1647
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Antimonospsychia or the Fourth Part of the Song of the Soul.

Philosophical Poems comprising Psychozoia and Minor Poems.

Rev. Henry More


The fourth book consists of a mere 40 stanzas; Henry More appends "a Paraphrase upon Apollos Answer concerning Plotinus his Soul departed this Life," not in Spenserians. The full title is "Antimonospsychia or the Fourth Part of the Song of the Soul, containing a Confutation of the Unity of Souls."

Robert Southey: "Spenser calls the gossamer, 'The fine nets, which oft we woven see | Of scorched dew.' Henry More alludes to this opinion, which seems to have been then commonly held" ["As light and thin as cobwebs that do fly...."] Omniana (1812, 1884) 392.

Geoffrey Bullough: "The fourth part of The Song of the Soul is really an appendix in disproof of an error concerning the nature of the soul's immortality. According to the Arabian Averroes (1126-98) and his school, 'There's but one soul (though many seem in show) | Which in these living bodies here below | Doth operate' (7); that is, Individuation is only a secondary effect in what approaches a pantheistic scheme; we are not entities; our active intellect is but a phase in the unity of the universal Soul. More refutes this view. introspection gives few men the consciousness of this unity, still fewer the desire to abandon self-consciousness. If we are merely portions of the eternal mind, all evil and good, all diversity of passion, must co-exist in the latter, and a rigid determinism governs our actions (8-11). Community of soul involves community of thought and ideas; but experience shows that: men's notions differ: 'Plato affirms Idees; | But Aristotle with his pugnacious race | As idle figments stifly them denies' (14). Granted the indivisibility of soul, such contradictions are impossible 'if there be but one centrality | Of th' Universall soul which doth invade | All humane shapes' (15).

"Against Averroes More advances his own theory, 'that God his creature hath indew'd | With a self-central! essence 'of individuality and will, 'which from his | Doth issue forth, with proper rates embew'd, | And that not all the very Godhead is' (20). Souls are plural, yet endowed with Deiformity, the power of enlarging their self-consciousness towards God. After death they are not lost in the universal soul, but dwell in hell or heaven, a condition made possible only by continuity of consciousness. 'The very bond of life' is Memory (32), which links both earthly and heavenly experiences, and by recollecting 'our radiant Sunne | Of which its maker is the bright Idee' (35), causes to flourish the desire of Union with God. 'And deep desire is the deepest act, | The most profound and centrall energie, | The very selfnesse of the soul' (36). Death only increases the fullness of the soul's free life, for 'though the soul, the time she doth advert | The bodies passions takes her self to die: | Yet death now finish'd, she can well convert | Herself to other thoughts. And if the eye | Of her adversion were fast fix'd on high, | In midst of death 'twere no more fear or pain, | Then 'twas unto Elias to let flie | His uselesse mantle to that Hebrew Swain, | While he rode up to Heaven in a bright fiery wain' (39)" Philosophical Poems (1931) 249-50.



The all-devouring Unitie
Of Souls I here disprove;
Show how they bear their memorie
With them when they remove.

Who yields himself to learning and the Muse,
Is like a man that leaves the steady shore,
And skims the Sea. He nought then can refuse
Whatever is design'd by Neptunes power,
Is fiercely drove in every stormy stoure,
Slave to the water and the whistling wind:
Even so am I, that whylom meant recover
The wished land, but now against my mind
Am driven fiercely back, and so new work do find.

What though the Rationall soul immortall be,
And safely doth exist, this body gone,
And lies broad wake in her existency;
If all souls that exist do prove but one.
Or, though a number, if oblivion
Of all things past, put them in such a state
That they can no-wise guesse that ere upon
This earth they bode; even this seems to abate
Their happinesse. They'll deem themselves then first create.

Wherefore to ease us of this double doubt,
With mighty force great Phoebus doth inspire
My raving mind. He'll bear me strongly out,
Till I have perfected his own desire;
Nor will he suffer me once to respire
Till I have brought this song unto an end.
O may it be but short though a quick fire!
Such rage and rapture makes the body bend,
Doth waste its fading strength and fainting spirits spend.

