1647
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Immortality of the Soul. [Book I Canto 2.]

Philosophical Poems comprising Psychozoia and Minor Poems.

Rev. Henry More




BOOK I. CANTO 2.
What a soul is here I define,
After I have compared
All powers of life: That stampt divine
Show that brutes never shared.

Now I'll addresse me to my mighty task,
So mighty task that makes my heart to shrink,
While I compute the labour it will ask.
And on my own frail weaknesse I gin think.
Like tender Lad that on the rivers brink,
That fain would wash him, while the Evening keen
With sharper air doth make his pores to wink,
Shakes all his body, nips his naked skin,
At first makes some delay but after skippeth in:

So I upon a wary due debate
With my perplexed mind, after perswade
My softer heart. I need no longer wait.
Lo I now new strength my vitals doth invade
And rear again, that earst began to fade,
My life, my light, my senses all revive
That fearfull doubts before had ill apaid.
Leap in, my soul, and strongly 'fore thee drive
The fleeting waves, and when thee list to th bottome dive.

For thou canst dive full well, and flote aloft,
Dive down as deep as the old Hyle's shade,
Through that slight darknesse glid'st thou sly and soft,
Through pitchy cumbring fogs strongly canst wade,
Nor in thy flight could'st thou be ever staid
If in thy flight thou flewest not from him,
That for himself thine excellent might hath made,
Contract desire, repulse strong Magick steem,
Then even in foul Cocytus thou mayest fearlesse swim.

Like that strange uncouth fish Lucerna hight,
Whose wonne is in the brackish Seas, yet fire
She eas'ly carries and clear native light
In her close mouth: and the more to admire,
In darkest night when she lists to aspire
To th' utmost surface of the wat'ry Main
And opes her jawes, that light doth not expire,
But lively shines till she shut up again:
Nor liquid Sea, nor moistned Aire this light restrain.

Or like a lamp arm'd with pellucid horn,
Which ruffling winds about do rudely tosse
And felly lash with injury and scorn,
But her mild light they cannot easily crosse;
She shines to her own foes withouten losse:
Even so the soul into her self collected,
Or in her native hew withouten drosse,
In midst of bitter storms is not dejected,
Nor her eternall state is any whit suspected.

As Cynthia in her stouping Perigee,
That deeper wades in the earths duskish Cone
Yet safely wallows through in silency
Till she again her silver face hath shown,
And tells the world that she's the self-same Moon:
Not now more listlesse then I was whileare
When I was hid in my Apogeon,
For I my self alike do alwayes bear
In every circling race; blind ignorance breeds fear.

Nor being hid after my monthly wane,
Long keppen back from your expecting sight,
Dull damps and darknesse do my beauty stain;
When none I show then have I the most light,
Nearer to Phoebus more I am bedight
With his fair rayes. And better to confute,
All vain suspicion of my worser plight,
Mark aye my face, after my close salute
With that sharp-witted God, seem I not more acute?

This is the state of th evermoving soul,
Whirling about upon her circling wheel;
Certes to sight she variously doth roll,
And as men deem full dangerously doth reel,
But oft when men fear most, her self doth feel
In happiest plight conjoy'nd with that great Sun
Of lasting blisse, that doth himself reveal
More fully then, by that close union,
Though men, that misse her here, do think her quite undone.

But lest we rashly wander out too farre,
And be yblown about with wanton wind,
Withouten stern, or card, or Polar starre,
In its round little list so close confin'd:
Let the souls nature first be well defin'd:
Then we'll proceed. But all the while I crave
When e're I speak 'cording to Plato's mind,
That you my faultlesse drift do not deprave,
For I the free-born soul to no sect would inslave.

Divers conceits the wizards of old time
Have had concerning that we here inquire,
And would set forth in an eternall rhyme;
But we list not our dainty Muse to tire
In such foul wayes, and plunge her in the mire.
Strange dreams their drowsie scholars they have taught,
The heart, the heart-bloud, brains fleet aire, hot fire
To be the thing that they so prestly sought,
Some have defin'd, some temper, some atomes, some nought.

But I must needs decline this wandring path;
For well I wote errour is infinite,
But he that simple truth once reached hath
Needs not with every single shade to fight:
One stroke will put all falsities to flight.
So soon as Sol his fiery head doth rear
Above the eastern waves his glowing sight
As angry darknesse so long rule did bear,
Straight all night-trifling sprights doth chase away with fear.

