1647
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Immortality of the Soul. [Book I Canto 3.]

Philosophical Poems comprising Psychozoia and Minor Poems.

Rev. Henry More




BOOK I. CANTO 3.
Orewhelm'd with grief and pitious wo
For fading lifes decayes;
How no souls die, from Lunar bow,
A Nymph to me displayes.

In silent night, when mortalls be at rest,
And bathe their molten limbs in slothfull sleep,
My troubled ghost strange cares did straight molest
And plung'd my heavie soul in sorrow deep:
Large floods of tears my moistned cheeks did steep,
My heart was wounded with compassionate love
Of all the creatures: sadly out I creep
From mens close mansions, the more to improve
My mournfull plight, so softly on I forward move.

Aye me! said I, within my wearied breast,
And sighed sad, wherefore did God erect
This stage of misery? thrice, foure times blest
Whom churlish Nature never did eject
From her dark womb, and cruelly object
By sense and life unto such balefull smart;
Every slight entrance into joy is checkt
By that soure stepdames threats, and visage tart:
Our pleasure of our pain is not the thousandth part.

Thus vex'd I was 'cause of mortality:
Her curst remembrance cast me in this plight,
That I grew sick of the worlds vanity
Ne ought recomfort could my sunken spright,
What so I hate may do me no delight,
Few things (alas) I hate, the more my wo,
The things I love by mine own sad foresight
Make me the greater torments undergo,
Because I know at last they're gone like idle show.

Each goodly sight my sense doth captivate
When vernall flowers their silken leaves display,
And ope their fragrant bosomes, I that state
Would not have changed but indure for aye;
Nor care to mind that that fatall decay
Is still recured by faithfull succession.
But why should ought that's good thus fade away?
Should steady Spring exclude Summers accession
Or Summer spoil the Spring with furious hot oppression!

You chearfull chaunters of the flowring woods,
That feed your carelesse souls with pleasant layes,
O silly birds I cease from your merry moods:
Ill suits such mirth when dreary deaths assayes
So closely presse your very carkases:
To mournfull note turn your light verilayes,
Death be your song, and winters hoary sprayes,
Spend your vain sprights in sighing Elegies:
I'll help you to lament your wofull miseries.

When we lay cover'd in the shady Night
Of senselesse matter, we were well content
With that estate, nought pierc'd our anxious spright,
No harm we suffered, no harm we meet;
Our rest not with light dream of ill was blent:
But when rough Nature, with her iron hond,
Pull'd us from our soft ease, and hither hent,
Disturbing fear and pinching pain we found,
Full many a bitter blast, full many a dreadfull stound.

Yet lifes strong love doth so intoxicate
Our misty minds, that we do fear to dy.
What did dame Nature brood all things of hate
And onely give them life for misery?
Sense for an undeserved penalty?
And show that if she list, that she could make
Them happy? but with spightfull cruelty
Doth force their groaning ghosts this house forsake?
And to their ancient Nought their empty selves betake?

Thus in deep sorrow and restlesse disdain
Against the cankered doom of envious fate,
I clove my very heart with riving pain,
While I in sullen rage did ruminate
The Creatures vanity and wofull state;
And night that ought to yield us timely rest,
My swelling griefs did much more aggravate:
The sighs and groans of weary sleeping beast
Seem'd as if sleep itself their spirits did molest:

Or as constrain'd perforce that boon to wrest
From envious Nature. All things did augment
My heavie plight, that fouly I blam'd the hest
Of stubborn destiny cause of this wayment.
Even sleep that's for our restauration meet,
As execrable thing I did abhorre,
Cause ugly death to th' life it did depeint:
What good came to my mind I did deplore,
Because it perish must and not live evermore.

Thus wrapt in rufull thought through the waste field
I staggered on, and scattered my woe,
Bedew'd the grasse with tears mine eyes did yield,
At last I am arriv'd with footing slow
Near a black pitchy wood that strongest throw
Of starry beam no'te easily penetrate:
On the North side I walked to and fro
In solitary shade. The Moons sly gate
Had cross'd the middle line: It was at least so late.

When th' other part of night in painfull grief
Was almost spent, out of that solemn grove
There issued forth for my timely relief,
The fairest wight that ever sight did prove,
So fair a wight as might command the love
Of best of mortall race; her count'nance sheen
The pensive shade gently before her drove,
A mild sweet light shone from her lovely eyne
She seem'd no earthly branch but sprung of stock divine.

A silken mantle, colour'd like the skie
With silver starres in a due distance set,
Was cast about her somewhat carelesly,
And her bright flowing hair was not ylet
By Arts device; onely a chappelet
Of chiefest flowers, which from far and near
The Nymphs in their pure Lilly hands had set,
Upon her temples she did seemly weare;
Her own fair beams made all her ornaments appear.

