1647
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Immortality of the Soul. [Book II Canto 2; Book III Canto I.]

Philosophical Poems comprising Psychozoia and Minor Poems.

Rev. Henry More




BOOK II. CANTO 2.
The souls incorporeitie
From powers rationall
We prove: Discern true pietie
From bitternesse and gall.

Like Carpenter entred into a wood
To cut down timber for some edifice
Of stately structure, whiles he casts abroad
His curious eye, he much perplexed is
(There stand in view so many goodly trees)
Where to make choice to enter his rugg'd saw:
My Muse is plung'd in like perplexities,
So many arguments themselves do show,
That where to pitch my wavering mind doth yet scarce know.

One taller then the rest my circling eye
Hath hit upon, which if't be sound at heart
Will prove a goody piece to raise on high
The heavenly structure of that deemed part
Of man, his soul, and by unerring art
Set his foundation 'bove the bodies frame
On his own wheels, that he may thence depart
Intire, unhurt. So doth the Scythian swain
Drive his light moving house on the waste verdant plain.

I'll sing of piety: that now I mean
That Trismegist thus wisely doth define,
Knowledge of God. That's piety I ween,
The highest of virtues, a bright beam divine
Which to the purer soul doth sweetly shine.
But what's this beam? and how doth it enlight?
What doth it teach? It teacheth to decline
Self-love, and frampard wayes the hypocrite
Doth trample in, accloy'd with dirt and dismall night.

Not rage, nor mischief, nor love of a sect,
Nor eating irefulnesse, harsh cruelty
Contracting Gods good will, nor conscience checkt
Or chok'd continually with impiety,
Fauster'd and fed with hid hypocrisie;
Nor tyranny against perplexed minds,
Nor forc'd conceit, nor man-idolatry,
All which the eye of searching reason blinds,
And the souls heavenly flame in dungeon darknesse binds.

Can warres and jarres and fierce contention,
Swoln hatred, and consuming envie spring
From piety? No. 'Tis opinion
That makes the riven heavens with trumpets ring,
And thundring engine mur'drous balls out-sling,
And send mens groping ghosts to lower shade
Of horrid hell. This the wide world doth bring
To devastation, makes mankind to fade:
Such direfull things doth false Religion perswade.

But true Religion sprong from God above
Is like her fountain full of charity,
Embracing all things with a tender love,
Full of good will and meek expectancy,
Full of true justice and sure verity,
In heart and voice; free, large, even infinite,
Not wedg'd in strait particularity,
But grasping all in her vast active spright,
Bright lamp of God! that men would joy in thy pure light!

Can souls that be thus universalis'd,
Begot into the life of God e're dy?
(His light is like the sun that doth arise
Upon the just and unjust) can they fly
Into a nothing? and hath God an eye
To see himself thus wasted and decay
In his true members? can mortality
Seize upon that that doth it self display
Above the laws of matter, or the bodies sway?

For both the body and the bodies spright
Doth things unto particulars confine,
Teaching them partiall friendship and fell spight.
But those pure souls full of the life divine:
Look upon all things with mild friendly eyne
Ready to do them good. Thus is their will
Sweetly spread out, and ever doth incline
The bent of the first Goodnesse to fulfill.
Ay me! that dreary death such lovely life should spill!

Besides this largenesse in the will of man
And winged freenesse, now let's think upon
His understanding, and how it doth scan
Gods being, unto whom religion
Is consecrate. Imagination
That takes its rise from sence so high ascent
Can never reach, yet intellection
Or higher gets, or at least hath some sent
Of God, vaticinates, or is parturient.

For ask her whether God be this or that,
A body infinite, or some mighty spright,
Yet not almighty, such vain speech she'll hate.
Whether all present, or in some place pight,
Whether part here part there, or every whit
In every point, she likes that latter well:
So that its plain that some kind of insight
Of Gods own being in the soul doth dwell
Though what God is we cannot yet so plainly tell.

