1647
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

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

Philosophical Poems comprising Psychozoia and Minor Poems.

Rev. Henry More




BOOK III. CANTO 2.
From many arguments we show
The independencie
Of humane souls: That all Lives flow
From a free Deitie.

Three apprehensions do my mind divide
Concerning the souls preexistencie,
Before into this outward world she glide:
So hath my muse with much uncertaintie
Exprest her self, so as her phantasie
Strongly inacted guides her easie pen;
I nought obtrude with sow'r anxietie,
But freely offer hints to wiser men:
The wise from rash assent in darksome things abstein.

Or souls be well awake but hovering,
Not fixt to ought, but by a Magick might
Drawable here and there, and so their wing
Struck with the steem of this low Mundane sprite
May lower flag and take its stooping flight
Into some plantall man, new edified
By his own plastick point. Or else (deep Night
Drawn on by drooping phansie) she doth slide
Into this world, and by her self that skill is tried;

Makes to her self this fleshly habitation;
For this worlds spirit hath provok'd these rayes:
Then drown in sleep she works that efformation
Of her own body, all its parts displayes,
As doth the senselesse plant. The two next wayes
Are these: A reall tricentreitie.
First centre ever wakes, unmoved stayes,
Hight Intellect. The next in sleep doth lie
Till the last centre burst into this open skie.

And then the middle wakes. But the last way
Makes but one centre, which doth sleep likewise
Till its low life hath reach'd this worlds glad day.
A fourth we'll adde that we may all comprise:
Take quite away all preexistencies
Of humane souls, and grant they're then first made
When they begin this bodies edifice,
And actually this outward world invade:
None of these wayes do show that they must ever fade.

The first way might be well occasioned
By what the soul in her self feels and tries.
She works sometime as though she quite had fled
All commerce with these low carnalities,
Yet falls she down at last and lowly lies
In this base mansion, is so close contract
That sleep doth seise her actualities,
Retains no memory of that strange fact,
Nor of her self that soar'd in that high heavenly tract.

The second way that makes the soul tricentrall,
The highest awake, the other with sleep drownd,
May spring from hence. None would vouchsafe the entrall
Into this life, if they were but once bound
To that vast centre where all things are found,
Hight Intellect. The lowest is not awake,
Therefore the midst lies close in sleep upwound.
Three centres made, that souls may quite forsake
This baser world when union with the lowest they break.

Again, because this bodie's fashioned
Without our knowledge, reason doth suggest
That it could no wise be thus figured
From our own centre, and yet we not prest
To any adversion. Therefore we are drest
With this grosse clothing by some plantall spright
Centred in Nature. So that glorious vest
The Deiform intellect by our own might's
Not made, but we have rayes which each of these will fit.

Ardent desire, strong breathing after God,
At length may work us to that better place,
Body or clothing, that high sure aboad
That searching weather nor time can deface.
But to go on in our proposed race,
The third and fourth way have the same foundation,
Not multiplying beings to surpasse
Their use. What needs that numerous clos'd centration,
Like wastefull sand ytost with boisterous inundation?

Let wiser Clerks the truth dare to define
I leave it loose for men to muse upon,
View at their leasure: but yet this call mine;
Though we should grant the souls condition
Before her deep incorporation
Into dull matter, to be nothing more
But bare potentiality, yet none
Can prove from thence that she must fade therefore,
When to its earth this earth the trusty fates restore.

For though she and her body be at once,
Yet of her body she doth not depend
But it of her: she doth its members branch,
Pierce, bind, digest, and after makes it wend
At her own will, when she hath brought to end
Her curious work, and hath consolidate
Its tender limbs which earst did feebly bend
Through weaknesse; then this world she contemplates,
And life still blazing higher seeks an heavenly state.

Breaths after the first fountain of all life,
Her sweet Creatour, thither doth aspire,
Would see his face; nor will she cease this strife
Till he fulfill her thirsty fierce desire:
Nothing can quench this so deep rooted fire
But his own presence. So she 'gins despise
This bodies pleasures, ceaseth to admire
Ought fair or comely to these outward eyes:
Or if she do, from hence she higher doth arise.

But can she higher rise then her own head?
Therefore her spring is God: thence doth she 'pend,
Thence did she flow, thither again she's fled.
When she this life hath lost, and made an end
Of this low earthly course, she doth ascend,
Unto her circles ancient Apogie,
Lifted aloft, not again to descend,
Nor stoups nor sets that Sunne, but standeth free
On never-shaken pillars of Aeternitie.

