1647
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Immortality of the Soul. [Book III Canto 4.]

Philosophical Poems comprising Psychozoia and Minor Poems.

Rev. Henry More




BOOK III. CANTO 4.
Justice, true faith in the first good,
Our best perswasion
Of blest eternity unmov'd,
The earths conflagration.

It doth me good to think what things will follow
That well-prov'd thesis in my former song;
How we in liquid heavens more swift then swallow
Do sail on Tellus lap, that doth among
The other starres of right not rudely throng,
We have what highest thoughts of man desire:
But highest thoughts of man are vain and wrong.
In outward heaven we burn with hellish fire,
Hate, envie, covetise, revenge, lust, pride and ire.

In the eighth sphear Andromeda from chains
Is not releast; fearfull Orion flies
The dreadfull Scorpion. Alas! what gains
Then is't to live in the bright starry skies?
It no man can exeem from miseries.
All you that seek for true felicity
Rend your own hearts: There God himself descries
Himself; there dwels his beautious Majesty;
There shines the sun of righteousnesse in goodly glee.

And you who boldly all Gods providence
Confine to this small ball, that Tellus hight,
And dream not of a mutuall influence,
And how that she may shine with beames bright
At a farre distance clad with Sols lent light,
As Venus and the Moon; O you that make
This earth Gods onely darling dear delight,
All th' other orbs merely for this orbs rake
So swiftly for to run, with labour never slack,

To dance attendance on their Princesse Earth
In their quick circuits, and with anger keen
Would bite him, that or serious or in mirth
Doubts the prerogative of your great Queen!
Best use of that your Theory, I ween,
Is this; that as your selves monopolize
All the whole world, so your selves back again
You wholly give to God. Who can devise
A better way? Mans soul to God this closely tyes.

But if the Earth doth thankfully reflect
Both light and influence to other starres,
As well as they to it, where's the defect?
That sweet subordination it mars;
Gods love to us then not so plain appears:
For then the starres be mutually made
One for another: Each all the good then bears
Of th' Universe, for 'tis single labour paid
With the joint pains of all that in the heavens wade.

Rare reason! why I then God would be too good.
What judgeth so but envie, and vain pride,
And base contract self-love? which that free floud
Of bounty hath so confidently tied
Unto itself alone. Large hearts deride
This pent hypocrisie. Is he good to me?
That grace I would not ere should be deny'd
Unto my fellow: My felicity
Is multiply'd, when others I like happy see.

But if the rolling starres with mutuall rayes
Serve one another; sweet fraternity
And humble love, with such like lore we'll raise,
While we do see Gods great benignity
Thus mutually reflected in the skie,
And these round-moving worlds communicate
One with another by spread sympathy:
This all things friendly will concatenate:
But let more hardy wits that truth determinate.

It me behoves t' hold forward on my way,
Leaving this uncouth strange Philosophy,
In which my lightsome pen too long did play,
As rigid men in sad severity
May deem; but we right carelesse leave that free
Unto their censure. Now more weighty thought
Doth sway our mind, thinking how all doth flee
Whatever we have painfully ytaught;
So little fruits remain of all my skill hath wraught.

O th' emptinesse of vain Philosophy;
When thin-spun reason and exile discourse
Make the soul creep through a straight Theory,
Whither the blunter mind can never force
Her self; yet off, alas! the case is worse
Of this so subtile wight, when dangers deep
Approch his life, then his who learnings sourse
Did never drink of, nere his lips did steep
In Plato's springs, nor with low gown the dust did sweep.

Certes such knowledge is a vanity,
And hath no strength t' abide a stormy stour;
Such thin slight clothing, will not keep us dry
When the grim heavens, all black and sadly soure
With rage and tempest, plenteously down shower
Great flouds of rain. Dispread exility
Of slyer reasons fails: Some greater power
Found in a lively vigorous Unity
With God, must free the soul from this perplexity.

