1647
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Sleep of the Soul. [Canto II.]

Philosophical Poems comprising Psychozoia and Minor Poems.

Rev. Henry More




CANTO II.
Bondage and freedom's here set out
By an inverted Cone:
The self-form'd soul may work without
Incoroporation.

Fountain of beings! the vast deep abysse
Of Life and Love and penetrating Will,
That breaks through narrow Night, and so transmiss
At last doth find it self! What mortall skill
Can reach this mystery? my trembling quill
Much lesse may set it forth; yet as I may
I must attempt this task for to fulfill.
He guide my pen while I this work assay
Who All, through all himself doth infinitely display.

My end's loose largenesse and full liberty
To finden out; Most precious thing I ween.
When centrall life her outgone energy
Doth spreaden forth, unsneep'd by foe-man keen,
And like unclouded Sunne doth freely shine;
This is right Liberty, whose first Idee ,
And measure is that holy root divine
Of all free life, hight Abad, Unitie:
In all things He at once is present totally.

Each totall presence must be infinite:
So is He infinite infinity,
Those infinites you must not disunite:
So is He one all-spreaden Unity.
Nor must you so outspread this Deitie,
But that infinitie so infinite
Must be in every infinite: so we
Must multiply this infinite single sight
Above all apprehension of a mortall wit.

What is not infinitely infinite,
It is not simply infinite and free:
For straitnesse (if you do conceive aright)
Is the true daughter of deficiency.
But sith there's no defect in Unity,
Or Abad, (Abad this first centre hight:
In Poetry as yet to vulgar eye
Unpublish'd). Him first freedome infinite
We may well style. And next is that eternall Light;

Sonne unto Abad, Aeon we him name
(In that same Poem) like his father free,
Even infinitely free I him proclaim
Everywhere all at once. And so is she
Which Psyche hight: for perfect Unity
Makes all those one. So hitherto we have
Unmeasurable freedome. Semele
Is next, whom though fair fluttering forms embrave,
Yet motion and defect her liberty deprave.

Imagination's not infinite,
Yet freer farre than sense; and sense more free
Then vegetation or spermatick spright.
Even absent things be seen by phantasie;
By sense things present at a distancie;
But that spermatick spright is close confin'd
Within the compasse of a stupid tree
Imprison'd quite in the hard rugged rind,
Yet their defective Replication we find:

Farre more defective then in phantasie
Or sense; yet freer is the plastick spright
Then quantity, or single quality,
Like quantity itself out-stretched right
Devoid of all reduplicative might:
If any such like qualities there were
So dull, so dead, so all devoid of light
As no communicative rayes to bear
If there be such, to Hyle they do verge most near.

But Hyle's self is perfect penurie,
And infinite straitnesse: here we finden nought,
Nor can do ought. If curiously we prie
Into this mirksome corner quite distraught
From our own life and being, we have brought
Our selves to nothing. Or the sooth to sayen
The subtilest soul her self hath never wrought
Into so strait a place, could nere constrain
Herself to enter, or that Hagge to entertain.

Lo! here's the figure of that mighty Cone,
From the strait Cuspis to the wide-spread Base
Which is even all in comprehension.
What's infinitely nothing here hath place;
What's infinitely all things steady stayes
At the wide Basis of this Cone inverse
Yet its own essence doth it swiftly chace,
Oretakes at once; so swiftly doth it pierce
That motion here's no motion.

Suppose the Sunne so much to mend his pace
That in a moment he did round the skie,
The nimble Night how swiftly would he chace
About the earth? so swift that scarce thine eye
Could ought but light discern. But let him hie
So fast, that swiftnesse hath grown infinite,
In a pure point of time so must he flie
Around this ball, and the vast shade of Night
Quite swallow up, ever steady stand in open sight.

For that which from its place is not away
One point of time, how can you say it moves?
Wherefore the Sunne doth alwayes steady stay
In our Meridian, as this reason proves.
And sith that in an instant round he roves,
The same doth hap in each Meridian line;
For in his instantaneous removes
He in them all at once doth fairely shine.
Nor that large stretcher space his freenesse can confine.

