In 71 Spenserians.
J. W. Croker: "Called the Platonist, on account of his voluminous efforts to blend the Platonic philosophy with Christianity. He, Van Helmont, and Valentine Greatrakes, all mystics in their several professions, were patronised by Anne Finch, Lady Conway, (herself a mystic), and all resided for some time in her house at Ragley, where there is a portrait of Van Helmont, and where were found, by Mr. Walpole, several letters of Dr. More" Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831) 2:155n.
Marjorie Hope Nicholson: "Here in verse which is excited and intense, he propounds the idea of infinity, and calls upon his age to be aware of its own greatness, to realize its own significance, to understand what it means to man that he need never again be content with less than infinity" Conway Letters (1930) 43-44.
Geoffrey Bullough: "In this poem (first published separately, 1646) More revises his opinion as to the temporal nature of the universe, and assists his argument for immortality by 'taking away the Hypothesis of either the world or time being finite: defending the infinitude of both' in a discursive rather than a dogmatic way. His main argument is that material existence is an eternal phase of God's emanative power (67-8): 'Wherefore at once from all eternity | The infinite number of these Worlds he made, | And will conserve to all infinitie' (70); he settles difficulties as to the temporal nature of life and the world by using Origin's theory of cycles 'To weet that long ago there Earths have been | Peopled with men and beasts before this Earth, | And after this shall others he again | And other beasts, and other humans birth' (76). He ends with a vision of the end of the world when 'The burning bowels of this wasting ball | Shall gullop up great flakes of rolling fire, | And belch out pitchie flames, till over all | Having long rag'd, Vulcan himself shall tire | And (th' earth an asheap made) shall then expire | Here Nature laid asleep in her own Urn | With gentle rest right easly will respire, | Till to her pristine task she do return | As fresh as Phenix young under th Arabian Morn ' (98)" Philosophical Poems (1931) 246-47).
Hence, hence unhallowed ears and hearts more hard
Then winter clods fast froze with Northern wind.
But most of all, foul tongue I thee discard
That blames all that thy dark strait'ned mind,
Cannot conceive: But that no blame thou find;
Whate're my pregnant Muse brings forth to light,
She'll not acknowledge to be of her kind,
Till Eagle-like she turn them to the sight
Of the eternall Word, all decks with glory bright.
Strange sights do straggle in my restlesse thoughts,
And lively forms with orient colours clad
Walk in my boundlesse mind, as men ybrought
Into some spacious room, who when they've had
A turn or two, go out, although unbad.
All these I see and know, but entertain
None to my friend but who's most sober sad;
Although, the time my roof doth them contain
Their presence doth possesse me till they out again.
And thus possest, in silver trump I sound
Their guise, their shape, their gesture and array,
But as in silver trumpet nought is found
When once the piercing sound is past away,
(Though while the mighty blast therein did stay,
Its tearing noise so terribly did shrill,
That it the heavens did shake, and earth dismay)
As empty I of what my flowing quill
In heedlesse hast elswhere, or here, may hap to spill.
For 'tis of force and not of a set will
Ne dare my wary mind afford assent
To what is plac'd above all mortall skill.
But yet our various thoughts to represent
Each gentle wight will deem of good intent.
Wherefore with leave th' infinitie I'll sing
Of Time, of Space: or without leave; I'm brent
With eager rage, my heart for joy doth spring,
And all my spirits move with pleasant trembeling.
An inward triumph doth my soul up-heave
And spread abroad through endlesse 'spersed air.
My nimble mind this clammie clod doth leave,
And lightly stepping on from starre to starre
Swifter then lightning, passeth wide and farre,
Measuring th' unbounded Heavens and wastfull skie;
Ne ought she finds her passage to debarre,
For still the azure Orb as she draws nigh
Gives back, new stars appear, the worlds walls 'fore her flie!
For what can stand that is so badly staid?
Well may that fall whose ground-work is unsure.
And what hath wall'd the world but thoughts unweigh'd
In freer reason? That antiquate, secure,
And easie dull conceit of corporature,
Of matter, quantitie, and such like gear
Hath made this needlesse, thanklesse inclosure,
Which I in full disdain quite up will tear
And lay all ope, that as things are they may appear.
For other they appear from what they are,
By reason that their Circulation
Cannot well represent entire from farre,
Each portion of the Cuspis of the Cone
(Whose nature is elsewhere more clearly shone)
I mean each globe, whether of glaring light
Or else opake, of which the earth is one.
If circulation could them well transmit
Numbers infinite of each would strike our 'stonishd sight;
All in just bignesse and right colours dight:
But totall presence without all defect
'Longs onely to that Trinity by right,
Ahad, Aeon, Psyche with all graces deckt,
Whose nature well this riddle will detect
A circle whose circumference no where
Is circumscrib'd, whose Centre's each where set,
But the low Cusp's a figure circular,
Whose compasse is ybound, but centre's every where.
Wherefore who'll judge the limits of the world
By what appears unto our failing sight
Appeals to sense, reason down headlong hurld
Out of her throne by giddie vulgar might.