Now comes the story of Praxiteles
Into my mind, whom looking in a glasse,
With surly countenance, it did much displease,
That any should so sourely him outface;
Yet whom he saw his dogged self it was:
Tho he with angry fist struck his own shade.
Thus he the harmlesse mirior shattered has
To many shivers; the same shapes invade
Each piece, so numbers he of surly vizards made.

These shapes appeard from the division
Of the broke glasse: so rasher phansies deem
That Rationall souls (whom they suppose but one)
By the divided matter many seem:
Bodies disjoind, broke glasses they esteem:
Which if they did into one substance flow,
One single soul in that one glasse would shine;
If that one substance also were ygo,
One onely soul is left, the rest were but a show.

Well is their mind by this similitude
Explaind. But now lets sift the verity
Of this opinion, and with reason rude
Rub, crush, touse, rifle this fine phantasie,
As light and thin as cobwebs that do fly
In the blew air, caus'd by th' Autumnall sun,
That boils the dew that on the earth doth lie,
May seem this whitish rag then is the scum,
Unlesse that wiser men make't the field-spiders loom.

But such deep secrets willingly I leave
To grand Philosophers. I'll forward go
In my proposed way. If they conceive
There's but one soul (though many seem in show)
Which in these living bodies here below
Doth operate (some such opinion
That learned Arab held, hight Aven-Roe)
How comes's to passe that she's so seldome known
In her own self? In few she thinks her self but one.

Seems not this Soul or Intellect very dull,
That in so few she can her self discover
To he but one in all, though all be full
Of her alone? Besides, no soul doth love her
Because she sucks up all: but what should move her
Thus to detest her self, if so that she's
But one in all? right reason surely drove her
Thus to condemne this lonesome Unitie
Of soul: which reasons her own operations be.

Thoughts good and bad that Universall mind
Must take upon itself; and every ill,
That is committed by all humane kind,
They are that souls. Alas, we have no will,
No free election, nor yet any skill,
But are a number of dull stalking trees
That th' universall Intellect doth fill
With its own life and motion: what it please
That there it acts. What strange absurdities are these?

All plotted mischief that sly reason wrought,
All subtill falsities that nimbly fly
About the world, that soul them all hath brought;
Then upon better thoughts with penalty
Doth sore afflict her self, doth laugh and cry
At the same time. Here Aristophanes
Doth maken sport with some spruse Comedy;
There with some Tragick strain sad Sophocles
Strikes the Spectatours hearts, makes many weeping eyes.

Such grief this soul must in her self conceive
And pleasure at one time. But nere you'll say
We ought not griefe or pleasure for to give
Unto the soul. To what then? This live clay?
It feels no grief if she were gone away:
Therefore the soul at once doth laugh and cry.
But in this Argument I'll no longer stay,
But forward on with swifter course wit hie,
And finden out some grosser incongruity.

Let now two men conceiven any form
Within their selves, suppose of flaming fire;
If but one soul doth both their corpse inform,
There's but one onely species intire.
For what should make it two? The Idee of fire
That is but one, the subject is but one,
One onely soul that all men doth inspire.
Let one man quench that form he thought upon,
That form is now extinct and utterly ygone;

So that the other man can think no longer,
Which all experience doth prove untrue.
But yet I'll further urge with reason stronger,
And still more clearly this fond falshood shew.
Can contraries the same subject imbew?
Yes; black and white, heat, cold may both possesse
The mind at once but they a nature new
Do there obtain, they're not grosse qualities,
But subtill sprights that mutually themselves no'te presse.

But contradiction, can that have place
In any soul? Plato affirms Idees;
But Aristotle with his pugnacious race
As idle figments stifly them denies.
One soul in both doth thus Philosophise,
Concludes at once contradictoriously
To her own self. What man can here devise
A fit escape, if (what's sure verity)
He grant but the souls indivisibility?

Which stifly is maintaind in that same song
Which is ycleeped Psychathanasie,
And safely well confirm'd by reasons strong:
Wherefore I list not here the truth to try,
But wish the Reader to turn back his eye,
And view what there was faithfully displaid.
Now if there be but one centrality
Of th' Universall soul which doth invade
All humane shapes; how come these contradictions made?

For that one soul is judge of every thing,
And heareth all Philosophers dispute;
Herself disputes in all that jangling,
In reasoning fiercely doth her self confute,
And contradictions confidently conclude:
That is so monstrous that no man can think
To have least shew of truth. So this pursuit
I well might now leave off: what need I swink
To prove whets clearly true, and force out needlesse ink.

