1646
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Cupid's Conflict.

Democritus Platonissans, or, an Essay upon the Infinity of Worlds out of Platonick Principles. Hereunto is annexed Cupids Conflict together with the Philosophers Devotion: and a particular Interpretation appertaining to the three last Books of the Song of the Soul. By H. More Master of Arts, and Fellow of Christ Colledge in Cambridge.

Rev. Henry More


80 stanzas (ababcc): in one of his more accessible poems, Henry More develops the slight story of March in Shepheardes Calender into an elaborate allegory, in which the poet defends his Spenserian verse: "I'll conjure up old words out of their grave; | Or call fresh foreign force in, if need crave." Had he known it, William Blake would have relished this poem.

Thomas Campbell: "His versification, though he tells us that he was won to the Muses in his childhood by the melody of Spenser, is but a faint echo of the Spenserian tune. In fancy he is dark and lethargic. Yet his Psychozoia is not a common-place production: a certain solemnity and earnestness in his tone leaves the impression that he "believed the magic wonders which he sung" [William Collins]. His poetry is not, indeed, like a beautiful landscape on which the eye can repose, but may be compared to some curious grotto, whose gloomy labyrinths we might be curious to explore for the strange and mystic associations they excite" Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1855) 348.

Herbert E. Cory: "In 1647 Henry More, the Cambridge Platonist, author of the huge Platonical Song of the Soul in Spenserian stanzas, and a prominent figure in a very important reaction against the materialism of Descartes and Hobbes, published not only his long philosophical poem but a group of minor verses. One of these was an eclogue in imitation of March, where Thomalin tells Willye how he shot at the little Love, as he fluttered in the bushes, and of Cupid's woeful revenge.' More, however, adds a very interesting and unmistakably autobiographical conclusion of his own. Cupid's conflict opens with a conversation between Mela and Cleanthes like that of Spenser's shepherds, in which one exhorts the other to throw aside melancholy and enjoy the bright season. 'Mela, my dear! why been thy looks so sad?' Mela, like Thomalin, answers by describing how he met Love. One day, as he wandered near a pretty stream — 'Lo! on the other side in thickest bushes | A mighty noise! with that a naked swain | With blew and purple wings streight rudely rushes.' The remainder of More's eclogue, although uneven in quality, is an interesting variation on March. Love abused Mela for wasting his youth and for hating this life's delight. 'If I had pierced you,' he said, 'you would have been happy, and all the world | Would wonder at thy gracefull quill.'... Mela made sturdy answer. 'I'll cherish my own ideals, | And if my notions clear though rudely thrown | And loosely scattered in my poesie | May lend men light till the dead night be gone. | And morning fresh with roses strew the sky: | It is enough, I meant no trimmer frame Nor by nice needlework to seek a name.' It is impossible for one who knows the lofty but somewhat ineffectual life-work of More to disbelieve in the autobiographical seriousness of this pastoral allegory" "Spenserian Pastoral" (1910) 263-64.

Geoffrey Bullough: "The choice of names is appropriate. Mela, representing More himself, probably comes from the Latin word 'mel,' honey or sweetness. Cleanthes was the successor of Zeno in stoic philosophy.... The encounter is based on Sh. Cal., March, where Thomalin describes to Willye how he shot into a bush, and 'With that sprong forth a naked swayne | With spotted wings, like Peacock's trayne'" More, Philosophical Poems (1931) 227-28.

Henry More alludes to Spenser several times in Enthusiasmus Triumphatus (1656) Wells, Spenser Allusions (1972) 225.



MELA. CLEANTHES.

Cl. Mela my dear! why been thy looks so sad
As if thy gentle heart were sunk with care?
Impart thy case; for be it good or bad
Friendship in either will bear equall share.
Mel. Not so; Cleanthes, for if bad it be
My self must bleed afresh by wounding thee:

But what it is, my slow, uncertain wit
Cannot well judge. But thou shalt sentence give
How manfully of late my self I quit,
When with that lordly lad by chance I strive.
Cl. Of friendship Mela! let's that story hear.
Mel. Sit down Cleanthes then, and lend thine ear.