Say now the dagger touch'd thy trembling breast,
Couldst thou recall the reasons I have shown
To prove th' immortall state of men deceast?
Evolved reason cannot stand at one
Stoutly to guard thy soul from passion.
They passe successively like sand i' th' glasse;
While thou look'st upon this the other's gone.
But there's a plight of soul such virtue has
Which reasons weak assistance strangely doth surpasse.

The just and constant man, a multitude
Set upon mischief cannot him constrain
To do amisse by all their uprores rude;
Not for a tyrants threat will he ere stain
His inward honour. The rough Adrian
Tost with unquiet winds doth nothing move
His steady heart. Much pleasure he doth gain
To see the glory of his Master Jove,
When his drad darts with hurrying light through all do rove.

If Heaven and Earth should rush with a great noise,
He fearlesse stands; he knows whom he doth trust,
Is confident of his souls after joyes,
Though this vain bulk were grinded into dust.
Strange strength resideth in the soul that's just,
She feels her power how's commands the sprite
Of the low man, vigorously finds she must
Be independent of such feeble might,
Whose motions dare not 'pear before her awfull sight.

But yet my Muse, still take a higher flight,
Sing of Platonick Faith in the first Good,
That Faith that doth our souls to God unite
So strongly, tightly, that the rapid floud
Of tints swift flux of things, nor with foul mud
Can stain, nor strike us off from th' unity,
Wherein we stedfast stand, unshak'd, unmov'd,
Engrafted by a deep vitality:
The prop and stay of things is Gods benignity.

Als is the rule of his Oeconomie:
No other cause the creature brought to light
But the first Goods pregnant fecundity:
He to himself is perfect full delight;
He wanteth nought, with his own beams bedight
He glory has enough. O blasphemy!
That envy gives to God or soure despight!
Harsh hearts! that feign in God a tyranny,
Under pretense t' encrease his sovereign Majesty.

When nothing can to Gods own self accrew,
Who's infinitely happy; sure the end
Of this creation simply was to shew
His flowing goodnesse, which he doth out-send
Not for himself; for nought can him amend;
But to his creature doth his good impart,
This infinite Good through all the world doth wend
To fill with heavenly blisse each willing heart:
So the free Sunne doth 'light and 'liven every part.

This is the measure of Gods providence,
The key of knowledge, the first fair Idee,
The eye of truth, the spring of living sense,
Whence sprout Gods secrets, the sweet mystery
Of lasting life, eternall charity.
But you O bitter men and soure of sprite!
Which brand Gods name with such foul infamy
As though poor humane race he did or slight,
Or curiously view to do them some despight,

And all to shew his mighty excellency,
His uncontrolled strength: fond men! areed,
Is't not as great an act from misery
To keep the feeble, as his life to speed
With fatall stroke? The weak shak'd whisling reed
Shows Boreas wondrous strong! but ignorance
And false conceit is the foul spirits meed;
Gods lovely life hath there no enterance;
Hence their fond thoughts for truth they vainly do advance.

If God do all things simply at his pleasure
Because he will, and not because its good,
So that his actions will have no set measure;
Is't possible it should be understood
What he intends? I feel that he is lov'd
Of my dear soul, and know that I have born
Much for his sake; yet is it not hence prov'd
That I shall live, though I do nigh and mourn
To find his face; his creatures, wish he'll slight and scorn.

When I breathe out my utmost vitall breath,
And my dear spirit to my God commend,
Yet some foul feigne close lurking underneath
My serious humble soul from me may rend:
So to the lower shades down we shall wend,
Though I in hearts simplicity expected
A better doom; sith I my steps did bend
Toward the will of God, and had detected
Strong hope of lasting life, but now I am rejected.

Nor of well-being, nor subsistency
Of our poor souls, when they do hence depart,
Can any be assur'd, if liberty
We give to such odde thoughts, that thus pervert
The laws of God, and rashly do assert
That will rules God, but Good rules not Gods will.
Whatere from right, love, equity, doth start,
For ought we know then God may act that ill,
Onely to show his might, and his free mind fulfill.