But here base senses dictates they will dight
With specious title of Philosophie,
And stiffly will contend their cause is right.
From rotten rolls of school antiquity,
Who constantly denie corporall Infinitie.
But who can prove their corporalitie,
Since matter which thereto's essentiall
If rightly sifted's but a phantasie.
And quantitie who's deem'd Originall
Is matter, must with matter likewise fall.
Whatever is, is Life and Energie
From God, who is th' Originall of all;
Who being every where doth multiplie
His own broad shade that endlesse throughout all doth lie.
He from the last projection of light
Ycleep'd Shomajim, which is liquid fire
(It Aether eke and centrall Tasis hight)
Hath made each shining globe and clumperd mire
Of dimmer Orbs. For Nature doth inspire
Spermatick life, but of a different kind.
Hence those congenit splendour doth attire
And lively heat, these darknesse dead doth bind,
And without borrowed rayes they be both cold and blind.
All these be knots of the universall stole
Of sacred Psyche; which at first was fine,
Pure, thin, and pervious till hid powers did pull
Together in severall points and did encline
The nearer parts in one clod to combine.
Those centrall spirits that the parts did draw
The measure of each globe did then define,
Made things impenetrable here below,
Gave colour, figure, motion, and each usuall law.
And what is done in this Terrestrial starre
The same is done in every Orb beside.
Each flaming Circle that we see from farre
Is but a knot in Psyches garment tide.
From that lax shadow cast throughout the wide
And endlesse world, that low'st projection
Of universall life each thing's deriv'd
Whater'e appeareth in corporeall fashion;
For body's but this spirit, fixt, grosse by conspissation.
And that which doth conspissate active is;
Wherefore not matter but some living sprite
Of nimble nature which this lower mist
And immense field of Atoms doth excite,
And wake into such life as best doth fit
With his own self. As we change phantasies,
The essence of our soul not chang'd a whit;
So do these Atomes change their energies,
Themselves unchanged, into new Centreities.
And as our soul's not superficially
Coloured by phantasms, nor doth them reflect
As doth a looking-glasse such imag'rie
As it to the beholder doth detect:
No more are these lightly or smear'd or deckt
With form or motion which in them we see,
But from their inmost Centre they project
Their vitall rayes; not merely passive be,
But by occasion wak'd, rouse up themselves on high.
So that they're life, form, sprite, not matter pure,
For matter pure is a pure nullitie;
What nought can act is nothing, I am sure,
And if all act, that is they'll not denie
But all that is is form: so easily
By what is true, and by what they embrace
For truth, their feigned Corporalitie
Will vanish into smoke: But on I'll passe,
More fully we have sung this in another place.
Wherefore more boldly now to represent
The nature of the world, how first things were,
How now they are: This endlesse large Extent
Of lowest life (which I styled whileere
The Cuspis of the Cone that's every where)
Was first all dark, till in this spacious Hall
Hideous through silent horrour, torches clear
And ramping lights bright shining over all,
Were set up in due distances proportionall.
Innumerable numbers of fair Lamps
Were rightly ranged in this hollow hole,
To warm the world and chace the shady damps
Of immense darknesse, rend her pitchie stole
Into short rags more dustie dimme then coat
Which pieces then in severall were cast
(Abhorred relicks of that vesture foul)
Upon the Globes that round those torches trac'd,
Which still fast on them stick for all they run so fast.
Such an one is that which mortall men call Night,
A little shred of that unbounded shade.
And such a globe is that which earth is hight;
By witlesse Wizzards the sole centre made
Of all the world, and on strong pillars staid.
And such a lamp or light is this our Sun,
Whose fiery beams the scorched Earth invade.
But infinite such as he, in heaven won,
And more then infinite Earths about those Suns do run;
And to speak out; though I detest the sect
Of Epicurus for their manners vile,
Yet what is true I may not well reject.
Truth's incorruptible, ne can the style
Of vitious pen her sacred worth defile.
If we no more of truth should deign t' embrace
Then what unworthy mouths did never soyle,
No truths at all 'mongst men would finden place,
But make them speedy wings and back to Heaven apace.
I will not say our world is infinite,
But that infinity of worlds there be;
The Centre of our world's the lively light
Of the warm sunne, the visible Deity
Of this externall Temple. Mercurie
Next plac'd and warm'd more throughly by his rayes,
Right nimbly 'bout his golden head doth fly:
Then Venus nothing slow about him strayes,
And next our Earth though seeming sad full sprightly playes.
And after her Mars rangeth in a round
With fiery locks and angry flaming eye,
And next to him mild Jupiter is found,
But Saturn cold wons in our outmost sky.
The skins of his large Kingdome surely ly
Near to the confines of some other worlds
Whose Centres are the fixed starres on high,
'Bout which as their own proper Suns are hurld
Joves, Earths, and Saturns: round on their own axes twurld.