Again, she would the same thing will and nill
At the same time. Besides, all men would have
The self-same knowledge, art, experience, skill;
The frugall parent might his money save,
The Pedagoge his pains: If he engrave
His Grammer precepts but in one boyes mind,
Or decent manners. He doth thus embrave
With single labour all the youth you'll find
Under the hollow Heavens, they'll be alike inclin'd.

And every man is skill'd in every trade,
And every silent thought that up doth spring
In one mans brest, doth every man invade;
No counsel-keeper, nor no secret thing
Will then be found; They'll need no whispering
Nor louder voice. Let Orators he dumb,
Nor need the eager auditours make a ring;
Though every one keep himself close at home.
The silent Preachers thoughts through all the world will roam.

Find each man out, and in a moment hit
With unavoided force: Or sooth to sain
They all begin at once to think what's fit,
And all at once anon leave off again.
A thousand such incongruities vain
Will follow from the first absurdity,
Which doth all souls into one centre strain,
And make them void of self-centrality.
Strange soul from whence first sprong so uncouth falsity.

Now all the arguments that I have brought
For to disprove the souls strange solitude,
That there is not one onely soul, well mought
Be urg'd (and will with equall strength conclude)
To prove that God his creature hath indew'd
With a self-centrall essence, which from his
Doth issue forth, with proper rates embew'd,
And that not all the very Godhead is:
For that would straight beget the like absurdities.

For he is indivisibly one being,
At once in every place and knoweth all;
He is omnipotent, infinite in seeing;
Wherefore if Creatures intellectuall
(And in that order humane souls will fall)
Were God himself, they would be alike wise,
Know one anothers thoughts imaginall,
Which no man doth: such falshoods would arise
With many more, which an idiot might well despise.

Nor will mens souls that now be different
Be God himself hereafter, and all one:
For thus they were quite lost; their life ylent
And subtill being quite away are flone.
This is a perfect contradiction,
They are all one with God, and yet they are.
If they be one with God, then they alone
Did make themselves, and every rolling starre:
For God alone made these, and God himself they are.

Before the Sun and all the host of heaven,
The earth, the sea, and mans deep centrall spright;
Before all these were made, was not God even
With his own self? what then him moven might
To waste his words and say, Let there be light.
If the accomplishment of all things be,
That all be God himself. This is not right.
No more perfection, no more Entity
There's then, then was in that eternall Silency.

Or will you say, that God himself delights
To do and undo? But how can this stand
With self-sufficiency? There's nought that might
Adde to his happinesse (if I understand
His nature right.) But He with open hand
Doth easly feed the Creature that he made
As easly. Wherefore if the truth be scand
This Goodnesse would that nought should be decay'd;
His mind is all should live; no life he would should fade.

But if the finall consummation
Of all things make the Creature Deiform,
As Plato's school doth phrase it; there is non
That thence need fear to come to any harm:
For God himself will then inact, inform,
And quicken humane souls at the last day;
And though the Devil rore, and rage, and storm,
Yet Deaths drad power shall be done away,
Nor living Night on men her poysonous beams shall ray.

He hasten it that makes that glorious day!
For certainly it is no fearfull thing
But unto pride, and love of this base clay:
Its their destruction, but the perfecting
Of the just souls. It unto them doth bring
Their full desire, to be more close unite
With God, and utter cleans'd from all their sin.
Long was the world involv'd in cloudy Night,
But at the last will shine the perfect Christian light.

Thus the souls numerous plurality
I've prov'd, and shew'd she is not very God;
But yet a decent Deiformity
Have given her: thus in the middle trod
I safely went, and fairly well have row'd
As yet. Part of my voyage is to come,
Which is to prove that the souls new aboad
In heaven or hell (what ever is her doom)
Nought hinders but past forms even there again may bloom.

Which if they did not, she could never tell
Why she were thus rewarded, wherefore ill
Or good she doth enjoy, whether ill or well
She lived here. Remembrance death did spill.
But otherwise it fares; as was her will
And inclination of her thirsty spright,
Impressions of like nature then doth fill
Her lively mind, whether with sad affright
Disturb'd, which she long fear'd; or in hop'd-for delight.

