1647
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Sleep of the Soul. [Canto III.]

Philosophical Poems comprising Psychozoia and Minor Poems.

Rev. Henry More




CANTO III.
Departed souls by living Night
Suckt in, for pinching wo
No'te sleep; or if with God unite,
For joyes with which they flow.

My hardest task is gone, which was to prove
That when the soul by death's cut off from all,
Yet she within her self might live and move,
Be her own world, by life imaginall.
But sooth to sain, 't seems not so naturall.
For though a starre, part of the Mundane spright,
Shine out with rayes circumferentiall
So long as with this world it is unite;
Yet what t'would do cut off, so well we cannot weet.

But sith our soul with God himself may meet,
Inacted by His life, I cannot see
What scruple then remains that moven might
Least doubt, but that she wakes with open eye,
When Fate her from this body doth untie.
Wherefore her choicest forms do then arise,
Rowz'd up by union and large sympathy
With Gods own spright; she plainly then descries
Such plentitude of life, as she could nere devise.

If God even on this body operate,
And shakes this Temple when he doth descend,
Or with sweet vigour doth irradiate,
And lovely light and heavenly beauty lend.
Such rayes from Moses face did once extend
Themselves on Sinai hill, where he did get
Those laws from Gods own mouth, mans life to mend;
And from Messias on mount Saron set
Farre greater beauty shone in his disciples sight.

Als Socrates, when (his large Intellect
Being fill'd with streaming light from God above)
To that fair sight his soul did close collect,
That inward lustre through the body drove
Bright beams of beauty. These examples prove
That our low being the great Deity
Invades, and powerfully doth change and move.
Which if you grant, the souls divinity
More fitly doth receive so high a Majesty.

And that God doth illuminate the mind,
Is well-approv'd by all antiquity;
With them Philosophers and Priests we find
All one: or else at least Philosophy
Link'd with Gods worship and pure piety:
Witnesse Pythagoras, Aglaophemus,
Zoroaster, thrice-mighty Mercury,
Wise Socrates, nothing injurious,
Religious Plato, and vice-taming Orpheus.

All these, addicted to religion,
Acknowledg'd God the fount of verity,
From whence flows out illumination
Upon purg'd souls. But now, O misery!
To seek to God is held a phantasie,
But men hug close their loved lust and vice,
And deem that thraldome a sweet liberty;
Wherefore reproch and shame they do devise
Against the braver souls that better things emprise.

But lo! a proof more strong and manifest:
Few men but will confesse that prophesie
Proceeds from God, when as our soul's possest
By his All-seeing spright; als ecstasie
Wherein the soul snatch'd by the Deity.
And for a time into high heaven hent
Doth contemplate that blest Divinity
So Paul and John that into Patmos went,
Heard and saw things inestimably excellent.

Such things as these, men joyntly do confesse
To spring from Gods own spirit immediately:
But if that God ought on the soul impresse
Before it be at perfect liberty,
Quite rent from this base body; when that she
Is utterly releast, she'll be more fit
To be inform'd by that divine Idee
Hight Logos, that doth every man enlight
That enters into life, as speaks the sacred Writ.

Behold a fit resemblance of this truth,
The Sun begetteth both colours and sight,
Each living thing with life his heat indew'th,
He kindles into act each plastick spright:
Thus he the world with various forms doth dight
And when his vigour hath fram'd out an eye
In any living wight, he fills with light
That Organ, which can plainly then descry
The forms that under his far-shining beams do ly.

Even so it is with th' intellectuall sunne,
Fountain of life, and all-discovering light,
He frames our souls by his creation,
Als he indews them with internall sight,
Then shines into them by his lucid spright.
But corporall life doth so obnubilate
Our inward eyes that they be nothing bright;
While in this muddy world incarcerate
They lie, and with blind passions be intoxicate.

Fear, anger, hope, fierce vengeance, and sworn hate,
Tumultuous joy, envie and discontent,
Self-love, vain-glory, strife and fell debate,
Unsatiate covetise, desire impotent,
Low-sinking griefe, pleasure, lust violent,
Fond emulation, all these dim the mind
That with foul filth the inward eye yblent,
That light that is so near it cannot find.
So shines the Sunne unseen on a trees rugged rind.

But the clean soul by virtue purifi'd
Collecting her own self from the foul steem
Of earthly life, is often dignifi'd
With that pure pleasure that from God doth streem,
Often's enlightn'd by that radiant beam,
That issues forth from his divinity,
Then feelingly immortall she doth deem
Her self, conjoynd by so near unity
With God, and nothing doubts of her eternitie.