Little or nothing are those starres to us
Which in the azure Evening gay appear
(I mean for influence) but judicious
Nature and carefull Providence her dear
And matchlesse work did so contrive whileere,
That th' Hearts or Centres in the wide world pight
Should such a distance each to other bear,
That the dull Planets with collated light
By neighbour suns might cheered be in dampish night.
And as the Planets in our world (of which
The sun's the heart and kernel) do receive
Their nightly light from suns that do enrich
Their sable mantle with bright gemmes, and give
A goodly splendour, and sad men relieve
With their fair twinkling rayes, so our worlds sunne
Becomes a starre elsewhere, and doth derive
Joynt light with others, cheareth all that won
In those dim duskish Orbs round other suns that run.
This is the parergon of each noble fire
Of neighbour worlds to be the nightly starre,
But their main work is vitall heat t' inspire
Into the frigid spheres that 'bout them fare
Which of themselves quite dead and barren are,
But by the wakening warmth of kindly dayes,
And the sweet dewie nights, they well declare
Their seminall virtue, in due courses raise
Long hidden shapes and life, to their great Makers praise.
These with their suns I severall worlds do call,
Whereof the number I deem infinite:
Else infinite darknesse were in this great Hall
Of th' endlesse Universe; For nothing finite
Could put that immense shadow into flight.
But if that infinite Suns we shall admit,
Then infinite worlds follow in reason right,
For every Sun with Planets must be fit,
And have some mark for his farre-shining shafts to hit.
But if he shine all solitarie, alone,
What mark is left? what aimed scope or end
Of his existence? wherefore every one
Hath a due number of dim Orbs that wend
Around their centrall fire. But wrath will rend
This strange composure back'd with reason stout.
And rather tongues right speedily will spend
Their forward censure, that my wits run out
On wool-gathering, through infinite spaces all about.
What sober man will dare once to avouch
An infinite number of dispersed starres?
This one absurdity will make him crouch
And eat his words: Division nought impairs
The former whole, nor he augments that spares.
Strike every tenth out, that which doth remain,
An equall number with the former shares,
And let the tenth alone, th' whole nought doth gain,
For infinite to infinite is ever the same.
The tenth is infinite as the other nine,
Or else, nor they, nor all the ten entire
Are infinite. Thus one infinite doth adjoyn
Others unto it and still riseth higher,
And if those single lights hither aspire,
This strange prodigious inconsistency
Groweth still stranger, if each fixed fire
(I mean each starre) prove Suns and Planets flie
About their flaming heads amid the thronged skie.
For whatsoever that there number he
Whether by seavens, or eights, or fives, or nines,
They round each fixed lamp; Infinity
Will be redoubled thus by many times.
Besides each greater Planet th' attendance finds
Of lesser; Our Earths handmaid is the Moon,
Which to her darkned side right duly shines,
And Jove hath foure, as hath been said aboven,
And Saturn more then foure if the plain truth were known:
And if these globes be regions of life
And severall kinds of plants therein do grow
Grasse, flowers, hearbs, trees, which the impartiall knife
Of all consuming Time still down doth mow,
And new again doth in succession show
Which also's done in flies, birds, men and beasts;
Adde sand, pearls, pebbles, that the ground do strong
Leaves, quills, hairs, thorns, blooms; you may think the rest
Their kinds by mortall penne cannot be well exprest.
And if their kinds no man may reckon well,
The summe of successive particulars
No mind conceive nor tongue can ever tell.
And yet this mist of numbers (as appears)
Belongs to one of these opacous sphears,
Suppose this Earth; what then will all those Rounds
Produce? No Atlas such a load upbears.
In this huge endlesse heap o'rewhelmed, drown'd,
Choak'd, stifled, lo! I lie, breathlesse, even quite confound.
Yet give me space a while but to respire,
And I my self shall fairly well out-wind;
Keep this position true, unhurt, entire,
That you no greater difficulty find
In this new old opinion here defin'd
Of infinite worlds, then one world doth imply
For if we do with steady patience mind,
All is resolv'd int' one absurdity,
The grant of something greater then infinitie.
That God is infinite all men confesse,
And that the Creature is some realtie
Besides Gods self, though infinitely lesse.
Joyn now the world unto the Deity.
What? is there added no more entity
By this conjunction, then there was before?
Is the broad-breasted earth? the spacious skie
Spangled with silver light, and burning Ore?
And the wide bellowing Seas, whose boyling billows roar,
Are all these nothing? But you will reply;
As is the question so we ought restrain
Our answer unto Corporeity.
But that that phantasie of the body's vain
I did before unto you maken plain.
But that no man depart unsatisfi'd
A while this Universe here will we feign
Corporeall, till we have gainly tride
If ought that's bodily may infinite abide.
What makes a body, saving quantity?
What quantitie unlesse extension?
Extension if t' admit infinity
Bodies admit boundlesse dimension.
That some extension forward on doth run
Withouten limits, endlesse, infinite,
Is plain from Space, that ever paceth on
Unstop'd, unstaid, till it have filled quite
That immense infinite Orb where God himself doth sit.
But yet more sensibly this truth to show,
If space be ended set upon that end
Some strong arm'd Archer with his Parthian bow,
That from that place with speedy force may send
His fleeter shafts, and so still forward wend.