But still this truth more clearly to evince,
Remember how all things are from one light,
It shall thy reason forceably convince
That nought but God destroyes a centrall spright.
If he sucks in his beams, eternall night
Seiseth upon that life, that it no'te flow
In actuall efflux, hath no being quite
But Gods own power. He lets his breath out go,
The self-same things again so eas'ly doth he show.

Let be Noon day, the welkin clear, the Moon
I' th' nether world, reflecting the Suns rayes
To cheer the irksome night. Well! That being done
Call out some wondrous might, that listlesse stayes
In slower phansies. Bid't break all delayes;
Surround with solid dark opacity
The utmost beams that Phoebus light displayes,
Softly steal on with equall distancy,
Till they have close claps up all his explendency.

All's now in darknesse: tell me, what's become
Of that infinity of rayes that shone?
Where second centres from whence out did come
Other faint beams? what be they all quite flone?
All perish'd quite? You stiflers now be gone.
I et fall that smoring mantle. Do not straight
All things return? The nether world the Moon,
The Sun enlightens us. The self same light
Now shines, that shone before this deep and dismall Night.

If not the same, then like to flowing stream
You deem the light that passeth still away,
New parts ever succeeding. The Sun-beam
Hath no reflexion then, if it decay
So fast as it comes forth: Nor were there day;
For it would vanish 'fore it could arrive
At us. But in a moment Sol doth ray.
One end of his long shafts then we conceive,
At once both touch himself and down to us do dive.

Beside, this air is not the sustentation
Of spreader light; for then as it did move
The light would move. And sturdy conflictation
Of struggling winds, when they have fiercely strove,
Phoebus fair golden locks would rudely move
Out of their place; and Eastern winds at morn
Would make more glorious dayes, while light is drove
From that bright quarter: Southern blasts do burn
From midday sun, but yet Northwinds like light have born.

What then must be the channell of this river,
If we'll have light to flow as passing stream?
So plain it is that Nature doth dissever
The light and th' air, that th' air the Suns bright beams
Doth not uphold as the warmth of his gleams
Or heat that lodgeth there. From this firm might
Nought leaning on the Air, well may we't deem
Some subtile body, or some grosser spright
Depending of fair Phoebus, of no other wight.

And when these rayes were forced to retire
Into their fountain, they were not so gone
But that the same sprong out from the first fire.
So fine spun glittering silk crumpled in one
Changeth not 'ts individuation
From what it was, when it was gaily spread
In fluttering winds to th' admiration
Of the beholder. Thus is nought so dead
But God can it restore to its old livelyhed.

For all the creature's but the out-gone rayes
Of a free sunne, and what I meaned most,
Of him alone depend. He deeds their blaze
By calling in his breath. Though things be tost
And strangely chang'd, yet nought at all is lost
Unlesse he list. Nor then so lost but he
Can them return, In every thing compost
Each part of th' essence its centreity
Keeps to it self, it shrinks not to a nullity.

When that compounded nature is dissolv'd,
Each centre's safe, as safe as second light
Or drove into the Sun, or thence out-rol'd.
So all depend on th' Universall spright
From hight to depth, as they are ranked right
In their due orders. Lifes full pregnancy
Breaks out when friendly sympathy doth smite.
The higher rank the higher energie
From natures lowly lap to Gods sublimity:

But well may man be call'd the epitome
Of all things. Therefore no low life him made.
The Highest holds all in His capacity,
Therefore mans soul from Gods own life outray'd,
His outgone Centre's on that centre staid.
What disadvantage then can the decay
Of this poore carcase do, when it doth fade?
The soul no more depends on this frail clay,
Then on our eye depends bright Phoebus glist'ring ray.

But in this argument we'll no longer stay,
Consider now the souls conversion
Into her self. Nought divisible may
Close with it self by revolution.
For then or part in this reflection,
Is drove into a part, or part to th' whole,
Or whole to part, or near compression
The whole into the whole doth closely roll:
But easily all these wayes right reason will controll.

If part turn into part, part into whole,
Whole into part, the thing doth not convert
Into itself; the thing itself is all
Not part of't self: if all to all revert,
Each part then into each part is insert.
But tell me then how is their quantity
If every part with each part is refers?
Thus swallowed up, they'l have no distancy;
So you destroy suppos'd divisibility.