As when a name lodg'd in the memory,
But yet through time almost obliterate,
Confusely hovers near the phantasie:
The man that's thus affected bids relate
A catalogue of names. It is not that,
Saith he, nor that; that's something like to it,
That nothing like, that's likst of all I wot.
This last you nam'd it's not like that a whit;
O that's the very name, now we have rightly hit.

Thus if't be lawfull least things to compare
With greatest, so our selves affected be
Concerning Gods high essence: for we are
Not ignorant quite of this mystery,
Nor clearly apprehend the Deity,
But in mid state, I call's parturient,
And should bring forth that live Divinity
Within our selves, if once God would consent
To shew his specious form and nature eminent:

For here it lies like colours in the night
Unseen and unregarded, but the sunne
Displayes the beauty and the gladsome plight
Of the adorned earth, while he doth runne
His upper stage. But this high prize is wonne
By curbing sense and the self-seeking life
(True Christian mortification)
Thus God will his own self in us revive,
If we to mortifie our straitned selves do strive.

But can ought bodily Gods form receive?
Or have it in it self potentially?
Or can ought sprung of this base body heve
It self so high as to the Deitie
To clamber? strive to reach infinity?
Can ought born of this carcase be so free
As to grasp all things in large sympathie?
Can lives corporeall quite loosened be
From their own selves, casheering their centreity?

These all ill suit with corporeitie:
But do we not amisse with stroke so strong
All to dispatch at once? needed we flie
So high at first? we might have chose among
The many arguments that close do throng
And tender their own selves this cause to prove
Some of a meaner rank, and then along
Fairly and softly by degrees to move.
My Muse kens no such pomp, she must with freedome rove.

And now as chance her guides, compendiously
The heads of many proofs she will repeat,
Which she lists not pursue so curiously,
But leaves the Reader his own brains to beat,
To find their fuller strength. As the souls meat,
Of which she feeds, if that she fed at all;
She is immortall if she need not eat;
But if her food prove to be spiritall,
Then can we deem herself to be corporeall?

The souls most proper food is verity
Got and digest by Contemplation.
Hence strength, enlargement, and activity
She finds, as th' body by infusion
Of grosser meats and drinks (concoction
Well perfected) our limbs grow strong by these;
The soul by reasons right perswasion:
But that truths spirituall we may with ease
Find out: For truth the soul from bodies doth release.

Next argument let be abstraction,
Whenas the soul with notion precise
Keeps off the corporall condition,
And a nak'd simple essence doth devise
Against the law of Corporeities,
It doth devest them both of time and place,
And of all individualities,
And matter doth of all her forms unease,
Corporeall wight such subtile virtue never has.

Now shall the indivisibilitie
Of the souls virtues make an argument.
For certainly there's no such qualitie
Resideth in a body that's extent.
For, tell me, is that quality strait pent
Within a point of that corporeall?
Or is it with some spreader part dissent?
If in a point, then 'longs it not at all
To th' body: in spread part? then 'tis extentionall.

But that some virtue's not extentionall
May thus be proved. Is there no science
Of numbers? Yes. But what is principall
And root of all: have we intelligence
Of Unities? Or else what's sprong from thence
We could not know: what doth the soul then frame
Within her self? Is that Idea extense?
Or indivisible? If not, we'll blame
The soul of falshood, and continuall lying shame.

Again, if we suppose our intellect
Corporeall, then must we all things know
By a swift touch: what? do we then detect
The truth of bignesse, when one point doth go
Of our quick mind? (It need not be o're'flow
For infinite parts be found in quantitie)
Or doth it use its latitude? If so
Remember that some things unspreaden be,
How shall it find them out? Or if't use both we'll see.

That both be unsufficient I prove.
A point cannot discern loose unity
Freed from all site. That latitude must move
On all the body that it doth descry.
So must it be upstretch'd unto the skie
And rub against the Stars, surround the Sun
And her own parts to every part apply,
Then swiftly fridge about the pallid Moon:
Thus both their quantities the mind hath strangely won.