Where? When shall we want room his strength to trie?
But here perversly subtill you'l contend
Nothing can move in mere vacuity,
And space is nought, so not extended properly:
To solve these knots I must call down from high
Some heavenly help, feather with Angels wing
The sluggish arrow; If it will not flie,
Sent out from bow stiff-bent with even string,
Let Angels on their backs it thither bring
Where your free mind appointed had before,
And then hold on, till in your travelling
You be well wearied, finding ever more
Free passage for their flight, and what they flying bore:
Now to that shift that sayes Vacuity
Is nought, and therefore not at all extent
We answer thus: There is a distancy
In empty space, though we be well content
To balk that question (for we never meant
Such needlesse niceties) whether that it be
A reall being; yet that there's parts distent
One from another, no mans phantasie
Can e're reject if well he weigh't and warily.
For now conceive the air and azure skie
All swept away from Saturn to the Sunne,
Which eath is to be wrought by him on high.
Then in this place let all the Planets runne
(As erst they did before this feat was done)
If not by nature, yet by divine power,
Ne one hairsbreadth their former circuite shun:
And still for fuller proof, th' Astronomer
Observe their hights as in the empty heavens they scoure.
Will then their Parallaxes prove all one
Or none, or different still as before;
If so, their distances by mortall men
Must be acknowledg'd such as were of yore,
Measur'd by leagues, miles, stades, nor lesse nor more
From circuit unto circuit shal be found
Then was before the sweeping of the floor,
That distance therefore hath most certain ground
In emptinesse, we may conclude with reason sound.
If distance now so certainly attend
All emptinesse (as also mensuration
Attendeth distance) distance without end
Is wide disperst above imagination
(For emptinesse is void of limitation)
And this unbounded voidnesse doth admit
The least and greatest measures application;
The number thus of th' greatest that doth fit
This infinite void space is likewise infinite.
But whatsoe're that infinite number be,
A lesser measure will a number give
So farre exceeding in infinity
That number as this measure we conceive
To fall short of the other. But I'll leave
This present way and a new course will trie,
Which at the same mark doth as fully drive
And with a great deal more facility;
Look on this endlesse Space as one whole quantity.
Which in your mind in't equall parts divide,
Tens, hundreds, thousands, or what pleaseth best.
Each part denominate doth still abide
An infinite portion, else not all the rest
Makes one infinitude.
For if one thousandth part may be defin'd
By finite measures eas'ly well express,
A myriad suppose of miles assign'd
Then to a thousand myriads is the whole confin'd.
Wherefore this wide and wast Vacuity,
Which endlesse is outstretched thorough all,
And lies even equall with the Deity,
Nor is a thing meerly imaginall,
(For it doth farre mens phantasies forestall
Nothing beholden to our devicefull thought)
This inf'nite voidnesse as much our mind doth gall,
And has as great perplexities ybrought
As if this empty space with bodies were yfraught.
Nor have we yet the face once to deny
But that it is, although we mind it not;
For all once minded such perplexity
It doth create to puzzled reason, that
She sayes and unsayes, do's she knows not what.
Why then should we the worlds infinity
Misdoubt, because whenas we contemplate
Its nature, such strange inconsistency
And unexpected sequels, we therein descry?
Who dare gainsay but God is every where
Unbounded, measurelesse, all Infinite;
Yet the same difficulties meet us here
Which erst us met and did so sore affright
With their strange vizards. This will follow right,
Whereever we admit Infinity
Every denominated part proves streight
A portion infinite, which if it be,
One infinite will into myriads multiply.
But with new argument to draw more near
Our purpos'd end. If God's omnipotent
And this omnipotent God be every where,
Wheree're he is then can he eas'ly vent
His mighty virtue thorough all extent.
What then shall hinder but a roscid air
With gentle heat eachwhere be 'sperst and sprent
Unlesse omnipotent power we will empair,
And say that empty space his working can debarre.
Where now this one supposed world is pight
Was not that space at first all vain and void?
Nor ought said; no, when he said, Let't be light
Was this one space better then all beside,
And more obedient to what God decreed?
Or would not all that endlesse Emptinesse
Gladly embrac'd (if he had ever bide)
His just command? and what might come to passe
Implies no contradictious inconsistentnesse.
Wherefore this precious sweet Ethereall dew
For ought we know, God each where did distill,
And thorough all that hollow Voidnesse threw,
And the wide gaping drought therewith did fill,
His endlesse overflowing goodnesse spill
In every place; which streight he did contrive
Int' infinite severall worlds, as his best skill
Did him direct and creatures could receive:
For matter infinite needs infinite worlds must give.
The Centre of each severall world's a Sunne
With shining beams and kindly warming heat,
About whose radiant crown the Planets runne,
Like reeling moths around a candle light;
These all together, one world I conceit.
And that even infinite such worlds there be,
That inexhausted Good that God is hight,
A full sufficient reason is to me,
Who simple Goodnesse make the highest Deity.