Nor death, nor sleep nor any dismall shade
Of low contracting life she then doth fear,
No troubled thoughts her settled mind invade,
Th' immortall root of life she seeth clear,
Wisheth she were for ever grafted here:
No cloud, no darknesse, no deficiency
In this high heavenly life doth ere appear;
Redundant fulnesse, and free liberty,
Easie-flowing knowledge, never weary energy,

Broad open sight, eternall wakefulnesse,
Withouten labour or consuming pain:
The soul all these in God must needs possesse
When there deep-rooted life she doth obtain,
As I in a few words shall maken plain.
This bodies life by powerfull sympathy
The soul to sleep and labour doth constrain,
To grief, to wearinesse and anxiety,
In fine, to hideous sense of dread mortality.

But sith no such things in the Deity
Are to be found; Shee once incorporate
With that quick essence, she is settee free
From ought that may her life obnubilate,
What then can her contract or maken strait?
For ever mov'd by lively sympathy
With Gods own spright, an ever-waking state
She doth obtain. Doth heavens bright blazing eye
Ever close, ywrapt in sleep and dead obscurity?

But now how full and strong a sympathy
Is caused by the souls conjunction
With the high God, I'll to you thus descry.
All men will grant that spread dispersion
Must be some hinderance to close union:
Als must confesse that closer unity
More certainly doth breed compassion;
Not that there's passion in the Deity,
But something like to what all men call Sympathy.

Now sith the soul is of such subtlety,
And close collectednesse, indispersion,
Full by her centrall omniformity,
Pregnant and big without distension;
She once drawn in by strong attraction,
Should be more perfectly there counite
In this her high and holy union
Then with the body, where dispersion's pight:
(But such hard things I leave to some more learned wight)

The first pure Being's perfect Unity,
And therefore must all things more strongly bind
Then Lives corporeall, which dispersed be.
He also the first Goodnesse is defin'd
Wherefore the soul most powerfully's inclin'd
And strongly drawn to God. But life that's here,
When into it the soul doth closely wind,
Is often sneep'd by anguish and by fear,
With vexing pain and rage that she no'te easly bear.

Farre otherwise it fares in that pure life
That doth result in the souls Unity With God:
For there the faster she doth strive
To tie her selfe, the greater liberty
And freer welcome, brighter purity
She finds, and more enlargement, joy and pleasure
O'reflowing, yet without satietie,
Sight without end, and love withouten measure:
This needs must close unite the bears to that hid treasure.

This plainly's seen in that mysterious Cone
Which I above did fairly well descrive:
Their freenesse and incarceration
Were plainly setten forth. What down doth dive
Into the straitned Cuspis needs must strive
With stringent bitternesse, vexation,
Anxious unrest; in this ill plight they live:
But they that do ascend to th' top yflown
Be free, yet fast unite to that fair vision.

Thus purged souls be close conjoyn'd to God,
And closer union surer sympathy;
Wherefore so long as they make their abode
In Him, incorp'rate by due Unitie
They liven in eternall energie,
For Israels God nor slumbers, nor doth sleep;
Nor Israel lost in dull lethargie
Must listlesse ly, while numbing streams do steep.
His heavy head, overwhelmed in oblivion deep.

But here more curious men will straight enquire,
Whither after death the wicked soul doth go,
That long hath wallowed in the sinfull mire.
Before this question I shall answer to,
Again the nature of the soul I'll show,
She all things in her self doth centrally
Contain; whatever she doth feel or know,
She feels or knows it by th' innate Idee:
She's all proportion'd by her omniformity.

God, heaven, this middle world, deep glimmering hell
With all the lives and shapes that there remain,
The forms of all in humane souls do dwell:
She likewise all proportions doth contain
That fits her for all sprights. So they constrain
By a strong-pulling sympathy to come,
And straight possesse that fitting vitall vein
That 'longs unto her, so her proper room
She takes as mighty Nemesis doth give the doom.

Now (which I would you presly should observe)
Though oft I have with tongue balbutient
Prattled to th' weaker ear (lest I should sterve
My stile with too much subtilty) I nere ment
To grant that there's any such thing existent
As a mere body: For all's life, all spright,
Though lives and sprights be very different.
Three generall sprights there be, Eternall Light
Is one, the next our World, the last Infernall Alight.

This last lies next unto old Nothingnesse
Hight Hyle, whom I term'd point of the Cone:
Her daughter Night is full of bitternesse
And strait constraint, and pent privation:
Her sturdy ray's scarce conquer'd by the moon.
The earths great shade breaks out from this hid spright,
And active is; so soon the Sun is gone,
Doth repossesse the aire shotten forth right
From its hid centrall life, ycleep'd Infernall Night.