Wherefore that thing is individuous
Whatever can into it self reflect,
Such is the soul as hath been prov'd by us
Before, and further now we do detect
By her foure wheels: The first hight Intellect,
Wherewith she drives into her Nature deep
And finds it out; next Will, this doth affect
Her self found out. Her self then out doth peep
Into these acts, she into both doth eas'ly creep.

But this conversion's from the body free;
Begins not thence, nor thither doth return:
Nor is the soul worse then her energie,
If in her acts she be far higher born
Then they should 'pend on this base corse forlorn:
Then also she hath no dependency
Upon this body, but may safely scorn
That low condition of servility,
And blame all that averre that false necessity.

If she should issue from this nether spring,
Nearer she kept to her Originall
She were the stronger, and her works would bring
To more perfection; but alas! they fall
They fail by near approch. The best of all
Wax weak and faint by too close union
With this foul fount. Might intellectuall
Grows misty by this strait conjunction;
The will is woxen weak, its vigour quite is gone.

But O! how oft when she her self doth cut
From nearer commerce with the low delight
Of things corporeall, and her eyes doth shut
To those false fading lights, she feels her spright
Fill'd with excessive pleasure, such a plight
She finds that it doth fully satisfie
Her thirsty life. Then reason shines out bright,
And holy love with mild serenity
Doth hug her harmlesse self in this her purity.

What grave monitions and sure prophesie
Have men In sicknesse left? a true testation
Of the souls utter independency
On this poore crasie corse. May that narration
Of Aristotles move easie perswasion
Of his Eudemus, to whom sick at Phere
While sleep his senses bound, this revelation
A gentle youth did bring with goodly chear,
And jolly blith deportment, chasing needlesse fear.

Told him that sicknesse would not mortall prove,
He should grow well er'e long, but deaths drad power
On that towns tyrant should be shortly drove,
Swift vengeance on his cursed head should showr:
Both proved true. I could in plenty poure
Such like examples, as of Pherecyde,
Calanus, him of Rhodes, and others more;
But it is needlesse, 'tis a truth well tried,
The higher works the soul the more she is untied.

Then quite set loose from this her heavy chain
Shee is in happiest plight, so far she is
From being nought or perishing. Again,
We find such utter contrarieties
Betwixt the bodies and her qualities
That we can no wayes think she 'pends at all
Of that with which she has such repugnancies.
What thing doth fight with its Originall?
The spring and stream be alwayes homogeneall.

But the high heaven-born soul sprung out from Jove
Ever is clashing with the foolery
Of this dull body, which the sense doth love,
And erring phansie. It were long to try
In every thing: O how 'twould magnifie
The hight of pleasures that fall under sense:
This well describ'd would prove its Deity.
A vast round body cloth'd with th' excellence
Of glorious glistring light through the wide aire extense:

Bravely adorn'd with diverse colours gay,
Even infinite varieties that shine
With wondrous brightnesse, varnish'd with the ray
Of that clear light, with motion circuline:
Let turn about and stir up sounds divine,
That sweetly may affect th' attentive ear.
Adde fragrant odours waft with gentle wind,
Adde pleasant taste, soft touch to Venus dear;
This is the bodies God, this is its highest sphear.

But from far higher place and brighter light
Our reason checks us for this vanity,
Calls to us, warns us that that empty sight
Lead not our soul unto Idolatry,
Make us not rest in easie falsity.
If thou be stirred up by working fire
To search out God, to find the Deity;
Take to thy self not what thine eyes admire
Or any outward sense, or what sense can desire.

Behold a light far brighter then the Sun!
The Sun's a shadow if you them compare,
Or grosse Cimmerian mist; the fairest Noon
Exceeds not the meridian night so far
As that light doth the Sun. So perfect clear
So perfect pure it is, that outward eye
Cannot behold this inward subtile starre,
But indisperst is this bright Majesty,
Yet every where out shining in infinitie;

Unplac'd, unparted, one close Unity,
Yet omnipresent; all things, yet but one;
Not streak'd with gaudy multiplicity,
Pure light without discolouration,
Stable without circumvolution,
Eternall rest, joy without passing sound:
What sound is made without collision?
Smell, taste, and touch make God a grosse compound;
Yet truth of all that's good is perfectly here found.