Als make himself the key of all his works
And eke the measure of his providence;
The piercing eye of truth to whom nought lurks
But lies wide ope unbar'd of all presence.
But frozen hearts! away! flie farre from hence,
Unlesse you'l thaw at this celestiall fire
And melt into one mind and holy sense,
With Him that doth all heavenly hearts inspire,
So may you with my soul in one assent conspire.
But what's within, uneath is to convey
To narrow vessels that are full afore.
And yet this truth as wisely as I may
I will insinuate, from senses store
Borrowing a little aid. Tell me therefore
When you behold with your admiring eyes
Heavens Canopie all to be spangled o're
With sprinkled stars, what can you well devize
Which causen may such carelesse order in the skies?
A peck of peasen rudely poured out
On plaister flore, from hasty heedlesse hond
Which lie all carelesse scattered about
To sight do in as seemly order stond,
As those fair glistering lights in heaven are found.
If onely for this world they were intended
Nature would have adorn'd this azure Round
With better Art, and easily have mended
This harsh disord'red order, and more beauty tended.
But though these lights do seem so rudely throwen
And scattered throughout the spacious sky,
Yet each most seemly sits in his own Throne
In distance due and comely Majesty
And round their lordly seats their servants high
Keeping a well-proportionated space
One from another, doing cheerfully
Their daily task. No blemish may deface
The worlds in severall deckt with all art and grace:
But the appearance of the nightly starres
Is but the by-work of each neighbour sun
Wherefore lesse marvell if it lightly shares
Of neater Art; and what proportion
Were fittest for to distance one from one
(Each world I mean from other) is not clear.
Wherefore it must remain as yet unknown
Why such perplexed distances appear
Mongst the dispersed lights in Heaven thrown here and there.
Again that eminent similitude
Betwixt the starres and Phoebus fixed light
They being both with steddinesse indu'd,
No whit removing whence they first were pight:
No serious man will count a reason slight
To prove them both, both fixed suns and stars
And Centres all of severall worlds by right
For right it is that none a sun debarre
Of Planets, which his just and due retinue are.
If starrs be merely starres, not centrall lights,
Why swell they into so huge bignesses?
For many (as Astronomers do write)
Our sun in bignesse many times surpasse.
If both their number and their bulks were lesse
Yet lower placed, light and influence
Would flow as powerfully, and the bosome presse
Of the impregned Earth, that fruit from hence
As fully would arise, and lordly affluence.
Wherefore these fixed Fires mainly attend
Their proper charge in their own Universe
And onely by the by of court'sie lend
Light to our world, as our world doth reverse
His thankfull rayes so far as he can pierce
Back unto other worlds. But farre aboven,
Further then furthest thought of man can traverse
Still are new worlds aboven and still aboven
In th' endlesse hollow Heaven, and each world hath his Sun.
An hint of this we have in winter nights,
When reason may see clearer then our eye
Small subtil starres appear unto our sights
As thick as pin-dust scattered in the skie.
Here we accuse our seeing facultie
Of weaknesse, and our sense of foul deceit,
We do accuse and yet we know not why.
But the plain truth is, from a vaster hight
The numerous upper worlds amaze our dazzled sight.
Now sith so farre as sense can ever try
We find new worlds, that still new worlds there be,
And round about in infinite numbers lie,
Further then reach of mans weak phantasie
(Without suspition of temerity)
We may conclude; as well as men conclude
That there is air farre 'bove the mountains high,
Or that th' earth a sad substance doth include
Even to the Centre with like qualities indu'd.
For who did ever the Earths Centre pierce
And felt or sand or gravell with his spade
At such a depth? what Histories rehearse
That ever wight did dare for to invade
Her bowels but one mile in dampish shade?
Yet I'll be bold to say that few or none
But deem this globe even to the bottome made
Of solid earth, and that her nature's one
Throughout, though plain experience hath it never shown.
But sith sad earth so farre as they have gone
They still descry, eas'ly they do inferre
Without all check of reason, were they down
Never so deep, like substance would appear,
Ne dream of any hollow horrour there.
My mind with like uncurb'd facility
Concludes from what by sight is seen so clear:
That ther's no barren west vacuity
Above the worlds we see, but still new worlds there ly,
And still and still even to infinity:
Which point, since I so fitly have propos'd,
Abating well the inconsistency
Of harsh infinitude therein suppos'd
And prov'd by reasons never to be loos'd,
That infinite space and infinite worlds there be;
This load laid down, I'm freely now dispos'd
A while to sing of times infinity;
May infinite Time afford me but his smallest fee.
For smallest fee of time will serve my turn
This part for to dispatch, sith endlesse space
(Whose perplext nature well mans brains might turn,
And weary wits disorder and misplace)
I have already passed: for like case
Is in them troth. He that can well untie
The knots that in those infinite worlds found place,
May easily answer each perplexity
Of these worlds infinite matters endlesse durancie.