In this drad world is scorching Phlegethon;
Hot without flame, burning the vexed sense
There hatefull Styx and sad Cocytus run,
And silent Acheron. All drink from hence,
From this damn'd spright receiver influence,
That in our world or poyson do outspue,
Or have an ugly shape and foule presence:
That deadly poison and that direfull hue
From this Nocturnall spright these ugly creatures drew.

This is the seat of Gods eternall ire,
When unmixt vengeance he doth fully powre
Upon foul souls, fit for consuming fire:
Fierce storms and tempests strongly doth he showre
Upon their heads: His rage doth still devoure
The never-dying soul. Here Satanas
Hath his full swing to torture every houre
The grisly ghosts of men; when they have passe
From this mid world to that most direfull dismall place.

Did Nature but compile one mighty sphere
Of this dark Stygian spright, and close collect
Its scatter'd being, that it might appear
Aloft in the wide heaven, it would project
Dark powerfull beams, that solar life ycheckt
With these dull choking rayes, all things would die.
Infernall poyson the earth would infect,
Incessant showrs of pitchie shafts let flie
Against the Sun with darknesse would involve the skie.

Nor is my Muse wox mad, that thus gives life
To Night or Darknesse, sith all things do live.
But Night is nothing (straight I'll end that strife)
Doth no impressions to the sense derive?
If without prejudice you'll deigne to dive
Into the matter, as much realty
To darknesse as to coldnesse you will give.
Certes both night and coldnesse active be,
Both strike the sense, they both have reall entity.

Again, 'tis plain that that nocturnall spright
Sends forth black eben-beams and mirksome rayes,
Because her darknesse as the Sunne his light
More clearly doth reflect on solid place,
As when a wall, a shade empighten has
Upon it, sure that shade farre darker is
Then is the aire that lies in the mid space,
What is the reason? but that rayes emisse
From centrall Night the walls reflexion multiplies.

The light's more light that strikes upon the wall,
And much more strongly there affects the eye,
Then what's spread in the space aereall:
So 'tis with shadows that amid do lie
In the slight air; there scarce we them descrie,
But when they fall upon the wall or ground,
They gain a perfect sensibilitie.
Scarce ought in outgone light is to be found
But this Nocturnall ray's with like indowments crown'd.

But why doth my half-wearied mind pursue
Dim sculking darknesse, a fleet nimble shade?
If Moses and wise Solomon speak true,
What we assert may safely well be said.
Did not a palpable thick Night invade
The Land of Egypt, such as men might feel
And handle with their hands? That darknesse ray'd
From nether Hell, and silently did steal
On th' enemies of God, as Scripture doth reveal.

The womb of Night then fully flowred out:
For that all-swaying endlesse Majestie
Which penetrateth those wide worlds throughout,
This thin spread darknesse that dispers'd doth lie
Summon'd by his drad voice, and strong decree.
Much therefore of that spirit close unite
Into one place did strike the troubled eye
With horrid blacknesse, and the hand did smite
With a clam pitchie ray shot from that Centrall Night.

This Centrall Night or Universall spright
Of wo, of want, of balefull bitternesse,
Of hatred, envy, wrath, and fell despight,
Of lust, of care, wasting disquietnesse,
Of warre, contention, and bloud-thirstinesse,
Of zeal, of vengeance, of suspicion
Of hovering horrour, and sad pensivenesse;
This Stygian stream through all the world doth run,
And many wicked souls unto it self hath wonne.

Lo! here's the portion of the Hypocrite,
That serveth God but in an outward show.
But his drad doom must passe upon his sprite,
Where it propends there surely must he go.
Due vengeance neither sleepeth nor is slow.
Hell will suck in by a strong sympathie
What's like unto it self: So down they flow,
Devouring anguish and anxietie
Do vex their souls, in piteous pains, alas! they lie.

Thus with live Hell be they concorporate,
United close with that self-gnawing sprite:
And this I wot will breed no sleeping state.
Who here descends finds one long restlesse Night.
May this the dreaming Psychopannychite
Awake, and make him seriously prepare
And purge his heart, lest this infernall might
Suck in his soul 'fore he be well aware.
Kill but the seeds of sinne then are you past this fear.

Thus have I prov'd by the souls union
With heaven and hell, that she will be awake
When she from this mid Nature is ygone.
But still more curious task to undertake;
And spenden time to speak of Lethe lake,
And whether at least some souls fall not asleep.
(Which if they do of Hell they do partake)
Whether who liv'd like plant or grazing sheep,
Who of nought else but sloth and growth doth taken keep;

Whose drooping phansie never flowred out,
Who relish'd nought but this grosse bodies food,
Who never entertaind an active thought,
But like down-looking beasts was onely mov'd
To feed themselves, whither this drousie mood
So drench the lowring soul and inly steep
That she lies senselesse drownd in Lethe floud;
Who will let dive into this mysterie deep:
Into such narrow subtilties I list not creep.