Adde unto these, that the soul would take pains
For her destruction while she doth aspire
To reach at things (that were her wofull gains)
That be not corporall, but seated higher
Above the bodies sphere. Thus should she tire
Her self to 'stroy her self, Again, the mind
Receives contrary forms. The feverish fire
Makes her cool brooks and shadowing groves to find
Within her thoughts, thus hot and cold in one she binds.

Nor is she chang'd by the susception
Of any forms: For thus her self contraire
Should be unto her self. But Union
She then possesseth, when heat and cold are
Together met: They meet withouten jarre
Within our souls. Such forms they be not true
You'll say. But of their truth lest you despair,
Each form in purer minds more perfect hew
Obtains, then those in matter we do dayly view.

For there, they're mixt, soild and contaminate,
But truth doth clear, unweave, and simplifie,
Search, sever, pierce, open, and disgregate
All ascititious clogging; then doth eye
The naked essence and its property.
Or you must grant the soul cannot define
Ought right in things; or you must not deny
These forms be true that in her self do shine:
These be her rule of truth, these her unerring line.

Bodies have no such properties. Again,
See in one cluster many arguments
Compris'd: She multitudes can close constrain
Into one nature. Things that be fluent,
As flitting time, by her be straight resent
Unto one point; she joyns future and past,
And makes them steady stand as if present:
Things distant she can into one place cast:
Calls kinds immortall, though their singulars do waste.

Upon her self she strangely operates,
And from her self and by her self returns
Into her self; thus the soul circulates.
Do bodies so? Her axle-tree it burns
With heat of motion. This low world she spurns,
Raiseth her self to catch infinity.
Unspeakable great numbers how she turns
Within her mind, like evening mist the eye
Discerns, whose muddy atomes 'fore the wind do fly.

Stretcheth out time at both ends without end,
Makes place still higher swell, often creates
What God nere made, nor doth at all intend
To make, free phantasms; laughs at future fates,
Foresees her own condition, she relates
Th' all comprehension of eternity,
Complains she's thirsty still in all estates,
That all she sees or has no'te satisfie
Her hungry self, nor fill her vast capacity.

But I'll break off; My Muse her self forgot,
Her own great strength and her foes feeblenesse,
That she her name by her own pains may blot,
While she so many strokes heaps in excesse,
That fond grosse phansie quite for to suppresse
Of the souls corporal'tie. For men may think
Her adversaries strength doth thus her presse
To multitude of reasons, makes her swink
With weary toyl, and sweat out thus much forced ink:

Or that she loves with trampling insultations
To domineere in easie victory.
But let not men dare cast such accusations
Against the blamelesse. For no mastery,
Nor fruitlesse pomp, nor any verity
Of that opinion that she here destroyes
Made her so large. No, 'tis her jealousie
'Gainst witching falshood that weak souls annoyes,
And oft doth choke those cheering hopes of lasting joyes.


BOOK III. CANTO I.

The souls free independency;
Her drery dreadfull state
In hell; Her tricentreity:
What brings her to heavens gate.

Well said that man, whatever man that was,
That said, what things we would we straight believe
Upon each slight report t' have come to passe:
But better he, that said, Slow faith we give
To things we long for most. Hope and fear rive
Distracted minds, as when nigh equall weights
Cast on the trembling scales, each tug and strive
To pull the other up. But the same sleights
By turns do urge them both in their descents and heights:

Thus waves the mind in things of greatest weight;
For things we value most are companied
With fear as well as hope: these stifly fight:
The stronger hope, the stronger fear is fed;
One mother both and the like livelyhed.
One object both, from whence they both do spring,
The greater she, the greater these she bred,
The greater these, the greater wavering
And longer time to end their sturdy struggeling.