The Cuspis and the Basis of the Cone
Were both at once dispersed every where;
But the pure Basis that is God alone:
Else would remotest sights as big appear
Unto our eyes as if we stood them near,
And if an Harper harped in the Moon,
His silvered sound would touch our tickled ear:
Or if one hollowed from highest Heaven aboven,
In sweet still Evening-tide, his voice would hither roame.
This all would be if the Cuspe of the Cone
Were very God. Wherefore I rightly 't deem
Onely a Creaturall projection,
Which flowing yet from God hath ever been,
Fill'd the vast empty space with its large streem.
But yet it is not totall every where
As was even now by reason rightly seen:
Wherefore not God, whose nature doth appear
Entirely omnipresent, weigh'd with judgement clear.
A reall infinite matter, distinct
And yet proceeding from the Deitie,
Although with different form as then untinct,
Has ever been from all Eternity.
Now what delay can we suppose to be,
Since matter alway was at hand prepar'd
Before the filling of the boundlesse sky
With framed Worlds; for nought at all debar'd,
Nor was His strength ungrown, nor was His strength empair'd.
How long would God be forming of a fly?
Or the small wandring moats that play in th' sun?
Least moment well will serve none can deny,
His fiat spoke and streight the thing is done,
And cannot He make all the World as soon?
For in each Atom of the matter wide
The totall Deity doth entirely won,
His infinite presence doth therein reside,
And in this presence infinite powers do ever abide.
Wherefore at once from all eternity
The infinite number of these Worlds He made,
And will conserve to all infinitie,
And still drive on their ever-moving trade,
And steady hold whatever must be staid;
Ne must one mite be minish'd of the summe,
Ne must the smallest atom ever fade,
But still remain though it may change its room;
This truth abideth strong from everlasting doom.
Ne fear I what hard sequel after-wit
Will draw upon me; that the number's one
Of years, moneths, dayes, houres, and of minutes flee:
Which from eternitie have still run on.
I plainly did confesse awhile agone
That be it what it will that's infinite,
More infinites will follow thereupon,
But that all infinites do justly fit
And equall be, my reason did not yet admit.
But as my emboldened mind, I know not how,
In empty Space and pregnant Deitie
Endlesse infinitude dares to allow,
Though it begets the like perplexitie:
So now my soul drunk with Divinitie,
And born away above her usuall bounds
With confidence concludes infinitie
Of Time of Worlds, of firie flaming Rounds;
Which sight in sober mood my spirits quite confounds:
And now I do awhile but interspire,
A torrent of objections 'gainst me beat,
My boldnesse to represse and strength to tire.
But I will wipe them off like summer sweat,
And make their streams streight back again retreat.
If that these worlds, say they, were ever made
From infinite time, how comes's to passe that yet
Art is not perfected, nor metalls fade,
Nor mines of grimie coal low-hid in griesly shade.
But the remembrance of the ancient Floud
With ease will wash such arguments away.
Wherefore with greater might I am withstood:
The strongest stroke wherewith they can assay
To vanquish me is this; The Date or Day
Of the created World, which all admit;
Nor may my modest Muse this truth gainsay
In holy Oracles so plainly writ:
Wherefore the Worlds continuance is not infinite.
Now lend me, Origen! a little wit
This sturdy stroke right fairly to avoid,
Lest that my rasher rhymes, while they ill fit
With Moses pen, men justly may deride
And well accuse of ignorance or pride.
But thou, O holy Sage! with piercing sight
Who readst those sacred rolls, and hast well bide
With searching eye thereto what fitteth right,
Thy self of former Worlds right learnedly dost write:
To weet that long ago there Earths have been
Peopled with men and beasts before this Earth,
And after this shall others be again
And other beasts and other humane birth,
Which once admit, no strength that reason bear'th
Of this worlds Date and Adams efformation;
Another Adam once received breath
And still another in endlesse repedation,
And this must perish once by finall conflagration.
Witnesse ye Heavens if what I say's not true,
Ye flaming Comets wandering on high,
And new fixt starres found in that Circle blue,
The one espide in glittering Cassiopie,
The other near to Ophiuchus thigh.
Both bigger then the biggest starres that are,
And yet as farre remov'd from mortall eye
As are the furthest, so those Arts declare
Unto whose reaching sight Heavens mysteries lie bare.
Wherefore these new-seen lights were greater once
By many thousand times then this our sphear
Wherein we live, 'twixt good and evil chance.
Which to my musing mind doth strange appear
If those large bodies then first shaped were.
For should so goodly things so soon decay
Neither did last the full space of two year.
Wherefore I cannot deem that their first day
Of being, when to us they sent out shining ray.
But that they were created both of old,
And each in his due time did fair display
Themselves in radiant locks more bright then gold,
Or silver sheen purg'd from all drossie clay,
But how they could themselves in this array
Expose to humane sight who did before
Lie hid, is that which well amazen may
The wisest man and puzzle evermore:
Yet my unwearied thoughts this search could not give o're.
