which your judgement and gray hairs will more slowly allow of, and my self may haply dislike by that time I arrive at half your years. But let it be my excuse, that that which was ever to made common for all, could not be so exactly fitted for any one Age or Person. I am not indeed much solicitous, how every particle of these Poems may please you. In the mean time I am sure that I please my self in the main; which is, The embalming of his name to Immortality, that next under God, is the Authour of my Life and Being.

Your affectionate Sonne,

HENRY MORE.


[Grosart (1878) 4]