Upon a day as best did please my mind
Walking abroad amidst the verdant field
Scattering my carefull thoughts it th' wanton wind
The pleasure of my path so farre had fill'd
My feeble feet that without timely rest
Uneath it were to reach my wonted nest.

In secret shade farre moved from mortalls sight
In lowly dale my wandring limbs I laid
On the cool grasse where Natures pregnant wit
A goodly Bower of thickest trees had made.
Amongst the leaves the chearfull Birds did fare
And sweetly carol'd to the echoing Air.

Hard at my feet ran down a crystall spring
Which did the cumbrous pebbles hoarsly chide
For standing in the way. Though murmuring
The broken stream his course did rightly guide
And strongly pressing forward with disdain
The grassie flore divided into twain.

The place a while did feed my foolish eye
As being new, and eke mine idle ear
Did listen oft to that wild harmonic
And oft my curious phansie would compare
How well agreed the Brooks low muttering Base,
With the birds trebbles pearch'd on higher place.

But senses objects soon do glut the soul,
Or rather weary with their emptinesse;
So I, all heedlesse how the waters roll
And mindlesse of the mirth the birds expresse,
Into my self 'gin softly to retire
After hid heavenly pleasures to enquire.

While I this enterprize do entertain;
Lo! on the other side in thickest bushes
A mighty noise! with that a naked swain
With blew and purple wings streight rudely rushes
He leaps down light upon the flowry green,
Like sight before mine eyes had never seen.

At's snowy back the boy a quiver wore
Right fairly wrought and gilded all with gold:
A silver bow in his left hand he bore,
And in his right a ready shaft did hold.
Thus armed stood he, and betwixt us tway
The labouring brook did break its toilsome way.

The wanton lad whose sport is others pain
Did charge his bended bow with deadly dart,
And drawing to the head with might and main,
With fell intent he aim'd to hit my heart.
But ever as he shot his arrows still
In their mid course drops down into the rill.

Of wondrous virtues that in waters been
Is needlesse to rehearse, all books do ring
Of those strange rarities. But ne're was seen
Such virtue as resided in this spring.
The noveltie did make me much admire
But stirr'd the hasty youth to ragefull ire.

As heedlesse fowls that take their per'lous flight
Over that bane of birds, Averno lake
Do drop down dead: so dead his shafts did light
Amid the stream, which presently did slake
Their fiery points, and all their feathers wet
Which made the youngster Godling inly fret.

Thus lustfull Love (this was that love I ween)
Was wholly changed to consuming ire.
And eath it was, sith they're so near a kin
They be both born of one rebellious fire.
But he suppress his wrath and by and by
For feathered darts, he winged words let flie.

Vain man! said he, and would thou wer'st not vain
That hid'st thy self in solitary shade
And spil'st thy precious youth in sad disdain
Hating this lifes delight! Hath God thee made
Part of this world, and wilt not thou partake
Of this worlds pleasure for its makers sake?

Unthankfull wretch! Gods gifts thus to reject
And maken nought of Natures goodly dower.
That milders still away through thy neglect
And dying fades like unregarded flower.
This life is good, what's good thou must improve,
The highest improvement of this life is love.

Had I (but O that envious Destinie,
Or Stygian vow, or thrice accursed charm
Should in this place free passage thus denie
Unto my shafts as messengers of harm!)
Had I but once transfixt thy froward breast,
How would'st thou then — I staid not for the rest;

But thus half angry to the boy replide:
How would'st thou then my soule of sense bereave!
I blinded, thee more blind should choose my guide!
How would'st thou then my muddied mind deceive
With fading shows, that in my errour vile,
Base lust, I love should tearm; vice, virtue stile.