This is a riddle unto outward sense:
And heavie phansie, that can rise no higher
Then outward senses, knows no excellence
But what those Five do faithfully inspire
From their great God, this world; nor do desire
More then they know: wherefore to consopite
Or quench this false light of bold phansies fire,
Surely must be an act contrary quite
Unto this bodies life, and its low groveling spright,

Wherefore the body's not Originall
Of humane soul when she doth thus resist
That principle: which still more clearly shall
Be proved. Oft when either drowsie mists
Provoke to sleep, or worst of senses lists
To ease his swelling veins, or stomach craves
His wonted food, that he too long hath mist,
Or our dry lungs cool liquor fain would have,
Or when in warre our heart suggests the fear of grave:

Yet high desire of truth, and deep insight
Into Gods mystery makes us command
These low attractions; and our countries right
Bids march on bravely, stout and stifly stand
In bloudy fight, and try's by strength of hand.
Thus truth and honesty so sway our will,
That we no longer doubt to break the band
Of lower Nature, and this body kill
Or vex, so we the Laws of reason may fulfill.

This proves the soul to sit at liberty,
Not wedg'd into this masse of earth, but free
Unloos'd from any strong necessity
To do the bodies dictates, while we see
Clear reason shining in serenity,
Calling above unto us, pointing to
What's right and decent, what doth best agree
With those sweet lovely Ideas, that do show
Some glimps of their pure light. So Sol through clouds doth flow.

How oft do we neglect this bodies life,
And outward comely plight, for to adorn
Our soul with virtuous ornaments? and strive
To fat our mind with truth, while it's forlorn,
Squalid, half-nasty, pallid, wan, deform?
Can this desire from the base body spring?
No sure such brave atchievements be yborn
Within the soul, tend to her perfecting,
See th' independent mind in her self circuling!

Best plight of body hinders such like acts.
How doth she then upon the body pend?
To do those subtle, high, pure, heavenly facts?
What? doth the Sun his rayes that he out-sends
Smother or choke? though clouds that upward wend
May raised be by him, yet of those clouds
That he doth congregate he noise depend.
Nor doth the soul that in this flesh doth croud
Her self, rely on that thick vapour where she's shroud.

But still to prove it clearer: If the mind
Without the bodyes help can operate
Of her own self, then nothing can we find
To scruple at, but that souls separate
Safely exist, not subject unto fate,
Nothing depending on their carcases,
That they should fade when those be ruinate.
But first perpend well both their properties
That we may better see their independencies.

The living body where the soul doth 'bide
These functions hath, phansie, sense, memory.
How into sense these outward forms do glide
I have already told, and did descry
How presentifick circularity
Is spread through all: there is one Mundane spright
And body, vitall corporality
We have from hence. Our souls be counite
With the worlds spright and body, with these herself she has dight.

Our body struck by evolution
Of outward forms spread in the worlds vast spright,
Our listning mind by its adversion
Doth notice take, but nothing is empight
In it. Of old Gods hand did all forms write
In humane souls, which waken at the knock
Of Mundane shapes. If they were naked quite
Of innate forms, though heaven and earth should rock
With roring winds, they'd hear no more then senselesse stock.

Phansy's th' impression of those forms that flit
In this low life: They oft continue long,
Whenas our spright more potently is hit
By their incursions and appulses strong,
Like heated water, though a while but hung
On fiercer fire, an hot impression
Long time retains; so forms more stoutly flung
Against our spright make deep insculption;
Long time it is till their clear abolition.

Hence springeth that which men call memory,
When outward object doth characterize
Our inward common spright; or when that we
From our own soul stir up clear phantasies
Which be our own elicited Idees,
Springing from our own centrall life, by might
Of our strong Fiat as oft as we please.
With these we seal that under grosser spright,
Make that our note-book, there our choicest notions write.

But sith it is not any part of us,
But 'longeth unto the great world, it must
Be chang'd; for course of Time voraginous
With rapid force is violently just,
Makes each thing pay with what it was in trust.
The common life sucks back the common spright,
The body backward falls into the dust;
It doth it by degrees. Hence phancie, sight,
And memory in age do not their functions right

Often disease, or some hard casualtie
Doth hurt this spirit, that a man doth lose
The use of sense, wit, phansie, memory;
That hence rash men our souls mortall suppose
Through their rude ignorance; but to disclose
The very truth, our soul's in safety
In that distemper, that doth ill dispose
Her under spright. But her sad misery
Is that so close she's tied in a prone Unitie,

Leans on this bodies false security,
Seeks for things there, not in herself, nor higher,
Extremely loves this bodies company,
Trusts in its life, thither bends her desire:
But when it gins to fail, she's left i' th' mire
Yet hard upon us hangs th' Eternall light
The ever-live-Idees, the ramping fire
Of lasting Intellect, whose nearnesse might
Illumin, were our minds not lost in that frail spright.