The Sun himself at once stands in each point
Of his diurnall circle: Thus we see
That rest and motion cannot be disjoynt,
When motion's swift even to infinity.
Here contrarieties do well agree,
Eternall shade and everlasting light
With one another here do well comply;
Instant returns of Night make one long Night.
Wherefore infinity is Freedome infinite.

No hinderance to ought that doth arrive
To this free camp of fair Elysium,
But nearer that to Hyle things do dive,
They are more pent, and find much lesser room.
Thus sensuall souls do find their righteous doom
Which Nemesis inflicts, when they descend
From heavenly thoughts that from above do come
To lower life, which wrath and grief attend,
And scorching lust, that do the souls high honour blend.

Wherefore the soul cut off from lowly sense
By harmlesse fate, farre greater liberty
Must gain: for when it hath departed hence
(As all things else) should it not backward hie
From whence it came? but such divinity
Is in our souls that nothing lesse then God
Could send them forth (as Plato's schools descry)
Wherefore when they retreat, a free abode
They'll find, unlesse kept off by Nemesis just rod.

But if kept off from thence, where is she then?
She dwells in her own self; there doth reside,
Is her own world, and more or lesse doth pen
Her self, as more or lesse she erst did side
With sense and vice, while here she did abide.
Steril defect and nere-obtaind desire
Create a Cone, whose Cusp is not more wide
Then this worlds Cone. Here close-contracted fire
Doth vex, doth burn, doth scorch with searching heat and ire.

Nor easly can she here fall fast asleep
To slake her anguish and tormenting pain:
What drilling mists may here her senses steep?
What foggie fumes benumb her moistned brain?
The flitten soul no sense doth then retain,
And sleep ariseth from a sympathie
With these low sprights that in this flesh remain.
But when from these the soul is setten free,
What sleep may bind her from continuall energie?

Here they'll reply, It is not a grosse sleep
That binds the soul from operation.
But sith that death all phantasms clean doth wipe
Out of the soul, she no occasion
Can have of Will or Intellection.
The corpse doth rot, the spirit wide is spread,
And with the Mundane life fallen into one:
So then the soul from these quite being fled,
Unmov'd of ought must lie, sunk in deep drowsihead.

Nought then she hath whereon to contemplate,
Her ancient phantasms melt and glide away,
Her spright suck'd back by all-devouring fate
And spread abroad, those forms must needs decay
That were therein imprinted. If they stay,
Yet sith the soul from them is disunite
Into her knowledge they can never ray.
So wants she objects the mind to excite:
Wherefore asleep she lies wrapt in eternall Night.

To which I answer, though she corporate
With no world yet, by a just Nemesis
Kept off from all; yet she thus separate
May oft be struck with potent rayes transmisse
From divers worlds, that with such mockeries
Kindling an hungry fire and eager will,
They do the wretched soul but Tantalize,
And with fierce choking flames and fury fill,
So vext, that if she could, in rage herself she'd kill.

If any doubt of this perplexitie,
And think so subtil thing can suffer nought:
What's gnawing conscience from impietie
By highest parts of humane soul ywrought?
For so our very soul with pain is fraught,
The body being in an easie plight.
Through all the senses when you've pressly sought,
In none of them you'll find this sting empight:
So may we deem this dart the soul it self to hit.

Again, when all the senses be ybound
In sluggish sloth, the soul doth oft create
So mighty pain, so cruelly doth wound
Herself with tearing tortures, as that state
No man awake could ever tolerate.
Which must be in herself: for once return'd
Unto her body new resuscitate
From sleep, remembring well how erst she mourn'd,
Marvels how all so soon to peace and ease is turn'd.