How should my wicked rhymes then idolize
Thy wretched power, and with impious wit
Impute thy base born passions to the skies,
And my souls sicknesse count an heavenly fit,
My weaknesse strength, my wisdome to be caught,
My bane my blisse, mine ease to be o'rewraught.

How often through my fondly feigning mind
And frantick phansie, in my Mistris eye
Should I a thousand fluttering Cupids find
Bathing their busie wings? How oft espie
Under the shadow of her eye-brows fair
Ten thousand Graces sit all naked bare?

Thus haunted should I be with such feat fiends,
A pretty madnesse were my portion due.
Foolish my self I would not hear my friends.
Should deem the true for false, the false for true.
My way all dark more slippery then ice
My attendants, anger, pride, and jealousies.

Unthankfull then to God I should neglect
All the whole world for one poore sorry wight,
Whose pestilent eye into my heart project
Would burn like poysonous Comet in my spright.
Aye me! how dismall then would prove that day
Whose onely light sprang from so fatall ray.

Who seeks for pleasure in this mortall life
By diving deep into the body base
Shall loose true pleasure: But who gainly strive
Their sinking soul above this bulk to place
Enlarg'd delight they certainly shall find,
Unbounded joyes to fill their boundlesse mind.

When I my self from mine own self do quit
And each thing else; then an all spreaden love
To the vast Universe my soul doth fit,
Makes me half equall to All-seeing Jove.
My mightie wings high stretch'd then clapping light
I brush the starres and make them shine more bright.

Then all the works of God with close embrace
I dearly hug in my enlarged arms,
All the hid paths of heavenly Love I trace
And boldly listen to his secret charms,
Then clearly view I where true light doth rise,
And where eternall Night low-pressed lies.

Thus lose I not by leaving small delight
But gain more joy, while I my self suspend
From this and that; for then with all unite
I all enjoy, and love that love commends,
That all is more then loves the partiall soul
Whose petty love the impartiall fates controll.

Ah son! said he, (and laughed very loud)
That trickst thy tongue with uncouth strange disguize,
Extolling highly that with speeches proud
To mortall men that humane state denies,
And rashly blaming what thou never knew;
Let men experienc'd speak, if they'll speak true.

Had I once lanc'd thy froward flinty heart
And cruddled bloud had thawn with living fire
And pricks thy drousie sprite with gentle smart
How wouldst thou wake to kindle sweet desire!
Thy soul fill'd up with overflowing pleasures
Would dew thy lips with honey dropping measures.

Then would thou caroll loud and sweetly sing
In honour of my sacred Deity
That all the woods and hollow hills would ring
Reechoning thy heavenly harmony.
And eke the hardy rocks with full rebounds
Would faithfully return thy silver sounds.

Next unto me would be thy Mistresse fair,
Whom thou might setten out with goodly skill
Her peerlesse beauty and her virtues rare,
That all would wonder at thy gracefull quill.
And lastly in us both thy self shouldst raise
And crown thy temples with immortall bayes.

But now thy riddles all men do neglect,
Thy rugged lines of all do ly forlorn.
Unwelcome rhymes that rudely do detect
The Readers ignorance. Men holden scorn
To be so often non-plus'd or to spell,
And on one stanza a whole age to dwell.

Besides this harsh and hard obscurity
Of the hid sense, thy words are barbarous
And strangely new, and yet too frequently
Return, as usuall plain and obvious,
So that the show of the new thick-set patch
Marres all the old with which it ill doth match.

But if thy haughty mind, forsooth would deign
To stoop so low as t' hearken to my lore,
Then wouldst thou with trim lovers not disdeign
To adorn th' outside, set the best before.
Nor rub nor wrinkle would thy verses spoil,
Thy rhymes should run as glib and smooth as oyl.

If that be all, said I, thy reasons slight
Can never move my well establish'd mind.
Full well I wote alwayes the present sprite,
Or life that doth possesse the soul, doth blind,
Shutting the windows 'gainst broad open day
Lest fairer sights its uglinesse bewray.