Long have I swonk with anxious assay
To finden out what this hid soul may be,
That doth her self so variously bewray
In different motions. Other we her see
When she so fairly spreads the branching tree;
Other when as sh' hath loos'd her self from ground,
And opes her root, and breaths in heaven free,
And doth her wants in the wide air resound,
Speaks out her joy, no longer whispers under-ground.

Such is the noise of chearfull chirping birds,
That tell the sweet impressions of the spring;
Or 'fore some storm, when their quick sprights be stird
With nearer strong appulse and hid heaving,
That fills their little souls, and makes them sing,
Puft up with joy and o'rflowing delight:
Eftsoons with ratling winds the air doth ring,
The sturdy storm doth make them take their flight
Into thick bush or hedge to save them from heavens spight.

From this same sourse of sense are murmuring moans
Of bellowing bullocks, when sharp hunger bites;
Hence whining dog so pittifully groans
Whenas with knotted whip his Lord him smites;
And every beast when with Deaths pangs be fights.
But senslesse trees nor feel the bleaker wind,
That nip their sides, nor the Suns scorching might,
Nor the sharp ax piercing their ruggid rind;
Yet have they soul, whose life in their sweet growth we find.

So plants spring up, flourish and fade away,
Not marking their own state: they never found
Themselves, when first they 'pear'd in sunny day;
Nor ever sought themselves, though in the ground
They search full deep: Nor are they wak'd by wound
Of biting iron; to nought are attent
That them befalls, when cold humours abound
And clog their vitall heat, or when they're brent
With Sirius flame, or when through eld they waxen faint.

Or whatsoever diseases them betide
That hasten death, they nought at all regard:
But when to plantall life quick sense is ti'd,
And progging phansie, then upon her guard
She gins to stand, and well her self to ward
From foes she plainly feels, pursues her joy,
Remembers where she well or ill hath far'd,
Or swiftly flies from that that doth annoy,
Or stoutly strives her fierce destroyer to destroy.

Thus have we run thorow these two degrees
Of the souls working seen in beast and plant;
Reason's the third, of common qualities
The best. Of this the humane race doth vaunt
As proper to themselves; But if we skan 't
Sans prejudice, it's not in them alone;
The Dog, the Horse, the Ape, the Elephant
Will all rush in striving to make up one,
And sternly claim their share in use of right reason.

But whether brutes do reason and reflect
Upon their reasoning, I'll not dispute;
Nor care I what brisk boyes will here object:
Long task it were all fondlings to confute.
But I'll lay down that which will better sute
With that high heavenly spark, the soul of man;
His proper character (I would he knew't)
Is that which Adam lost by wily train
Of th' old sly snake that Eve beguil'd with speeches vain,

This was the Image of the highest God,
Which brutes partake not of. This Image hight
True Justice, that keeps ever th' even trod,
True Piety that yields to man the sight
Of heavenly beauty, those fair beams so bright
Of th' everlasting Deity, that shed
Their sacred fire within the purer spright,
The fruit of Eden wherewith souls be fed,
Mans awfull majesty of every beast ydred.

Nor is that radiant force in humane kind
Extinguisht quite, he that did them create
Can those dull rusty chains of sleep unbind,
And rear the soul unto her pristin state
He can them so inlarge and elevate
And spreaden out, that they can compasse all,
When they no longer be incarcerate
In this dark dungeon, this foul fleshly wall,
Nor be no longer wedg'd in things corporeall:

But rais'd aloft into their proper sphere,
That sphere that hight th' Orb Intellectuall,
They quiet sit, as when the flitting fire
That Natures mighty Magic down did call
Into the oyly wood, at its own fall
Grows full of wrath and rage, and gins to fume,
And roars and strives 'gainst its disquietall,
Like troubled Ghost forc'd some shape to assume;
But it its holding foe at last doth quite consume.

And then like gliding spright doth straight dispear,
That earst was forc'd to take a fiery form:
Full lightly it ascends into the clear
And subtile aire devoid of cloudy storm,
Where it doth steady stand, all-uniform,
Pure, pervious, immixt, innocuous, mild,
Nought scorching, nought glowing, nothing enorm,
Nought destroying, not destroy'd not defil'd;
Foul fume being spent, just 'fore its flight it fairly smil'd.