O belch of hell! O horrid blasphemy!
That Heavens unblemish'd beauty thus dost stain
And brand Gods nature with such infamy:
Can Wise, Just, Good, do ought that's harsh or vain?
All what he doth is for the creatures gain,
Not seeking ought from us for his content:
What is a drop unto the Ocean main?
All he intends is our accomplishment,
His being is self-full, self-joy'd, self-excellent.

He his fair beams through all has freely sent:
Purge but thy soul that thou mayst take them in.
With froward hypocrite he never went,
That finds pretexts to keep his darling sinne.
Through all the Earth this Sprite takes pains to winne
Unto himself such as be simply true,
And with malignant pride resist not him,
But strive to do what he for right doth shew;
So still a greater light be brings into their view.

All Lives in severall circumference
Look up unto him and expect their food;
He opes his hand, showrs down their sustinence:
So all things be yfild with their wish'd good,
All drink, are satisfi'd from this free floud.
But circling life that yet unsettled is
Grows straight, as it is further still remov'd
From the first simple Good, obtains lesse blisse,
Sustains sharp pans inflicted by just Nemesis.

But why do I my soul loose and disperse
With mouldring reason, that like sand doth flow.
Life close united with that Good, a verse
Cannot declare, nor its strange virtue show.
That's it holds up the soul in all her wo
That death, nor hell, nor any change doth fray.
Who walks in light knows whither he doth go;
Our God is light, we children of the day.
God is our strength and hope, what can us then dismay?

Goodnesse itself will do to us this good,
That godly souls may dwell with him for aye.
Will God forsake what of himself's belov'd?
What ever Lives may shrink into cold clay;
Yet good mens souls deaths hests shall not obey.
Where there's no incompossibility
Of things, Gods goodnesse needs must bear the sway.
You virtuous brood take't for sure verity,
Your souls shall not fall short of blest eternity.

But yet bold men with much perplexity
Will here object against this principle,
Heaping up reasons (strange fecundity
Of ignorance!) that goodly might to quell
Of my left argument, so fairly well
Set down, right strongly the unsettled spright
To have confirmed at my last far-well:
But contrair forces they bring into sight
And proudly do provoke me with that rout to fight.

Whence was't, say they, that God the creature made
No sooner? why did infinite delay
Precede his work? should God his goodnesse staid
So long a time? why did he not display
From infinite years this out-created ray
The mighty starres why not inhabited,
When God may souls proportion to their clay
As well as to this earth? why not dispred
The world withouten bounds, endlesse uncompassed?

Poore souls! why were they put into this cave
Of misery, if they can well exist
Without the body? Why will not God save
All mankind? His great wisdome if it list
Could so contrive that they'd at last desist
From sinning, fallen into some providence
That sternly might rebuke them that have mist
Their way, and work in them true penitence:
Thus might they turn to God with double diligence.

Why be not damned souls devoyd of sense
If nothing can from wickednesse reclaime,
Rather then fry in pain and vehemence
Of searching agony? or why not frame
Another form, so with new shape and name
Again to turn to life? One centrall spright
Why mayst not many forms in it contain
Which may be wak'd by some magnetick might,
'Cording as is the matter upon which they light?

For when two severall kinds by Venus knit
Do cause a birth, from both the soul doth take
A tincture; but if free it were transmit
Uncloth'd with th' others seed, then it would make
One simple form; for then they could not slake
One th' others working. Why is the World still
Stark nought, through malice, or through blind mistake?
Why had the first-made man such a loose will
That his innumerous of-spring he should fouly spill.

Why was not this unlucky world dissolv'd
As soon as that unhappy Adam fell?
I itch till of this knot I be resolv'd:
So many myriads tumble down to hell,
Although partakers of Gods holy spell.
Beside, tis said, they that do not partake
Of Christian lore, for ever they must dwell
With cursed fiends, and burn in brimstone lake:
Such drery drad designee do make my heart to quake.