Wherefore the soul itself receiveth pain
From her own self, withouten sympathie
With something else, whose misery must constrain
To deep compassion. So if struck she be
With secret ray, or some strong energie
Of any world, or Lives that there remain,
She's kept awake. Besides fecunditie
Of her own nature surely doth contain
Innate Idees; This truth more fully I'll explain.

Strong forward-bearing will or appetite,
A never-wearied importunitie,
Is the first life of this deep centrall spright:
Thus thrusts she forth before her some Idee
Whereby herself now actuall she doth see.
Her mighty Fiat doth command each form
T' appear: As did that ancient Majestie
This world of old by his drad Word efform,
And made the soul of man thus divine Deiform.

Thus in a manner th' humane soul creates
The image of her will, when from her centre
Her pregnant mind she fairly explicates
By actuall forms, and so doth safely enter
To knowledge of her self.
Flush light she sendeth forth, and live Idees:
Those be the glasse whereby the soul doth paint her.
Sweet centrall love sends out such forms as please,
But centrall hate or fear foul shapes with evil ease.

The manner of her life on earth may cause
Diversity of those eruptions,
For will, desire, or custome do dispose
The soul to such like figurations:
Propension brings imaginations,
Unto their birth. And oft the soul lets flie
Such unexpected eructations,
That she her self cannot devisen why,
Unlesse she do ascribe it to her pregnancy.

It is an argument of her forms innate
Which brazen out, perchance when none descry.
This light is lost, sense doth so radiate
With Mundane life, till this poor carcase die.
As when a lamp, that men do sitten by,
In some wide hall in a clear winter night,
Being blown out or wasted utterly,
Unwares they find a sly still silver light;
The moon the wall or pavement with mild rayes hath dight.

So when the oyl of this low life is spent,
Which like a burning lamp doth waste away;
Or if blown out by fate more violent;
The soul may find an unexpected ray
Of light; not from full-faced Cynthia,
But her own fulnesse and quick pregnancy:
Unthought of life her Nature may display
Unto her self; not by forc'd industry,
But naturally it sprouts from her fecundity.

Now sith adversion is a property
So deeply essentiall to the rationall soul,
This light or life from her doth not so fly,
But she goes with it as it out doth roll.
All spirits that around their rates extoll
Possesse each point of their circumference
Presentially. Wherefore the soul so full
Of life, when it raies out, with presse presence
Oretakes each outgone beam; apprends it by advertence.

Thus plainly we perceive th' activity
Of the departed soul; if we could find
Strong reason to confirm th' innate idee,
Essentiall forms created with the mind.
But things obscure no'te easly be defin'd.
Yet some few reasons I will venture at,
To show that God's so liberall and kind
As, when an humane soul he doth create,
To fill it with hid forms and deep idees innate.

Well sang the wise Empedocles of old,
That earth by earth, and sea by sea we see,
And heaven by heaven, and fire more bright than gold
By flaming fire; so gentle love descry
By love, and hate by hate. And all agree
That like is known by like. Hence they confesse
That some externall species strikes the eye
Like to its object, in the self-same dresse.
But my first argument hence I'll begin to presse.

If like be known by like, then must the mind
Innate idolums in it self contain,
To judge the forms she doth imprinted find
Upon occasions. If she doth not ken
These shapes that flow from distant objects, then
How can she know those objects? a dead glasse
(That light and various forms do gaily stain)
Set out in open streets, shapes as they passe
As well may see; Lutes hear each soaming diapase.

But if she know those species out-sent
From distant objects; tell me how she knows
These species. By some other? You nere ment
To answer so. For straight the question goes
Unto another, and still forward flows
Even to infinity. Doth th' object serve
Its image to the mind for to disclose?
This answer hath as little sense or nerve:
Now reel you in a circle if you well observe.

Wherefore no ascititious form alone
Can make us see or hear; but when this spright
That is one with the Mundane's hit upon
(Sith all forms in our soul be counite
And centrally lie there) she doth beget
Like shapes in her own self; that energie
By her own centrall self who forth it let,
Is view'd. Her centrall omniformity
Thus easly keepeth off needlesse infinity.