Thus have I trac'd the soul in all her works,
And severall conditions have displaid,
And show'd all places where so e'r she lurks,
Even her own lurking's of her self bewray'd,
In plants, in beasts, in men, while here she staid:
And freed from earth how then she spreads on high
Her heavenly rayes, that also hath been said.
Look now, my Muse, and cast thy piercing eye
On every kind, and tell wherein all souls agree.

Here dare I not define't, th' Entelechie
Of organized bodies. For this life,
This centrall life, which men take souls to be,
Is not among the beings relative;
And sure some souls at least are self-active
Withouten body having Energie.
Many put out their force informative
In their ethereal; corporeity,
Devoid of heterogeneall organity.

Self-moving substance, that be th' definition
Of souls, that 'longs to them in generall:
This well expresseth that common condition
Of every vitall centre creaturall.
For why? both what hight form spermaticall
Hath here a share, as also that we term
Soul sensitive, I'll call's form bestiall,
It makes a beast added to plantall sperm;
Adde rationall form, it makes a man, as men affirm.

All these be substances self-moveable:
And that we call virtue magneticall
(That what's defin'd be irreprovable)
I comprehend it in the life plantall:
Mongst trees ther's found life Sympatheticall;
Though trees have not animadversive sense.
Therefore the soul's Autokineticall
Alone. Whatere's in this defining sense
Is soul, what ere's not soul is driven far from hence.

But that each soul's Autokineticall,
Is easly shown by sifting all degrees
Of souls. The first are forms Spermaticall,
That best be seen in shaping armed trees,
Which if they want their fixt Centreities,
By which they fairly every part extend,
And gently inact with spred vitalities
The flowring boughs. How Natures work doth wend
Who knows? or from what inward stay it doth depend?

Forthy let first an inward centre hid
Be put. That's nought but Natures fancie ti'd
In closer knot, shut up into the mid
Of its own self: so our own spirits gride,
With piercing wind in storming Winter tide,
Contract themselves and shrivell up together,
Like snake the countrey man in snow espi'd,
Whose spright was quite shrunk in by nipping weather.
From whence things come, by fo-man forc'd they backward thither.

The rigid cold had forc'd into its centre
This serpents life; but when the rurall Swain
Plac'd her upon warm hearth, and heat did enter
Into her nummed corps, she gan to strain
And stretch herself, and her host entertain
With scornfull hisse, shooting her anchor'd tongue,
Threatning her venom'd teeth; so straight again
She prov'd a living snake, when she along
Her corse free life had drove from centre steddie strong.

So doth the gentle warmth of solar heat
Eas'ly awake the centre seminall,
That makes it softly streak on its own seat,
And fairly forward force its life internall.
That inward life's th' impresse imaginall
Of Natures Art, which sweetly flowreth out
From that is cleep'd the Sphere spermaticall:
For there is placid the never fading root
Of every flower or herb that into th' air doth shoot.

Fairly invited by Sols piercing ray
And inward tickled with his cheering spright,
All plants break thorough into open day,
Rend the thick curtain of cold cloying night,
The earths opakenes, enemy to light,
And crown themselves in sign of victory
With shining leaves, and goodly blossomes bright.
Thus called out by friendly sympathy
Their souls move of themselves on their Centreitie.

But it's more plain in animalitie,
When fiery coursers strike the grassie ground
With swift tempestuous feet, that farre and nigh
They fill mens ears with a broad thundering sound:
(From hollow hoof so strongly it doth rebound)
What's that that twitcheth up their legs so fast,
And fiercely jerks them forth, that many wound
They give to their own mother in their hast?
With eager steps they quickly mete the forrest wast.

That outward form is but a neurospast;
The soul it is that on her subtile ray,
That she shoots out, the limbs of moving beast
Doth stretch straight forth, so straightly as she may.
Bones joynts and sinews shap'd of stubborn clay
Cannot so eas'ly lie in one straight line
With her projected might, much lesse obey
Direct retractions of these beames fine:
Of force, so straight retreat they ever must decline.