What wilfull wight doth thus his kindly rest
Forsake? said she, approching me unto.
What rage, what sorrow boils thus in thy chest
That thou thus spend'st the night in wasting wo?
Oh help he gets that his hid ill doth show.
Ay me! said I, my grief's not all mine own;
For all mens griefs into my heart do flow,
Nor mens alone, but every mornfull grone
Of dying beast, or what so else that grief hath shown.

From fading plants my sorrows freshly spring;
And thou thy self that com'st to comfort me,
Wouldst strongst occasion of deep sorrow bring,
If thou wert subject to mortality:
But I no mortall wight thee deem to be,
Thy face, thy voice, immortall thee proclaim.
Do I not well to wail the vanity
Of fading life, and churlish fates to blame
That with cold frozen death lifes chearfull motions tame?

Thou dost not well, said she to me again,
Thou hurt'st thy self and dost to them no good.
The sighs thou sendest out cannot regain
Life to the dead, thou canst not change the mood
Of stedfast destiny. That man is wood
That weetingly hastes on the thing he hates:
Dull sorrow chokes the sprights, congeals the blood,
The bodies fabrick quickly ruinates.
Yet foolish men do fondly blame the hasty fates.

Come, hasty fates, said I, come take away
My weary life, the fountain of my wo:
When that's extinct or shrunk into cold clay,
Then well I wote that I shall undergo
No longer pain. O! why are you so slow:
Fond speech, said she, nor chang'd her countenance,
No signe of grief or anger she did show;
Full well she knew passions misgovernance,
Through her clear breast fond passion never yet did lance.

But thus spake on, Sith friendly sympathy
With all the creatures thus invades thy brest,
And strikes thine heart with so deep agony
For their decay, 'cording to that behest
Which the pure sourse of sympathy hath prest
On all that of those lovely streams have drunk,
I'll tell thee that that needs must please thee best,
All life's immortall: though the outward trunk
May changed be, yet life to nothing never shrunk.

With that she bad me rear my heavie eye
Up toward heaven, I rear'd them toward th' East,
Where in a roscid cloud I did espy
A Lunar rainbow in her painted vest;
The heavenly maid in the mean while surceast
From further speech, while I the bow did view:
But mine old malady was more increas'd,
The bow gan break, and all the gawdy hiew
Dispeared, that my heart the sight did inly rue,

Thus life doth vanish as this bow is gone,
Said I. That sacred Nymph forthwith reply'd,
Vain showes may vanish that have gaily shone
To feeble sense; but if the truth be tri'd,
Life cannot perish or to nothing slide:
It is not life that falleth under sight,
None but vain flitting qualities are ey'd
By wondring ignorance. The vitall spright
As surely doth remain as the Suns lasting light,

This bow, whose breaking struck thy troubled heart,
Of causelesse grief, I hope, shall thee recure,
When I have well explain'd with skilfull Art
By its resemblance what things must indure,
What things decay and cannot stander sure.
The higher causes of that coloured Ark,
Whate're becomes of it, do sit secure
That so (the body falling) lifes fair spark
Is safe, I'll clearly show if you but list to mark.

There be six Orders 'fore you do descend
To this gay painted bow: Sols centrall spright
To the first place, to th' next we must commend
His hid spread form, then his inherent light,
The fourth his rayes wherewith he is bedight,
The fifth that glistring circle of the Moon,
That goodly round full face all silver bright,
The sixth be beams that from her visage shone;
The seventh that gawdy bow that was so quickly gone.

The fluid matter was that dewy cloud,
That faild as faithlesse Hyle wont to fail:
New guest being come, the old she out doth croud:
But see how little Hyle did prevail,
Or sad destruction in this deemed bale!
Sols spright, hid form, fair light and out-gone rayes,
The Moons round silver face withouten veil
Do still remain, her beams she still displayes,
The cloud but melt, not lost, the bow onely decayes

That last is nought but potentiality,
Which in the lower creature causeth strife,
Destruction by incompossibility
In some, as in the forms Quantitative.
All here depend on the Orb Unitive,
Which also hight Nature Monadicall;
As all those lights and colours did derive
Themselves from lively Phoebus life centrall.
Nought therefore but vain sensibles we see caducall.

And that the first Every-where-Unitie
Is the true root of all the living creatures,
As they descend in each distinct degree,
That God's the sustentacle of all Natures;
And though those outward forms and gawdy features
May quail like rainbows in the roscid sky,
Or glistring Parelies or other meteors;
Yet the clear light doth not to nothing flie:
Those six degrees of life stand sure, and never die.

So now we plainly see that the dark matter
Is not that needfull prop to hold up life;
And though deaths engine this grosse bulk do shatter
We have not lost our Orb conservative,
Of which we are a ray derivative,
The body sensible so garnished
With outward forms these inward do relieve,
Keep up in fashion and fresh lively-had;
But this grosse bulk those inward lives stands in no sted.

Nor can one inward form another slay,
Though they may quell their present energy,
And make them close contract their yielding ray
And hide themselves in their centreity,
Till some friendly appulse doth set them free,
And call them out again into broad day:
Hence lives gush not in superfluity
Into this world, but their due time do stay,
Though their strong centrall essence never can decay.