But is there any thing of more import
Then the souls immortality? Hence fear
And hope we striving feel with strong effort
Against each other: That nor reason clear
Nor sacred Oracles can straight down bear
That sturdy rascall, with black phantasies
Yclad, and clouded with drad dismall chear;
But still new mists he casts before our eyes,
And now derides our prov'd incorporieties,

And grinning saith, That labour's all in vain.
For though the soul were incorporeall,
Yet her existence to this flesh restrain,
They be so nearly link'd, that if one fall
The other fails. The eare nor hears our call
In stouping age, nor eye can see ought clear;
Benumming palsies shake the bodies wall,
The soul hath lost her strength and cannot steer
Her crasie corse, but staggering on reels here and there.

So plain it is (that though the soul's a spright,
Not corporall) that it must needs depend
Upon this body, and must perish quite
When her foundation falls. But now attend
And see what false conceits vain fears do send:
'Tis true, I cannot write without a quill,
Nor ride without an horse. If chance that rend
Or use make blunt, o're-labouring this kill,
Then can I walk not ride, not write but think my fill.

Our body is but the souls instrument;
And when it fails, onely these actions cease
That thence depend. But if new eyes were sent
Unto the aged man, with as much ease
And accuratenesse, as when his youth did please
The wanton lasse, he now could all things see.
Old age is but the watry blouds disease.
The soul from death and sicknesse standeth free:
My hackney fails, not I; my pen, not sciencie.

But as I said, of things we do desire
So vehemently we never can be sure
Enough. Therefore, my Muse, thou must aspire
To higher pitch, and fearfull hearts secure
Not with slight phansie but with reason pure,
Evincing the souls independency
Upon this body that doth her immure;
That when from this dark prison she shall flie
All men may judge her rest in immortality.

Therefore I'll sing the Tricentreity
Of humane souls, and how they wake from sleep,
In which ywrapt of old they long do lie
Contract with cold and drench'd in Lethe deep,
Hugging their plantall point. It makes me weep
Now I so clearly view the solemn Spring
Of silent Night, whose Magick dew doth steep
These drowsie souls of men, whose dropping wing
Keeps off the light of life, and blunts each fiery sting.

Three centres hath the soul; One plantall hight:
Our parents this revive in nuptiall bed.
This is the principle that hales on Night,
Subjects the mind unto dull drowsyhed:
If we this follow, thus we shall be led
To that dark straitnesse that did bind before
Our sluggish life when that is shrivelled
Into its sunken centre, we no more
Are conscious of life: what can us then restore?

Unlesse with fiery whips fell Nemesis
Do lash our sprights, and cruelly do gore
Our groping ghosts; this is the way, I wisse,
The onely way to keep's from Morpheus power.
Both these so dismall are that I do showr
Uncessant tears from my compassionate eyes:
Alas! ye souls! Why should or sleep devour
Sweet functions of life? or hellish cries
To tender heart resound your just calamities?

Thus may you all from your dead drowsinesse
Be wak'd by inward sting and pinching wo,
That you could wish that that same heavinesse
Might ever you o'represse, and Lethe flow
Upon your drowned life. But you shall glow
With urging fire, that doth resuscitate
Your middle point, and makes itself to gnaw
Itself with madnesse, while 't doth ruminate
On its deformity and sterill vexing state.

Continuall desire that nought effects,
Perfect hot-glowing fervour out to spring
In some good world: With fury she affects
To reach the Land of life, then struck with sting
Of wounding memory, despairs the thing,
And further off she sees her self, the more
She rageth to obtain: thus doth she bring
More fewell to her flame that scorched sore
With searching fire, she's forc'd to yell and loudly rore.

Thus she devours her self, not satisfies
Her self; nought hath she but what's dearly spun
From her own bowels, jejune exilities:
Her body's gone, therefore the rising sun
She sees no more, nor what in day is done,
The sporting aire no longer cools her bloud,
Pleasures of youth and manhood quite are gone,
Nor songs her eare, nor mouth delicious food
Doth fill. But I'll have this more fully understood.