But yet they follow in a course oblique,
With angular doublings, as the joynts permit:
So go they up together, not unlike
An iron candle-stick the smith hath fit
With many junctures, whom in studious fit
Some scholar set awork: but to return,
Lest what we aim'd at we unwares omit;
If souls of beasts their bodies move and turn,
And wield at phansies beck, as we describ'd beforn;

Then be the souls of beasts self-moving forms,
Bearing their bodies as themselves think meet,
Invited or provok'd, so they transform
At first themselves within, then straight in sight
Those motions come, which suddenly do light
Upon the bodies visible, which move
According to the will of th' inward spright.
In th' inward spright be anger, hate and love:
Hence claws, horns, hoofs they use the pinching ill t' amove.

Thus have I plainly prov'd that souls of beasts
And plants do move themselves. That souls of men
Should be more stupid, and farre lesse releast
From matters bondage, surely there's none can
Admit of, though but slightly they do seen
The cause. But for to put all out of doubt,
Let's take again the same way we have ran,
Break down all obstacles that hinder mought
Our future course to make all plain all clear throughout.

If there be no self-motion in mans soul,
That she nor this nor that way can propend
Of her own self, nor can no whit controll
Nor will of her own self, who can offend?
For no mans self (if you do well perpend)
Guiltie's of ought when nought doth from him flow.
Whither do learning, laws, grave speeches tend?
Speaks the rude Carter to the wagon slow
With threat'ning words, or to the beasts that do it draw?

Surely unto the beasts that eas'ly go:
For there's the principle of motion,
Such principle as can it self foreslow,
Or forward presse by incitation:
Which though it mov'd by commination
So stifly strives, yet from it self it strives,
Bears it self forth with stout contention,
And ever and anon the whip revives
That inward life, so bravely on the Rustick drives.

Again, all that sweet labour would be lost
That Gods good spirit takes in humane mind,
So oft we courted be so often cross'd:
But nor that tender amorous courtship kind
Hath any place where we no place can find
For a self-yielding love; Or if self-will
Be not in us, how eas'ly were declin'd
All crosses? None could happen us untill,
How will I want, and want no crosse passeth my skill.

Besides when reason works with phantasie,
And changeable conceits we do contrive,
Purging and pruning with all industrie,
What's dead or uselesse, lesse demonstrative,
What's dull or flaccid, nought illustrative,
Quenching unfitted phantasms in our brain,
And for our better choice new flames revive;
The busie soul thus doth her reason strain
To write or speak what envious tongue may never stain.

Or when quite heedlesse of this earthie world
She lifts her self unto the azure skie,
And with those wheeling gyres around is hurld
Turns in herself in a due distancie
The erring Seven, or a stretch'd line doth tie
O' th' silver-bowed moon from horn to horn;
Or finds out Phoebus vast soliditie
By his diametre, measures the Morn,
Girds the sworn earth with linear list, though earth she scorn.

All this is done, though bodie never move:
The soul about it self circumgyrates
Her various forms, and what she most doth love
She oft before herself stabilitates;
She stifly stayes't and wistly contemplates
Or lets it somewhat slowlier descend
Down to the nether Night; she temperates
Her starrie orb, makes her bright forms to wend
Even as she list: Anon she'll all with darknesse blend.

Thus variously she doth herself invest
With rising forms, and reasons all the way;
And by right reason doth herself devest
Of falser fancies. Who then can gainsay
But she's self-mov'd when she doth with self-sway
Thus change herself, as inward life doth feel?
If not, then some inspiring sprights bewray
Each reasoning. Yet though to them we deal
First motion, yet our selves ought know what they reveal.

But if nor of our selves we moved be
At first, without any invasion
Of stirring forms that into energie
Awake the soul; nor after-motion
From its own centre by occasion
Doth issue forth; then it's not conscious
Of ought: For so 'twill want adversion.
But nothing can animadvert for us:
Therefore all humane souls be self-vivacious.

Thus have I prov'd all souls have centrall motion
Springing from their own selves. But they'll object
'Gainst th' universalnesse of this clear notion,
That whiles self-flowing source I here detect
In plants, in brutes, in men, I ought reject
No soul from wished immortalitie,
But give them durance when they are resect
From organized corporeitie:
Thus brutes and plants shall gain lasting eternitie.

'Tis true, a never fading durancie
Belongs to all hid principles of life;
But that full grasp of vast Eternitie
'Longs not to beings simply vegetive,
Nor yet to creatures merely sensitive:
Reason alone cannot arrive to it.
Onely souls Deiform intellective,
Unto that height of happinesse can get;
Yet immortalitie with other souls may fit.