The soul then loves that disposition best
Because no better comes unto her view.
The drunkard drunkennesse, the sluggard rest,
Th' Ambitious honour and obeysance due.
So all the rest do love their vices base
'Cause virtues beauty comes not into place.

And looser love 'gainst Chastity divine
Would shut the door that he might sit alone.
Then wholly should my mind to him incline,
And woxen strait, (since larger love was gone)
That paultry spirit of low contracting lust
Would fit my soul as if 't were made for 't just.

Then should I with my fellow bird or brute
So strangely metamorphiz'd, either ney
Or bellow loud: or if't may better sute
Chirp out my joy pearch'd upon higher spray.
My passions fond with impudence rehearse,
Immortalize my madnesse in a verse.

This is the summe of thy deceiving boast
That I vain ludenesse highly should admire,
When I the sense of better things have lost
And chang'd my heavenly heat for hellish fire.
Passion is blind: but virtues piercing eye
Approaching danger can from farre espie.

And what thou dost Pedantickly object
Concerning my rude rugged uncouth style,
As childish toy I manfully neglect,
And at thy hidden snares do inly smile.
How ill alas! with wisdome it accords
To sell my loving sense for livelesse words.

My thought's the fittest measure of my tongue,
Wherefore I'll use what's most significant,
And rather then my inward meaning wrong
Or my full-shining notion trimly skant,
I'll conjure up old words out of their grave,
Or call fresh forrein force in if need crave.

And these attending on my moving mind
Shall duly usher in the fitting sense,
As oft as meet occasion I find.
Unusuall words oft used give lesse offence;
Nor will the old contexture dim or marre,
For often us'd they're next to old, thred-bare.

And if the old seem in too rusty hew
Then frequent rubbing makes them shine like gold,
And glister all with colour gayly new,
Wherefore to use them both we will be bold.
Thus lifts me fondly with fond folk to toy,
And answer fools with equall foolery.

The meaner mind works with more nicetie
As Spiders wont to weave their idle web,
But braver spirits do all things gallantly
Of lesser failings nought at all affred:
So Natures carelesse pencill dipt in light
With sprinkled starres hath spattered the Night.

And if my notions clear though rudely thrown
And loosely scattered in my poesie,
May lend men light till the dead Night be gone.
And Morning fresh with roses strew the sky:
It is enough, I meant no trimmer frame
Nor by nice needle-work to seek a name,

Vain man! that seekest name 'mongst earthly men
Devoid of God and all good virtuous lere
Who groping in the dark do nothing ken;
But mad, with griping care their souls do tear,
Or Burst with hatred or with envie pine,
Or burn with rage or melt out at their eyne.

Thrice happy he whose name is writ above,
And doeth good though gaining infamy;
Requiteth evil turns with hearty love
And recks not what befalls him outwardly:
Whose worth is in himself, and onely blisse
In his pure conscience that doth nought amisse.

Who placeth pleasure in his purged soul
And virtuous life his treasure doth esteem
Who can his passions master and controll,
And that true lordly manlinesse doth deem
Who from this world himself hath clearly quit,
Counts nought his own but what lives in his sprite.

So when his spright from this vain world shall flit
It bears all with it whatsoever was dear
Unto it self, passing in easie fit,
As kindly ripen'd corn comes out of th' ear.
Thus mindlesse of what idle men will say
He takes his own and stilly goes his way.

But the Retinue of proud Lucifer,
Those blustering Poets that fly after fame
And deck themselves like the bright Morning-starre
Alas! it is but all a crackling flame.
For death will strip them of that glorious plume,
That airie blisse will vanish into fume,

For can their carefull ghosts from Limbo Lake
Return, or listen from the bowed skie
To heare how well their learned lines do take?
Or if they could; is Heavens felicitie
So small as by mans praise to be encreas'd
Hells pain no greater then hence to be eas'd?