Which when I'd exercis'd in long pursuit
To finden out what might the best agree
With wary reason, at last I did conclude
That there's no better probability
Can be produc'd of that strange prodigie,
But that some mighty Planet that doth run
About some fixed starre in Cassiopie
As Saturn paceth round about our Sun,
Unusuall light and bignesse by strange fate had wonne.
Which I conceive no gainer way is done
Then by the seazing of devouring fire
On that dark Orb, which 'fore but dimly shone
With borrowed light, not lightened entire,
But halfed like the Moon.
And while the busie flame did siez throughout,
And search the bowels of the lowest mire
Of that Saturnian Earth; a mist broke out,
And immense mounting smoke arose all round about.
Which being gilded with the piercing rayes
Of its own sun and every neighbour starre,
It soon appear'd with shining-silver blaze,
And then gan first be seen of men from farre.
Besides that firie flame that was so narre
The Planets self, which greedily did eat
The wastning mold, did contribute a share
Unto this brightnesse; and what I conceit
Of this starre, doth with that of Ophiuchus fit.
And like I would adventure to pronounce
Of all the Comets that above the Moon,
Amidst the higher Planets rudely dance
In course perplex, but that from this rash doom
I'm bet off by their beards and tails farre strown
Along the skie, pointing still opposite
Unto the sunne, however they may roam;
Wherefore a cluster of small starres unite
These Meteors some do deem, perhaps with judgement right.
And that their tayls are streams of the suns light
Breaking through their near bodies as through clouds.
Besides the Optick glasse has shown to sight
The dissolution of these starrie crouds.
Which thing if't once be granted and allow'd,
I think without all contradiction
They may conclude these Meteors are routs
Of wandering starres, which though they one by one
Cannot be seen, yet joyn'd, cause this strange vision.
And yet methinks, in my devicefull mind
Some reasons that may happily represse
These arguments it's not uneath to find.
For how can the suns rayes that be transmisse
Through these loose knots in Comets, well expresse
Their beards or curld tayls utmost incurvation?
Beside, the conflux and congeries
Of lesser lights a double augmentation
Implies, and 'twixt them both a lessening coarctation.
For when as once these starres are come so nigh
As to seem one, the Comet must appear
In biggest show, because more loose they lie
Somewhat spread out, but as they draw more near
The compasse of his head away must wear,
Till he be brought to his least magnitude;
And then they passing crosse he doth repair
Himself, and still from his last losse renew'd
Grows, till he reach the measure which we first had view'd.
And then farre-distanc'd they bid quite adiew,
Each holding on in solitude his way.
Ne any footsteps in the empty Blew
Is to be found of that farre-shining ray.
Which processe sith no man did yet bewray,
It seems unlikely that the Comets be
Synods of starres that in wide Heaven stray:
Their smallnesse eke and numerositie
Encreaseth doubt and lessens probabilitie.
A cluster of them makes not half a Moon,
What should such tennis-balls do in the skie?
And few'll not figure out the fashion
Of those round firie Meteors on high,
Ne ought their beards much move us, that do lie
Ever cast forward from the Morning sunne
Nor back-cast tayls turn'd to our Evening-eye,
That fair appear whenas the day is done:
This matter may lie hid in the starres shadowed Cone.
For in these Planets conflagration,
Although the smoke mount up exactly round,
Yet by the suns irradiation
Made thin and subtil no where else its found
By sight, save in the dim and duskish bound
Of the projected Pyramid opake;
Opake with darknesse, smoke and mists unsound
Yet gilded like a foggie cloud doth make
Reflexion of fair light that doth our senses take.
This is the reason of that constant site
Of Comets tayls and beards: and that there show's
Not pure Pyramidall, nor their ends seem streight
But bow'd like brooms, is from the winds that blow,
I mean Ethereall winds, such as below,
Men finden under th' Equinoctiall line.
Their widend beards this aire so broad doth strong
Incurvate, and or more or lesse decline:
If not let sharper wits more subtly here divine.
But that experiment of the Optick glasse
The greatest argument of all I deem,
Ne can I well encounter nor let passe
So strong a reason if I may esteem
The feat withouten fallacie to been,
Nor judge these little sparks and subtile lights
Some ancient fixed starres though now first seen,
That near the ruin'd Comets place were pight,
On which that Optick instrument by chance did light.
Nor finally an uncouth after-sport
Of th' immense vapours that the searching fire
Had boyled out, which now themselves consort
In severall parts and closely do conspire,
Clumper'd in balls of clouds and globes entire
Of crudled smoke and heavy-clunging mists?
Which when they've stayed a while at last expire;
But while they stay any may see that lists
So be that Optick Art his naturall sight assists.
If none of these wayes I may well decline
The urging weight of this hard argument,
Worst is but parting stakes and thus define:
Some Comets be but single Planets brent,
Others a synod joyn'd in due consent:
And that no new-found Meteors they are,
Ne further may my wary mind assent
From one single experience solitaire,
Till all-discovering Time shall further truth declare.
But for the new-fixt starres there's no presence,
Nor beard nor tail to take occasion by,
To bring in that unluckie inference
Which weaken might this new built mysterie:
Certes in raging fire they both did frie.
