1647
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Insomnium Philosophicum.

Philosophical Poems comprising Psychozoia and Minor Poems.

Rev. Henry More


29 ababcc stanzas. Henry More dreams of an alternative world of good and evil creatures; the verses are printed among the minor verses appended to the Philosophical Poems.

Robert Southey: "It is generally acknowledged that a man may write good verses, and yet be no poet; it is not so generally acknowledged that he may be a poet and yet write bad ones. Three fourths of the English poets have had less genius than Henry More, but not one of them who possessed any has contrived so completely to smother it, and render it useless" Omniana (1812) 2:176-77.

British Critic: "Dr Henry More, the author of Psychozoia, studied the Platonic writers and mystic divines till his frame became emaciated, and his enthusiasm was so excited that he held viva voce conversations with invisible spirits, and fancied that his body exhaled the perfume of violets" NS 11 (1819) 366.

Edward Payson Morton: "Now Dr. Henry More was a man of much repute in his own generation, and the fact that he chose to put his most serious work into the Spenserian stanza meant much more toward establishing or continuing a Spenserian tradition than even such a poem as the 'Hymn on the Nativity.' If, then, the men who imitated Spenser's versification during the seventeenth century were, many of them, of much more prominence in their own generation than they are likely to seem to us, it follows that a list of names such we have here means that Spenser's influence before 1700 was as constant and as profound as that of all but Shakespeare and Ben Jonson" "The Spenserian Stanza before 1700" (1907) 16.



It was the time when all things quiet lay
In silent rest; and Night her rusty Carre
Drawn with black teem had drove above half way.
Her curbed steeds foaming out lavering tarre
And finely trampling the soft misty air
With proner course toward the West did fare.

I with the rest of weak mortality
For natures due relief lay stretch'd on bed.
My weary body lay out-stretch'd, not I.
For I, alas! from that dead corse had fled.
Had left that slough, as erst I doft my clothes,
For kindly rest that very Evening close.

Free as in open Heaven more swift then thought
In endlesse spaces up and down I flie,
Not carryed on wings, or as well taught
To row with mine own arms in liquid skie:
As oft men do in their deceiving sleep
Hovering over Waters, Woods, and Valleys steep:

But born on the actuall efflux of my will
Without resistence thither easly glide
Whither my busie mind did breathe untill.
All-suddenly an uncouth sight I spide,
Which meanly as I may I will propound
To wiser men to weigh with judgement sound,

Behold a mighty Orb right well compil'd
And kned together of opacous mould.
That neither curse of God nor man defil'd,
Though wicked wights as shall anon be told
Did curse the ill condition of the place,
And with foul speech this goodly work disgrace.

But vain complaints may weary the ill tongue
And evil speeches the blasphemer stain,
But words Gods sacred works can never wrong,
Nor wrongfull deeming work dame Natures bane.
Who misconceives, conceives but his own ill,
Brings forth a falshood, shows his want of skill.

This globe in all things punctually did seem
Like to our earth saving in magnitude:
For it of so great vastnesse was, I ween,
That if that all the Planets were transmewd
Into one Ball, they'd not exceed this Round
Nor yet fall short though close together bound.

At a farre distance from this sphear was pight
(More then the journey of ten thousand year
An hundred times told over, that swiftest flight
Of bird should mete, that distance did appear)
There was there pight a massie Orb of light
Aequall with this dark Orb in bignesse right.

Half therefore just of this dark Orb was dight
With goodly glistre and fair golden rayes,
And ever half was hid in horrid Night.
A duskish Cylindre through infinite space
It did project, which still unmoved staid,
Strange sight it was to see so endlesse shade.

Th' Diametre of that Nocturnall Roll
Was the right Axis of this opake sphear.
On which eternally it round did roll.
In Aequinoctiall posture 't did appear,
So as when Libra weighs out in just weight
An equall share to men of Day and Night.

Thus turning round by turns all came in view
What ever did that massie Ball adorn.
Hills, Valleys, Woods, themselves did plainly shew,
Towns, Towers, and holy Spires to Heaven born,
Long winding Rivers, and broad foaming Seas,
Fair Chrystall springs fierce scorching thirst t' appease.