Three centres hath mans soul in Unity
Together joynd; or if you will, but one.
Those three are one, with a Triplicity
Of power or rayes. Th' high'st intellection,
Which being wak'd the soul's in Union
With God. If perfectly regenerate
Into that better world, corruption
Hath then no force her blisse to perturbate,
The low'st do make us subject to disturbing fate.

But low'st 'gins first to work, the soul doth frame
This bodies shape, imploy'd in one long thought
So wholy taken up, that she the same
Observeth not, till she it quite hath wrought.
So men asleep some work to end have brought
Not knowing of it, yet have found it done:
Or we may say the matter that she raught
And suck'd unto her self to work upon
Is of one warmth with her own spright, and feels as one.

And thus the body being the souls work
From her own centre so entirely made
Seated i' th' heart, — for there this spright doth lurk,—
It is no wonder 'tis so easly sway'd
At her command. But when this work shall fade
The soul dismisseth it as an old thought,
'Tis but one form; but many be display'd
Amid her higher rayes, dismiss, and brought
Back as she list, and many come that ne're were sought.

The soul by making this strange edifice,
Makes way unto herself to exercise
Functions of life, and still more waked is
The more she has perfected her fine devise,
Hath wrought her self into sure sympathies
With this great world. Her ears like hollow caves
Resound to her own spright the energies
Of the worlds spright. If it ought suffered have,
Then presentifick circles to her straight notice gave.

We know this world, because our soul hath made
Our bodie of this sensible worlds spright
And body. Therefore in the glassie shade
Of our own eyes (they having the same might
That glasse or water hath) we have the sight
Of what the Mundane spirit suffereth
By colours, figures, or inherent light:
Sun, stars, and all on earth it hurrieth
To each point of itself so far as't circuleth.

And where he lighteth on advantages,
His circulings grow sensible. So hills
That hollow be do audible voices
Resound. The soul doth imitate that skill
In framing of the eare, that sounds may swell
In that concavitie. The crystall springs
Reflect the light of heaven, if they be still
And clear the soul doth imitate and bring
The eye to such a temper in her shapening.

So eyes and ears be not mere perforations,
But a due temper of the Mundane spright
And ours together, else the circulations
Of sounds would be well known by outward sight,
And th' eare would colours know, figures and light.
So that it's plain that when this bodie's gone,
This world to us is clos'd in darknesse quite,
And all to us is in dead silence drown:
Thus in one point of time is this worlds glory flown.

But if it be so, how doth Psyche hear or see
That hath nor eyes nor eares? She sees more clear
Then we that see but secondarily.
We see at distance by a circular
Diffusion of that spright of this great sphear
Of th' Universe: Her sight is tactuall.
The Sun and all the starres that do appear
She feels them in herself, can distance all,
For she is at each one purely presentiall.

To us what doth diffusion circular,
And our pure shadowed eyes, bright, crystalline,
But vigorously our spright particular
Affect, while things in it so clearly shine?
That's done continually in the heavens sheen.
The Sun, the Moon, the Earth, blew-glimmering
Hel, Scorch'd Aetna's bowels, each shape you'l divine
To be in Nature, every dern cell
With fire-eyed dragons, or what else therein doth dwel:

These be all parts of the wide worlds excesse,
They be all seated in the Mundane spright,
And shew just as they are in their bignesse
To her. But circulation shews not right
The magnitude of things: for distant site
Makes a deficience in these circulings.
But all things lie ope-right unto the sight
Of heavens great eye; their thin-shot shadowings
And lightned sides. All this we find in Natures springs.

The worlds great soul knows by Protopathie
All what befalls this lower sprite, but we
Can onely know's by Deuteropathie,
At least in sight and hearing. She doth see
In our own eyes, by the close unitie
Of ours and the worlds kite, our passion;
Plainly perceives our idiopathic,
As we do hers, by the same union;
But we cannot see hers in that perfection.