But well I wote that wicked crueltie,
Hate, envie, malice, and ambition,
Bloud-sucking zeal, and lawlesse tyrannie,
In that Nocturnall sprite shall have their wonne,
Which like this world admits distinction.
But like will like unto it strongly draw:
So every soul shall have a righteous doom.
According to our deeds God will bestow
Rewards: Unto the cruell he'll no mercy show.

Where's Nimrod now, and dreadfull Hannibal?
Where's that ambitious pert Pellean lad,
Whose pride sweld bigger then this earthly ball?
Where's cruell Nero, with the rest that had
Command, and vex'd the world with usage bad?
They're all sunk down into this nether hell;
Who erst upon the Nations stoutly strad
Are now the Devils footstool. His drad spell
Those vassals doth command, though they with fury swell.

Consuming anguish, styptick bitternesse,
Doth now so strangle their imperious will,
That in perpetuall disquietnesse
They roll and rave, and roar and rage their fill,
Like a mad bull that the slie hunters skill
Hath caught in a strong net. But more they strive
The more they kindle that tormenting ill.
Wo's me! in what great miserie they live!
Yet wote I not what may these wretched thralls relieve.

The safest way for us that still survive
Is this, even our own lust to mortifie;
So Gods own Will will certainly revive,
Thus shall we gain a perfect libertie,
And everlasting life. But if so be
We seek our selves with ardent hot desire,
From that Infernall Night we are not free;
But living Hell will kindle a fierce fire.
And with uncessant pains our vexed soul will tire.

Then the wild phansie from her horrid wombe
Will senden forth foul shapes. O dreadfull sight!
Overgrown toads fierce serpents thence will come,
Red-scaled Dragons with deep burning light
In their hollow eye-pits: With these she must fight;
Then thinks her self ill-wounded, sorely stung.
Old fulsome Hags with scabs and skurf bedight,
Foul tarry spittle tumbling with their tongue
On their raw lether lips, these near will to her clung,

And lovingly salute against her will,
Closely embrace, and make her mad with wo:
She'd lever thousand times they did her kill,
Then forge her such vile basenesse undergo.
Anon some Giant his huge self will show,
Gaping with mouth as vast as any Cave,
With stony staring eyes, and footing slow:
She surely deems him her live-walking grave,
From that dern hollow pit knows not her self to save.

After a while, tost on the Ocean main
A boundlesse sea she finds of misery;
The fiery snorts of the Leviathan
(That makes the boyling waves before him flie)
She bears, she sees his blazing morn-bright eye:
If here she scape, deep gulfs and threatning rocks
Her frighted self do straightway terrifie;
Steel-coloured clouds with rattling thunder knocks,
With these she is amaz'd, and thousand such like mocks.

All which afflict her even like perfect sense:
For waxen mad with her sore searching pain
She cannot easly find the difference,
But toils and tears and tugs, but all in vain;
Her self from her own self she cannot strain.
Nocturnall life hath now let ope th' Idee
Of innate darknesse, from this fulsome vein
The soul is fill'd with all deformity.
But Night doth stirre her up to this dread energie.

But here some man more curious then wise
Perhaps will aske, where Night or Hell may be:
For he by his own self cannot devise,
Sith chearfull light doth fill the open sky.
And what's the earth to the souls subtilty?
Such men I'd carry to some standing pool,
Down to the water bid them bend their eye,
They then shall see the earth possest and full
Of heaven, dight with the sunne or starrs that there do roll.

Or to an hill where's some deep hollow Cave
Dreadfull for darknesse; let them take a glasse,
When to the pitchy hole they turned have
Their instrument, that darknesse will find place
Even in the open sunne-beams, at a space
Which measures twice the glasses distancy
From the Caves mouth. This well discovered has
How Hell and Heaven may both together lie,
Sith darknesse safely raies even in the sunny skie.

But further yet the mind to satisfie
That various apprehensions bearen down,
And to hold up with like variety
Of well-fram'd phantasms, lest she sink and drown
Laden with heavie thoughts sprong from the ground,
And miry clods of this accursed earth;
Whose dull suffusions make her often sown,
Orecome with cold, till nimble Reason bear'th
Unto her timely aid and on her feet her rear'th:

I will adjoyn to those three former wayes
To weet, of the Souls self-activity
Of Union with Hell, and Gods high rayes
A fourth contrivement, which all souls doth ty
To their wing'd Chariots, wherein swift they fly.
The fiery and airy Vehicles they hight
In Plato's school known universally.
But so large matter can not well be writ
In a few lines for a fresh Canticle more fit.

[Grosart (1878) 11-16]