A signe whereof you rightly may aread
Their colours changeable varietie,
First clear and white, then yellow, after red,
Then blewly pale, then duller still, till perfect dead.
And as the order of these colours went,
So still decreas'd that Cassiopean starre,
Till at the length to sight it was quite spent:
Which observations strong reasons are,
Consuming fire its body did empare
And turn to ashes. And the like will he
In all the darksome Planets wide and farre.
Ne can our Earth from this state stander free,
A Planet as the rest, and Planets fate must trie.
Ne let the tender heart too harshly deem
Of this rude sentence: for what rigour more
Is in consuming fire then drowning stream
Of Noahs floud which all creatures chok'd of yore,
Saving those few that were kept safe in store
In that well-builded ship? All else beside
Men, birds, and beasts, the lion, buck, and bore
Dogs, kine, sheep, horses all that did abide
Upon the spacious Earth, perish'd in waters wide.
Nor let the slow and misbelieving wight
Doubt how the fire on the hard earth may seize;
No more then how those waters earst did light
Upon the sinfull world. For as the seas
Boyling with swelling waves aloft did rise,
And met with mighty showers and pouring rain
From Heavens spouts, so the broad-flashing skies
With brimstone thick and clouds of fiery train,
Shall meet with raging Etna's and Vesuvius flame.
The burning bowels of this wasting ball
Shall gullop up great flakes of rolling fire,
And belch out pitchie flames, tis over all
Having long rag'd, Vulcan himself shall tire
And (th' earth an asheap made) shall then expire:
Here Nature laid asleep in her own Urn
With gentle rest right easly will respire,
Till to her pristine task she do return
As fresh as Phenix young under th' Arabian Morn.
O happy they that then the first are born,
While yet the world is in her vernall pride:
For old corruption quite away is worn
As metall pure so is her mold well-bide.
Sweet dews, cool breathing airs, and spaces wide
Of precious spicery wafted with soft wind:
Fair comely bodies, goodly beautifi'd,
Snow-limb'd, rose-cheek'd, ruby-lip'd, pearl-teeth'd, star-eyn'd:
Their pans, each fair, in fit proportion all combin'd.
For all the while her purged ashes rest,
These relicks dry suck in the heavenly dew,
And roscid Manna rains upon her breast,
And fills with sacred milk, sweet, fresh, and new,
Where all take life, and doth the world renew;
And then renew'd with pleasure be yfed.
A green soft mantle doth her bosome strew
With fragrant herbs and flowers embellished,
Where without fault or shame all living creatures bed.
Ne ought we doubt how nature may recover
In her own ashes long time buried.
For nought can e'er consume that centrall power
Of hid spermatick life, which lies not dead
In that rude heap, but safely covered;
And doth by secret force suck from above
Sweet heavenly juice, and therewith nourished
Till her just bulk, she doth her life emprove;
Made mother of much children that about her move.
Witnesse that uncouth bird of Arabie
Which out of her own wines doth revive
With all th' exploits of skilfull Chymistrie,
Such as no vulgar wit can well believe.
Let universall Nature witnesse give
That what I sing's no feigned forgerie.
A needlesse task new fables to contrive,
But what I sing is seemly verity,
Well-suting with right reason and Philosophie.
But the fit time of this mutation
No man can finden out with all his pains.
For the small sphears of humane reason run
Too swift within his narrow-compast brains.
But that vast Orb of Providence contains
A wider period; turneth still and slow.
Yet at the last his aimed end he gains,
And sure at last a fire will overflow
The aged Earth, and all must into ashes go.
Then all the stately works and monuments
Built on this bottome, shall to ruine fall
And all those goodly Statues shall be brent
Which were erect to the memoriall
Of Kings, and Kaesars ne may better 'fall
The boastfull works of brave Poetick pride
That promise life and fame perpetuall;
Ne better fate may these poore lines abide.
Betide what will to what may live no lenger tide.
This is the course that never-dying Nature
Might ever hold, from all Eternitie
Renuing still the faint decayed creature,
Which would grow stark and drie as aged tree,
Unlesse by wise-preventing Destinie
She were at certain periods of years
Reduced back unto her Infancie,
Which well-fram'd argument (as plainly appears)
My ship from those hard rocks and shelves right safely stears.
Lo! now my faithfull muse hath represented
Both frames of Providence to open view,
And hath each point in orient colours painted,
Not to deceive the sight with seeming shew
But earnest to give either part their due;
Now urging th' uncouth strange perplexitie
Of infinite worlds and Time, then of anew
Softening that harsher inconsistency
To fit the immense goodnesse of the Deity.
And here by curious men 't may be expected
That I this knot with judgement grave decide,
And then proceed to what else was objected.
But, ah! What mortall wit may dare t'areed
Heavens counsels in eternall horrour hid?
And Cynthius pulls me by my tender ear,
Such signes I must observe with wary heed:
Wherefore my restlesse Muse at length forbear,
Thy silver-sounded Lute hang up in silence here.
[Philosophical Poems (1647); Grosart (1878) 91-100]