The life that here most strongly kindled was
(Sith she awakes in death) must needs betray
The soul to what nearest affinity has
With her own self, and likenesses do sway
The mind to think of what ever did play
In her own self with a like shape or form;
And contraries do help the memory:
So if the soul be left in case forlorn,
Remembrance of past joy makes her more deeply mourn.

'Tis also worth our observation,
That higher life doth ever comprehend
The lower vitall acts: sensation
The soul some fitten hint doth promptly lend
To find out plantall life; sense is retaind
In subtiller manner in the phantasie;
Als reason phantasies doth well perpend:
Then must the souls highest capacity
Contain all under life. Thus is their Memory.

This faculty is very intimate
And near the Centre, very large and free,
Extends itself to whatsoever that
The soul peracts. There is no subtilty
Of Intellect, of Will, nor Phantasie,
No Sense, nor uncouth strange impression
From damned Night, or the blest Deity,
But of all these she hath retention,
And at their fresh approach their former shapes can own.

This memorie the very bond of life
You may well deem. If it were cut away
Our being truly then you might contrive
Into a point of time. The former day
Were nought at all to us: when once we lay
Our selves to sleep, we should not know at morn
That e're we were before; nor could we say
A whit of sense: so soon as off we turn
One word, that's quite forgot, Coherence thus is torn.

Now sith it is of such necessitie,
And is the bundle of the souls duration,
The watchman of the soul, lest she should flie
Or steal from her own self, a sure fixation
And Centrall depth it hath, and free dilation,
That it takes notice of each energie
Of Phansie, Sense, or any Cogitation.
Wherefore this virtue no dependencie
Hath of this body, must be safe when it doth die.

But if dispersed lifes collection,
Which is our memory, safely survive
(Which well it may, sith it depends not on
The Mundane spirit) what can fitly drive
It into action. In heaven she doth live
So full of one great light, she hath no time
To such low trifles, as past sights, to dive,
Such as she gathered up in earthly slime:
Foreknowledge of herself is lost in light divine.

But can she here forget our radiant Sunne?
Of which its maker is the bright Idee,
This is His shadow; or what she hath done
Now she's rewarded with the Deitie?
Suppose it: Yet her hid Centralitie
So sprightly's quickned with near Union
With God, that now lifes wished liberty
Is so encreas'd, that infinitely sh' has fun
Herself, her deep'st desire unspeakably hath wonne.

And deep desire is the deepest act,
The most profound and centrall energie,
The very selfnesse of the soul, which backs
With piercing might, she breaks out, forth doth flie
From dark contracting death, and doth descry
Herself unto herself; so thus unfold
That actuall life she straightwayes saith, is I.
Thus while she in the body was infold,
Of this low life, as of herself oft tales she told.

In dangerous sicknesse often saith, I die,
When nought doth die but the low plantall man,
That falls asleep: and while Nature doth tie
The soul unto the body; she nere can
Avoid it, but must feel the self-same pain,
The same decay, if hereto she her mind
Do bend. When stupid cold her corse oreran,
She felt that cold; but when death quite doth bind
The sense, then she herself doth dead and senselesse find.

Or else at least just at the entrance
Of death she feels that slie privation,
How now it spreads ore all: so living sense
Perceives how sleep creeps on, till quite o'recome
With drousinesse, animadversion
Doth cease: but (lower sense then fast ybound)
The soul bestoweth her adversion.
On something else: So oft strange things hath found
In sleep, from this dull carcase while she was unbound.

So though the soul, the time she doth advert
The bodies passions takes her self to die:
Yet death now finish'd, she can well convert
Herself to other thoughts. And if the eye
Of her adversion were fast fixt on high,
In midst of death 'twere no more fear or pain,
Then 'twas unto Elias to let flie
His uselesse mantle to that Hebrew Swain,
While he rode up to heaven in a bright fiery wain.

Thus have I stoutly rescued the soul
From centrall death or pure mortalitie,
And from the listlesse flouds of Lethe dull,
And from the swallow of drad Unitie.
And from an all-consuming Deitie.
What now remains, but since we are so sure
Of endlesse life, that to true pietie
We bend our minds, and make our conscience pure,
Lest living Night in bitter darknesse us immure.

[Grosart (1878) 130-34]