For the quick soul by't self doth all things know
And sith withouten apt similitude
Nought's known, upon her we must needs bestow
Essentiall centrall forms, that thus endew'd
With universall likenesse ever transmew'd
Into a representing energie
Of this or that, she may have each thing view'd
By her own centrall self-vitality
Which is her self-essentiall omniformity.

If plantall souls in their own selves contain
That vitall formative fecundity,
That they a tree with different colour stain,
And divers shapes, smoothnesse, asperity,
Straightnesse, acutenesse, and rotundity,
A golden yellow, or a crimson red,
A varnish'd green with such like gallantry;
How dull then is the sensitive? how dead,
If forms from its own centre it can never spread?

Again, an Universall notion,
What object ever did that form impresse
Upon the soul? What makes us venture on
So rash a matter, as ere to confesse
Ought generally true? when neverthelesse
We cannot e're runne through all singulars.
Wherefore in our own souls we do possesse
Free forms and immateriall characters.
Hence 'tis the soul so boldly generall truth declares.

What man that is not dull or mad would doubt
Whether that truth (for which Pythagoras,
When he by subtile study found it out,
Unto the Muses for their helping grace
An Hecatomb did sacrifice) may passe
In all such figures wheresoever they be?
Yet all Rectangle Triangles none has
Viewed, as yet, none all shall ever see.
Wherefore this free assent is from th' innate Idee.

Adde unto these incorporeity
Apprehended by the soul, when sense nere saw
Ought incorporeall. Wherefore must she
From her own self such subtile Idols draw.
Again, this truth more clearly still to know,
Let's turn again to our Geometry.
What body ever yet could figure show
Perfectly perfect, as rotundity
Exactly round, or blamelesse angularity?

Yet doth the soul of such like forms discourse,
And finden fault at this deficiency,
And rightly term this better and that worse;
Wherefore the measure is our own Idee,
Which th' humane soul in her own self doth see.
And sooth to sayen when ever she doth strive
To find pure truth, her own profundity
She enters, in her self doth deeply dive;
From thence attempts each essence rightly to descrive.

Last argument, which yet is not the least.
Wise Socrates dispute with Theaetete
Concerning learning fitly doth suggest.
A midwifes sonne ycleeped Phenarete,
He calls himself: Then makes a quaint conceit,
That he his mothers trade did exercise.
All witlesse his own self yet well did weet
By his fit questions to make others wise;
A midwife that no'te bear, anothers birth unties.

Thus jestingly he flung out what was true,
That humane souls be sworn with pregnancy
Of hidden knowledge; if with usage due
They were well handled, they each verity
Would bringen forth from their fecunditie;
Wise-framed questions would facilitate
This precious birth, stirre up th' inward Idee,
And make it streme with light from forms innate.
Thus may a skilfull man hid truth elicitate.

What doth the teacher in his action
But put slight hints into his scholars mind?
Which breed a solemn contemplation
Whether such things be so; but he doth find
The truth himself. But if truth be not sign'd
In his own Soul before, and the right measure
Of things propos'd, in vain the youth doth wind
Into himself, and all that anxious leasure
In answering proves uselesse without that hid treasure.

Nor is his masters knowledge from him flit
Into his scholars head: for so his brain
In time would be exhaust and void of wit,
So would the very man but little gain
Though richly paid. Nor is't more safe to sain
As fire breeds fire, art art doth generate,
The soul with Corporeity 't would stain:
Such qualities outwardly operate,
The soul within; her acts there closely circulate.

Wherefore the soul it self by her Idee,
Which is her self, doth every thing discover;
By her own Centrall Omniformity
Brings forth in her own self when ought doth move her;
Till mov'd a dark indifferency doth hover.
But fierce desire, and a strong piercing will
Makes her those hidden characters uncover.
Wherefore when death this lower life shall spill,
Or fear or love the soul with actuall forms shall fill.

[Grosart (1878) 107-11]