Fresh varnish'd groves, tall hills, and gilded clouds
Arching an eyelid for the glowing Morn;
Fair clustred buildings which our sight so crouds
At distance, with high spires to heaven yborn;
Vast plains with lowly cottages forlorn,
Rounded about with the low wavering skie,
Cragg'd vapours, like to ragged rocks ytorn;
She views those prospects in our distant eye:
These and such like be the first centres mysterie.

Or if you will the first low energie
Of that one centre, which the soul is hight,
Which knows this world by the close unitie
Concorporation with the Mundane sprite;
Unloos'd from this she wants a certain light,
Unlesse by true regeneration
She be incorporate with God, unite
With his own spright; so a new mansion
Sh' has got, oft saught with deepest suspiration.

But robb'd of her first clothing by hard fate,
If she fall short of this, wo's me! what pains
She undergoes? when this lost former state
So kindled hath lifes thirst, that still remains.
Thus her eternitie her nothing gains
But hungry flames, raging voracitie
Feeding on its own self. The heavens she stains
With execrations and foul blasphemie:
Thus in fell discontent and smoth'ring fire they frie.

Vain man that striv'st to have all things at will!
What wilt thou do in this sterilitie?
Whom canst thou then command? or what shall fill
Thy gaping soul? O depth of miserie!
Prepare thy self by deep humilitie:
Destroy that fretting fire while thou art here,
Forsake this worlds bewitching vanitie,
Nor death nor hell then shalt thou need to fear:
Kill and cast down thy self, to heaven God shall thee rear.

This middle centrall essence of the soul
Is that which still survives asleep or waking:
The life she shed in this grosse earthly moul
Is quite shrunk up, lost in the bodies breaking:
Now with slight phantasms of her own fond making
She's clad (so is her life drie and jejune)
But all flit souls be not in the same taking:
That state this lifes proportion doth tune,
So as thou livest here, such measure must ensuen.

But they whose souls deiform summitie
Is waken'd in this life, and so to God
Are nearly joyn'd in a firm Unitie
(This outward bodie is but earthie clod
Digested, having life transfus'd abroad,
The worlds life and our lower vitalitie
Unite in one) their souls have their aboad
In Christs own body; are eternally
One with our God, by true and strong communitie.

When we are clothed with this outward world,
Fed the soft air, behold the glorious Sunne,
All this we have from meat that's daily hurld
Into these mouths. But first of all we wonne
This priviledge by our first union
With this worlds body and diffused spright.
I' th' higher world there's such communion:
Christ is the sunne that by his cheering might
Awakes our higher rayes to joyn with his pure light.

And when he hath that life elicited,
He gives his own dear body and his bloud
To drink and eat. Thus dayly we are fed
Unto eternall life. Thus do we bud,
True heavenly plants, suck in our lasting food
From the first spring of life, incorporate
Into the higher world (as erst I show'd
Our lower rayes the soul to subjugate
To this low world) we fearlesse sit above all fate,

Safely that kingdomes glory contemplate,
O'reflow with joy by a full sympathie
With that worlds sprite, and blesse our own estate,
Praising the fount of all felicitie,
The lovely light of the blest Deitie.
Vain mortals think on this, and raise your mind
Above the bodies life; strike through the skie
With piercing throbs and sighs, that yon may find
His face. Base fleshly fumes your drowsie eyes thus blind.

So hath my Muse according to her skill
Discovered the soul in all her rayes,
The lowest may occasionate much ill,
But is indifferent. Who may dispraise
Dame Natures work? But yet yon ought to raise
Your selves to higher state. Eternitie
Is the souls rest, and everlasting dayes:
Aspire to this, and hope for victorie.
I further yet shall prove her immortalitie.

[Grosart (1878) 63-69]

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