Therefore once dead in vain shall I transmit
My shadow to gazing Posterity;
Cast farre behind me I shall never see't,
On Heavens fair Sunne having fast fixt mine eye.
Nor while I live, heed I what man doth praise
Or underprize mine unaffected layes.

What moves thee then, said he, to take the pains
And spender time if thou contemn'st the fruit?
Sweet fruit of fame, that fills the Poets brains
With high conceit and feeds his fainting wit,
How pleasant 'tis in honour here to live
And dead, thy name for ever to survive!

Or is thy abject mind so basely bent
As of thy Muse to maken Merchandize?
(And well I wote this is no strange intent.)
The hopefull glimps of gold from chattering Pies,
From Daws and Crows, and Parots oft hath wrung
An unexpected Pegaseian song.

Foul shame on him, quoth I, that shamefull thought
Doth entertain within his dunghill breast,
Both God and Nature hath my spirits wrought
To better temper and of old hath blest
My loftie soul with more divine aspires,
Then to be touched with such vile low desires.

I hate and highly scorn that Kestrell kind
Of bastard scholars that subordinate
The precious choice induements of the mind
To wealth or worldly good. Adulterate
And cursed brood! Your wit and will are born
Of th' earth and circling thither do return.

Profit and honour be those measures scant
Of your slight studies and endeavours vain,
And when you once have got what you did want
You leave your learning to enjoy your gain.
Your brains grow low, your bellies swell up high,
Foul sluggish fat ditts up your dulled eye.

Thus what the earth did breed, to th' earth is gone,
Like fading hearb or feeble drooping flower,
By feet of men and beast quite trodden down,
The muck-sprung learning cannot long endure,
Back she returns lost in her filthy source,
Drown'd, chok'd or slocken by her cruell nurse.

True virtue to her self's the best reward,
Rich with her own and full of lively spirit,
Nothing cast down for want of due regard,
Or 'cause rude men acknowledge not her merit.
She knows her worth and stock from whence she sprung,
Spreads fair without the warmth of earthly dung,

Dew'd with the drops of Heaven shall flourish long;
As long as day and night do share the skie,
And though that day and night should fail yet strong,
And steddie, fixed on Eternitie
Shall bloom for ever. So the soul shall speed
That loveth virtue for no worldly meed.

Though sooth to say, the worldly meed is due
To, her more then to all the world beside.
Men ought do homage with affections true
And offer gifts, for God doth there reside.
The wise and virtuous soul is his own seat
To such what's given God himself doth get.

But earthly minds whose sight's seal'd up with mud
Discern not this flesh-clouded Deity,
Ne do acknowledge any other good
Then what their mole-warp hands can feel and trie
By groping touch; (thus worth of them unseen)
Of nothing worthy that true worth they ween.

Wherefore the prudent Law-givers of old
Even in all Nations, with right sage foresight
Discovering from farre how clums and cold
The vulgar wight would be to yield what's right
To virtuous learning, did by law designe
Great wealth and honour to that worth divine.

But nought's by law to Poesie due said he,
Ne doth the solemn Statesmans head take care
Of those that such impertinent pieces be
Of common-weals. Thou'd better then to spare
Thy uselesse vein. Or tell else, what may move
Thy busie Muse such fruitlesse pains to prove.

No pains but pleasure to do th' dictates dear
Of inward living nature. What doth move
The Nightingall to sing so sweet and clear
The Thrush, or Lark that mounting high above
Chants her shrill notes to heedlesse ears of corn
Heavily hanging in the dewy Morn.

When Life can speak, it cannot well withold
T' expresse its own impressions and hid life.
Or joy or greif that smoothered lie untold
Do vex the heart and wring with restlesse strife,
Then are my labours no true pains but ease
My souls unrest they gently do appease,

Besides, that is not fruitlesse that no gains
Brings to my self. I others profit deem
Mine own: and if at these my heavenly flames
Others receiver light, right well I ween
My time's not lost. Art thou now satisfide
Said I: to which the scoffing boy replide:

Great hope indeed thy rhymes should men enlight,
That be with clouds and darknesse all o'recast,
Harsh style and harder sense void of delight
The Readers wearied eye in vain do west.
And when men win thy meaning with much pain,
Thy uncouth sense they coldly entertain.