And all bespread were the huge Mountains green
With Fleecy flocks and eke with hairy goats.
Great fields of Corn and knee-deep grasse were seen,
Swine, Oxen, Horses, Carriages, Sheep-cotes,
What ere the Countrey or the welled town
Can show with us, the like things there were shown.

And look what ever that Half-sphear of light
Did bear upon it (the Ball turning round)
The same into the Hemisphear of Night
Were carried. And look what things were found
In that dark Hemisphear, were brought anon
To th' Hemisphear the light did shine upon.

For sooth to say, they both make up one Ball.
The self same parts now dipt in deepest Night
Anon recovered from their former fall
Do shine all glorious decks with gladsome light.
And oft PANGAION as it turn'd, I red
In mighty characters decyphered.

Th' inhabitants of this big swollen sphear
Were of two kinds, well answering unto
The diverse nature of each Hemisphear.
One foul, deform'd, and ghastly sad in show,
The other fair and full of lively mirth,
These two possest this Universall Earth.

They both had wings: The foul much like a Bat
Or forged Fiend and of a pitchy hew,
And ovall eyes like to a blinking Cat.
The fair had silver wings all-glistering new
With golden feathers set, shap'd like a Doves
Or lovely Swans, that in Meander moves.

In other parts most like to spotlesse man
Made out in comely due proportion.
Both with their wings uncessantly did fan
The agil air, but never light upon
The moving Orb, but in suspense they hovered.
Therefore Light these, eternall Night those covered.

For though the Globe doth move, it moves them not;
Passing as water underneath a brig.
Yet what thus passeth by, they deem their lot,
Both of their deemed lots together lig,
To wit, that Sphear with all its ornaments,
Nor yet that sphear them both alike contents.

For they on the dim side with fell uprore
Do hideously houl and Nature blame
For her ill works. Enrag'd with fury sore
Oft God himself they curse; blaspheme his Name.
And all his creatures, as they passen by
In goodly pomp, they view with scornfull eye.

Instead of hymnes they bold invectives make
Against the Maker of that Universe.
My quivering quill, and palsied hand do quake
Now I recall to mind the wicked verse
Which those bad men had fram'd in fell despight,
And foul detraction to the God of light.

And while with hollow howlings they did chaunt
That hellish Ode. Ravens more black then pitch
And fatall Owles, Dragons, and what so wont
To do or token mischeif; every such
Came flying round about t' encrease the sound,
Such sound as would with madnesse man confound.

When they had made an end of this ill ditty,
As execrable thing they would forsake
This work of God, and out of dear self-pitty
Fly from the creatures, and themselves betake
To higher region: but their labour's vain
Fly never so high, Night doth them still contain.

For the projection of that endlesse Roll
Cast to unmeasured infinity,
Wearies to death their ill-deceived soul:
For nought but darknesse and obscurity
They finden out by their high tedious flight,
But now I'd turn'd me to the land of Light.

There might I see with lovely pleasant look
And mild aspect, the people all things view,
Interpreting right what ever seemed crook.
Crooked for crook'd is right; and evil hew
For evil shaped mind, that fear may breed.
Good oft doth spring from evil-seeming seed.

Viewing the works of God they ever smil'd
As seeing some resemblance of that face
That they so dearly lov'd, that undefil'd
And spotlesse beauty, that sweet awfull Grace
Where Love and Majesty do alway sit
And with eternall joy the viewer greet.

Ravisht with heavenly mirth and pure delight
They sing a sacred song with chearfull voice.
It kindles holy pleasure within my spright
As oft I think on that Angelick noise.
The living Spring of blisse they loudly praise
Blesse all His creatures in their pious layes.

And while the creatures goodnesse they descry
From their fair glimps they move themselves up higher
Not through contempt or hate they from them fly
Nor leave by flying, but while they aspire
To reach their fountain, them with sight more clear
They see. As newly varnish'd all appear.

This is the mystery of that mighty Ball
With different sides. That side where grisly Night
Doth sit bold men Melampronaea call,
The other side Lamprononaea hight,
Logos that Orb of light, but Foolishnesse
(To speak plane English) the Roll doth expresse.

These words I read or heard, I know not whether:
Or thought, or thought I thought. It was a dream.
But yet from dreams wise men sound truth may gather
And some ripe scatterings of high knowledge glean.
But where, or heavy passions cloud the eyes,
Or prejudice, there's nothing can make wise.

[Grosart (1878) 178-80]