That spright and we are plain another thing:
Which now I'll clearly show that we may see
Our independency on his existing,
Which prove I must from eithers property.
That spright hath no perceptibility
Of his impressions: Phantasie nor sense
Perceive themselves; often with open eye
We look upon a man in our presence,
And yet of that near object have no cognoscence.

And so of Phansies that be fresh enough,
Even deeply scald upon that lower spright,
Unlesse we seek them out and pierce them through
With aiming animadversion, they in night
Do lurk unknown to us, though they be bright
In their own selves. Again, some object may
In its great vigour, lustre, sweying might
This spirit wound by its fierce riving ray;
Our sight is hurt by th' eye of the broad blasing day.

Beside the senses each one are restraind
To his own object: so is Phantasie.
That in the spirits compasse is containd;
As likewise the low naturall memory.
But sooth to say, by a strong sympathy
We both are mov'd by these, and these do move.
As the light spider that makes at a fly,
Her selfe now moves the web she subt'ly wove,
Mov'd first by her own web, when here the fly did rove.

Like spider in her web, so do we sit
Within this spirit, and if ought do shake
This subtile loom we feel as it doth hit;
Most part into adversion we awake,
Unlesse we chance into our selves betake
Our selves, and listen to the lucid voice
Of th' Intellect, which these low tumults slake:
But our own selves judge of whatere accloyes
Our muddied mind, or what lifts up to heavenly joyes.

All the five senses, Phansie, Memorie,
We feel their work, distinguish and compare,
Find out their natures by the subtiltie
Of sifting reason. Then they objects are
Of th' understanding, bear no greater share
In this same act then objects wont to do.
They are two reallies distinguish'd clear
One from the other, as I erst did show,
She knows that spright, that spright our soul can never know.

Sense, Phansie, Memorie, as afore was said
Be hurt by stronger objects, or be spoild
By longer exercise: Our soul ne're fades,
But doth her spright commiserate long toiled
With agitation, when she feels it moild
Descends to comfort it, and gives it rest;
But she grows quicker, vaster, never foild
With contemplations that this spright molest:
The inward soul's renew'd as cannot be express.

How soul and spright be severed we see,
But how's works by it self is not yet shown;
I mean without this sprights assistencie,
Though not quite by her self. High light doth crown,
Her summitie, when sleep that spright doth drown
Rapt into highest heavens in ecstasie
She sees such things as would low life confound,
Enrage with a tumultuous agonie,
Burst this pent spright for want of fit capacitie.

Then is she joynd with the Eternall Idees,
Which move our souls as sights do here below:
Joynd with the spright of God we gaze on these,
As by the Mundane spright th' Out-world we know
Our soul hangs twixt them both, and there doth go
Where either spright doth snatch her. Either raise
Her inward forms, which leap out nothing slow
When sympathie them calls. Thus she displayes
Her inward life, God's light views with her wakened rayes.

59
When we confute a pregnant falsitie
Cloth'd with strong phantasmes in our snared mind,
As this suppose: The earths stabilitie,
What help can we in our low phansie find,
Possest of this impression? what shall bind
This stubborn falshood so inveterate?
That spright so stifly set can't be inclin'd
By ought but by the soul that contemplates
Truth by her self, brings out her forms that be innate?

Flies she to sense? sense pleads for Ptolemee.
Flies she to her low phansie? that's so swayd
By sense, and fore-impress Astronomie,
By botch'd inculcate paradigmes made
By senses dictate, that they'll both perswade
That Philolaus and wife Heraclide
Be frantick both, Copernicus twice mad.
She cannot then this question well decide.
By ought but her own forms that in her self reside.

Which she calls out unto her faithfull aid,
Commands deep silence to fond phantasie,
Whose odious prating truth hath oh betraid,
And in her stead brought in rash falsitie,
Seated in sowr inert stupiditie.
Then farewell sense, and what from sense hath sprong,
Saith she, I'll contemplate in puritie,
And quit my self of that tumultuous throng:
What then she finds shall be unfold in my next song.

[Grosart (1878) 70-75]