One of a multitude of myriads
Shall not be sav'd but broyl in scorching wo?
Innumerous mischiefs then to mischiefs addes
This worlds continuance if that be so:
Ill infinitely more then good doth grow.
So God would show much more benignity
If he the ribs of heaven about would strong
Powder the earth, choke all vitality
Call back the creature to its ancient nullity.

But thou whoere thou art that thus doth strive
With fierce assault my groundwork to subvert
And boldly dost into Gods secrets dive,
Base fear my manly face noise make m' avert.
In that odde question which thou first didst stert
I'll plainly prove thine incapacity,
And force thy feeble feet back to revert,
That cannot climb so high a mystery:
I'll shew thee strange perplexed inconsistency.

Why was this world from all infinity
Not made? say'st thou: why? could it be so made
Say I? For well observe the sequency:
If this Out-world continually hath wade
Through a long long-spun-time that never had
Beginning, then there as few circulings
Have been in the quick Moon as Saturn sad
And still more plainly this clear truth to sing,
As many years as dayes or fleeting houres have been.

For things that we conceive are infinite,
One th' other no'te surpasse in quantity.
So I have prov'd with clear convincing light,
This world could never from infinity
Been made. Certain deficiency
Doth alwayes follow evolution:
Nought's infinite but tight eternity,
Close thrust into itself: extension
That's infinite implies a contradiction.

So then for ought we know this world was made
So soon as such a Nature could exist
And though that it continue, never fade,
Yet never will it be that that long twist
Of time prove infinite, though nere desist
From running still. But we may safely say
Time past compar'd with this long future list,
Doth show as if the world but yesterday
Were made, and in due time Gods glory out may ray.

Then this short night and ignorant dull ages
Will quite be swallowed in oblivion;
And though this hope by many surly Sages
Be now derided, yet they'll all be gone
In a short time, like Bats and Owls yflone
At dayes approch. This will hap certainly
At this worlds shining conflagration.
Fayes, Satyrs, Goblins the night merrily
May spend, but ruddy Sol shall make them all to fly.

The roaring Lions and drad beasts of prey
Rule in the dark with pitious cruelty;
But harmlesse man is maister of the day,
Which doth his work in pure simplicity:
God blesse his honest usefull industry.
But pride and covetize, ambition,
Riot, revenge, self love, hypocrisie,
Contempt of goodnesse, forc'd opinion
These and such like do breed the worlds confusion.

But sooth to say though my triumphant Muse
Seemeth to vaunt as in got victory,
And with puissant stroke the head to bruize
Of her stiffe foe, and daze his phantasie,
Captive his reason, dead each faculty:
Yet in her self so strong a force withstands
That of her self afraid, she'll not aby,
Nor keep the field. She'll fall by her own hand
As Ajax once laid Ajax dead upon the strand.

For thus her self by her own self's oppos'd
The Heavens, the Earth, the universall Frame
Of living Nature, God so soon disclos'd
As he could do, or she receive the same.
All times delay since that must turn to blame,
And what cannot he do that can be done?
And what might let but by th' all-powerfull Name
Or Word of God, the Worlds Creation
More suddenly were made then mans swift thought can runne.

Wherefore that Heavenly Power or is as young
As this Worlds date; or else some needlesse space
Of time was spent, before the earth did clung
So close unto her self and seas embrace
Her hollow breast; and if that time surpasse
A finite number, then infinity
Of years before this Worlds Creation passe.
So that the durance of the Deity
We must contract, or strait his full Benignity.

But for the cradle of the Cretian Jove,
And guardians of his vagient Infancie
What sober man but sagely will reprove?
Or drown the noise of the fond Dactyli
By laughter loud? Dated Divinitie
Certes is but the dream of a drie brain:
God maim'd in goodnesse, inconsistencie;
Wherefore my troubled mind is now in pain
Of a new birth, which this one Canto'll not contain.

[Grosart (1878) 83-87]