For wotst thou not that all the world is dead
Unto that Genius that moves in thy vein
Of poetrie! But like by like is fed.
Sing of my Trophees in triumphant strein,
Then correspondent life, thy powerfull verse
Shall strongly strike and with quick passion pierce.

The tender frie of lads and lasses young
With thirstie tare thee compassing about,
Thy Nectar-dropping Muse, thy sugar'd song
Will swallow down with eager hearty draught;
Relishing truly what thy rhymes convey,
And highly praising thy soul-smiting lay.

The mincing maid her mind will then bewray,
Her heart-bloud flaming up into her face,
Grave matrons will wax wanton and betray
Their unresolv'dnesse in their wonted grace
Young boyes and girls would feel a forward spring,
And former youth to eld thou back wouldst bring.

All Sexes, Ages, Orders, Occupations
Would listen to thee with attentive ear,
And eas'ly moved with thy sweet perswasions,
Thy pipe would follow with full merry chear.
While thou thy lively voice didst loud advance
Their tickled bloud for joy would inly dance.

But now, alas! poore solitarie man!
In lonesome desert thou dost wander wide
To seek and serve thy disappearing Pan,
Whom no man living in the world hath eyde:
For Pan, is dead but I am still alive,
And live in men who honour to me give:

They honour also those that honour me
With sacred songs. But thou now singst to trees
To rocks, to Hills, to Caves that senselesse be
And mindlesse quite of thy hid mysteries,
In the void air thy idle voice is spread,
Thy Muse is musick to the deaf or dead.

Now out alas! said I, and wele away
The tale thou tellest I confesse too true,
Fond man so doteth on this living clay
His carcase dear, and doth its joyes pursue,
That of his precious soul he takes no keep
Heavens love and reasons light lie fast asleep.

This bodies life vain shadow of the soul
With full desire they closely do embrace,
In fleshly mud like swine they wallow and roll,
The loftiest mind is proud but of the face
Or outward person; if men but adore
That walking sepulchre, cares for no more,

This is the measure of mans industry
To wexen some body and getten grace
To's outward presence though true majestic
Crown'd with that heavenly light and lively rayes
Of holy wisdome and Seraphick love,
From his deformed soul he farre remove.

Slight knowledge and lesse virtue serves his turn
For this designe. If he hath trod the ring
Of pealing arts; in usuall pack-horse form
Keeping the rode; O! then 't's a learned thing.
If any chanc'd to write or speak what he
Conceives not, 'twere a foul discourtesie,

To cleanse the soule from sine, and still diffide
Whether our reasons eye be clear enough
To intromit true light, that fain would glide
Into purg'd hearts, this way's too harsh and rough:
Therefore the clearest truths may well seem dark
When sloathfull men have eyes so dimme and stark.

These be our times. But if my minds presage
Bear any moment, they can ne're last long,
A three branch'd Flame will soon sweep clean the stage
Of this old dirty drosse and all wex young,
My words into this frozen air I throw
Will then grow vocall at that generall thaw.

Nay, now thou'rt perfect mad, said he, with scorn,
And full of foul derision quit the place.
The skie did rattle with his wings ytorn
Like to rent silk. But I in the mean space
Sent after him this message by the wind
Be't so I'm mad, yet sure I am thou'rt blind.

By this the out-stretch'd shadows of the trees
Pointed me home-ward, and with one consent
Foretold the dayes descent. So straight I rise
Gathering my limbs from off the green pavement
Behind me leaving then the slooping Light.
Cl. And now let's up, Vesper brings on the Night.

[Grosart (1878) 170-74]