In Earth, in Aire, In the vast flowing Plain,
In that high Region hight Aethereall,
In every place these Atom-lives remain,
Even those that cleeped are forms seminall.
When nought in them we blamable can find.
When groaning ghosts of beasts or men depart,
Their tender mother doth but them unbind
From grosser fetters and more toilsome smart.
Bless'd is the man that hath true knowledge of her Art.

And more for to confirm this mysterie,
She vanish'd In my presence into Aire,
She spread her self with the thin liquid sky;
But I thereat fell not into despair
Of her return, nor wail'd her visage fair,
That so was gone. For I was woxen strong
In this belief. That nothing can empair
The inward life, or its hid essence wrong.
O the prevailing might of a sweet learned tongue!

By this the Suns bright waggon gan ascend
The Eastern hill, and draw on chearfull day;
So I full fraught with joy do homeward wend
And fed my self with that that Nymph did say,
And did so cunningly to me convey,
Resolving for to teach all willing men
Lifes mysterie, and quite to chase away
Mind-mudding mist sprung from low fulsome fen:
Praise my good will, but pardon my weak faltring pen.

BOOK I. CANTO 4.

That Hyle or first matter's nought
But poetentialitie:
That God's the never-fading root
Of all Vitalitie.

What I was wisely taught in that still Night,
That Hyle is the Potentialitie
Of Gods dear Creatures, I embrace as right,
And them nigh blame of deep idolatrie
That give so much to that slight nullitie,
That they should make it root substantiall
Of nimble life, and that quick entitle
That doth so strongly move things naturall,
That life from hence should spring, that hither life should fall.

For how things spring from hence and be resolv'd
Into this mirksome sourse, first matter hight,
This muddy myst'rie they no'te well unfold.
If it be onely a bare passive might
With Gods and Natures goodly dowries dight,
Bringing hid Noughts into existencie,
Or sleeping Somethings into wide day-light,
Then Hyle's plain potentialitie,
Which doth not straight inferre certain mortalitie,

For the immortall Angels do consist
Of out-gone act and possibilitie;
Nor any other creature doth exist,
Releast from dreary deaths necessity;
If these composures it so certainly
Ensuen must. If substance actuall
They will avouch this first matter to be,
Fountain of forms, and prop fiduciall
Of all those lives and beings cleeped Naturall;

Then may it prove the sphear spermaticall
Or sensitive (if they would yield it life)
Or that is next, the Orb Imaginall,
Or rather all these Orbs; withouten strife
So mought we all conclude that their relief
And first existence from this sphear they drew
And so our adversaries, loth or fief
Must needs confesse that all the lore was true
Concerning life, that that fair Nymph so clearly shew;

And that particular Lives that be yborn
Into this world, when their act doth dispear,
Do cease to be no more then the snails horn,
That she shrinks in because she cannot bear
The wanton boys rude touch, or heavie chear
Of stormy winds. The secundary light
As surely shineth in the heavens clear,
As do the first fair beams of Phoebus bright,
Lasting they are as they, though not of so great might.

So be the effluxes of those six orders,
Unfading lives from fount of livelihood:
Onely what next to strifefull Hyle borders,
Particular visibles deaths drearyhood
Can seiz upon. They passe like sliding flood.
For when to this worlds dregs lives downward hie,
They 'stroy one th' other in fell cankred mood,
Beat back their rayes by strong antipathie,
Or some more broad-spread cause doth choke their energie.

But to go on to that common conceit
Of the first matter: What can substance do,
Poore, naked substance, megre, dry, dull, slight,
Inert, unactive, that no might can show
Of good or ill to either friend or foe,
All livelesse, all formlesse? She doth sustain.
And hath no strength that task to undergo?
Besides that work is needlesse all in vain:
Each centrall form its rayes with ease can well up-stayen.

What holds the earth in this the fluid aire?
Can matter void of fix'd solidity?
But she like kindly nurse her forms doth chear.
What can be suck'd from her dark dugges drie
Nor warmth, nor moistnesse, nor fast density
Belong to her. Therefore ill nurse I ween
She'll make, that neither hath to satisfie
Young-craving life, nor firmnesse to sustein
The burden that upon her arms should safely lean.

Therefore an uselesse superfluity
It is to make Hyle substantiall:
Onely let's term's the possibility
Of all created beings. Lives centrall
Can frame themselves a right compositall,
While as they sitten soft in the sweet rayes
Or vitall vest of the lives generall,
As those that out of the earths covert raise
Themselves, fairly provok'd by warmth of sunny dayes.

And thus all accidents will prove the beams
Of inward forms, their flowing energy
And quantity th' extension of such streams,
That goes along even with each qualitie.
Thus have we div'd to the profundity
Of darkest matter, and have found it nought:
But all this world's bare Possibility.
Nought therefore 'gainst lifes durance can be brought
From Hyles pit, that quencher may that pleasant thought.

[Grosart (1878) 52-56]