No force of Nature can their strength annoy.
For they be subtiler than the silken air,
Which fatall fire from heaven cannot destroy;
All grossenesse its devouring teeth may shear,
And present state of visibles empare;
But the fine curtains of the lasting skie,
Though not of love, yet it perforce must spare,
If they could burn, each spark from flint would trie,
And a bright broad-spread flame to either Pole would hie.

But if all souls survive their bulks decay,
Another difficultie will straight arise,
Concerning their estate when they're away
Flit from this grosser world. Shall Paradise
Receive the sprights of beasts? or wants it trees
That their sweet verdant souls should thither take?
Who shall conduct those stragling colonies?
Or be they straightway drench'd in Lethe lake?
So that cold sleep their shriveld life from work doth slake.

Or if that all or some of them awake,
What is their miserie? what their delight?
How come they that refined state forsake?
Or had they their first being in our sight?
Whither to serve? what is the usefull might
Of these spirituall trees? doth fearfull hare
Flie the pursuing dog? doth soaring kite
Prey upon silly chickins? is there jarre,
Or be those sprights agreed, none to other contraire?

If some contraire then tell me, how's their fight?
What is the spoil? what the stout victor's meed?
No flesh, no bloud whereon to spend their spight,
Or whereupon these hungry souls may feed.
Or doth the stronger suck the aiery weed
Wherewith the other did itself invest?
And so more freshly deck itself at need?
An aierie prey for aierie spright is best?
Or do they want no food, but be still full and rest?

Die they again? draw they in any breath?
Or be they sterill? or bring forth their young
Beat their light feet on the soft aierie heath?
Expresse they joy or sorrow with their tongue?
Enough! whoere thou art that thus dost throng
My tender Muse with rough objections stout,
Give me but leave to tell thee thou art wrong,
If being of a thing thou call'st in doubt
Cause its more hid conditions shine not clearly out.

Who questions but there is a quantitie
Of things corporeall, a trinall dimension,
Of solid bodies? yet to satisfie
All doubts that may be made about extension
Would plunge the wisest Clerk. I'll onely mention
That quaere, of what parts it doth consist,
Whether of Atoms; or what strange retention
Still keepeth so much back, that if God list
He could not count the parts of a small linear twist.

For his division never could exhaust
The particles, say they, of quantitie
O daring wit of man that thus doth boast
Itself, and in pursuit of sciencie
Forget the reverend laws of pietie.
What thing is hid from that all-seeing light?
What thing not done by his all-potencie?
He can discern by his clear-piercing might
The close couch'd number of each bignesse comes in sight:

And so can count them out even part by part;
In number, measure, weight, he all things made;
Each unite he dissevers by his Art;
But here this searching reason to evade,
Each quantum's infinite, straight will be said,
That's against sense. If it be infinite
Of parts, then tell me, be those parts outspread
Or not extent? if extended outright
Each flie in summer-Even is higher then Heavens height.

If not extended, then that quantum's nought,
Some be extended, others not extent
Already (answers a vain shifting thought)
But those potentiall parts, how be they meint
With those that now be actually dissent?
Even thus you grant, that those that actuall be
Be plainly finite, against your intent,
Grant me but that, and we shall well agree,
So must sleight Atoms be sole parts of quantitie.

But if't consist of points, then a Scalene
I'll prove all one with an Isosceles:
With as much ease I'll evince clear and clean
That the crosse lines of a Rhomboides
That from their meeting to all angles presse
Be of one length, though one from earth to heaven
Would reach, and that the other were much lesse
Then a small digit of the lowest of seven
So as she 'pears to us, yet I could prove them even.

And that the moon (though her circumference
Be farre more strait then is the earthie ball)
Sometime the earth illumineth at once
And with her grasping rayes enlights it all;
And that the Sunnes great body sphericall
Greater then th' earth, farre greater then the moon,
Even at midday illumines not at all
This earthy globe in his Apogeon;
So that we in deep darknesse sit, though at high noon

Of will, of motion, of divine foresight,
Here might I treat with like perplexitie.
But it's already clear that 'tis not right
To reason down the firm subsistencie
Of things from ignorance of their propertie.
Therfore not requisite for to determ
The hid conditions of vitalitie
Or shrunk or sever'd; onely I'll affirm
It is, which my next song shall further yet confirm.

[Grosart (1878) 46-51}

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