Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Dream of Bathynous
By Henry More (16141687)
From the Divine Dialogues
IT came to pass, therefore, O Philopolis, that one summer morning, having rose much more early than ordinary, and having walked so long in a certain wood (which I had a good while frequented) that I thought fit to rest myself on the ground, having spent my spirits, partly by long motion of my body, but mainly by want of sleep, and over anxious and solicitous thinking of such difficulties as Hylobares either has already, or, as I descried at first, is likely to propose; I straightway reposed my weary limbs amongst the grass and flowers at the foot of a broad-spread flourishing oak, where the gentle fresh morning air playing in the shade on my heated temples, and with inexpressible pleasure refrigerating my blood and spirits, and the industrious bees busily humming round about me upon the dewy honeysuckles; to which nearer noise was most melodiously joined the distanced singings of the cheerful birds, re-echoed from all parts of the wood; these delights of nature thus conspiring together, you may easily fancy, O Philopolis, would quickly charm my wearied body into a profound sleep. But my soul was then as much as ever awake, and, as it seems, did most vividly dream that I was still walking in these solitary woods with my thoughts more eagerly intent upon those usual difficulties of Providence than ever.
But while I was in this great anxiety and earnestness of spirit, accompanied (as frequently when I was awake) with vehement and devout suspirations and ejaculations towards God, of a sudden there appeared at a distance a very grave and venerable person walking slowly towards me. His stature was greater than ordinary. He was clothed with a loose silk garment of a purple colour, much like the Indian gowns that are now in fashion, saving that the sleeves were something longer and wider; and it was tied about him with a Levitical girdle also of purple; and he wore a pair of velvet slippers of the same colour, but upon his head a Montero of black velvet, as if he were both a traveller and an inhabitant of that place at once.
Bath. Did not the ruddiness of his complexion and the vivacity of his looks seem to gainsay it, the snowy whiteness of his hair, and large beard, and certain senile strokes in his countenance, seemed to intimate him to be about six score years of age.
Sophr. There is no such contradiction in that, Bathynous. For Moses is said to be an hundred and twenty when he died, and yet his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. But, I pray you, proceed.
Bath. While he was at any distance from me, I stood fearless and unmoved, only, in reverence to so venerable a personage, I put off my hat, and held it in my hand. But when he came up closer to me, the vivid fulgour of his eyes, that shone so piercingly bright from under the shadow of his black Montero, and the whole air of his face, though joined with a wonderful deal of mildness and sweetness, did so of a sudden astonish me, that I fell into an excessive trembling, and had not been able to stand, if he had not laid his hand upon my head, and spoken comfortably to me. Which he did in a paternal manner, saying: Blessed be thou of God, my son, be of good courage, and fear not; for I am a messenger of God to thee for thy good. Thy serious aspires and breathings after the true knowledge of thy Maker and the ways of His providence (which is the most becoming employment of every rational being) have ascended into the sight of God; and I am appointed to give into thy hands the two keys of Providence, that thou mayest thereby be able to open the treasures of that wisdom thou so anxiously, and yet so piously, seekest after. And therewithal he put his right hand into his left sleeve, and pulled out two bright shining keys, the one of silver, the other of gold, tied together with a sky-coloured ribbon of a pretty breadth, and delivered them into my hands; which I received of him, making low obeisance, and professing my thankfulness for so great a gift.
And now by this time I had recovered more than ordinary strength and courage, which I perceived in a marvellous way communicated unto me by the laying of his hand upon my head, so that I had acquired a kind of easy confidence and familiarity to converse with him; and therefore, though with due civility, yet without all fear, methought I said further to him: These are a goodly pair of keys, O my father, and very lovely to look upon: but where is the treasure they are to open? To which, smiling upon me, he straightway replied: The treasures, my son, be in the keys themselves. Then each key, said I, O my father, will need a farther key to open it. Each key, said he, my son, is a key to itself; and therewithal bade me take notice of the letters embossed on the silver key, and there was the like artifice on the golden one. Which I closely viewing in both, observed that the keys consisted of a company of rings closely committed together, and that the whole keys were all bespattered with letters very confusedly and disorderly.
Set the letters of the keys in right order, then said he, and then pull at their handles, and the treasure will come out. And I took the silver key; but though I could move the rings by thrusting my nails against the letters, yet I could not reduce the letters into any order, so that they would all lie in straight lines, nor was there any sense in any line. Which when that aged person saw, You must first know the motto, said he, my son: That is the key of the key. I beseech you then, said I, O my father, tell me the motto. The motto, said he, my son, is this:Claude fenestras, ut luceat domus. Having got the motto, I set to work again, and having reduced those letters that made up that motto into a right line, I, holding the lower part of the key in my left hand, pulled at the handle with my right, and there came out a silver tube, in which was a scroll of thin paper, as I thought, but as strong as any vellum, and as white as driven snow.
Having got this scroll, I took the boldness to open it. The figure thereof was perfectly square, with even margins on all sides, drawn with lines of a sky-coloured blue, very perfect and lovely. In the midst was described the figure of the sun in blazing gold: about the sun were six circles drawn with lines of the same coloured blue. Two of these circles were very near the body of the sun; the other four more remote both from him and from one another, though not in equal distances. In every one of these circles was there the figure of a little speck like a globe, but of two distinct colours; the one side towards the sun shining like silver, the other being of a duskish discoloured black. About those little globes in the third and fifth circle there were also drawn lesser circles of blue, one about the third, and four about the fifth, and in each of these circles was there also a small globous speck, of a lesser size than those in the middle. Something there was also about the globe of the sixth circle, but I cannot remember it so distinctly. Beyond these circles there was an innumerable company of star-like figures of gold, of the same hue with that of the sun, but exceeding much less, which, carelessly scattered, some were found a pretty distance from the margin, others towards the margin; some others were cut in two by the blue line of the margin, as if it were intimated that we should understand that there were still more of those golden stars to an indefinite extent. This scheme entertained my gazing eyes a good time; for I never had seen such before, and was resolved to impress the lines thereof perfectly in my memory, that I might afterwards discourse more readily thereof with this venerable personage. For I knew the purpose thereof by the inscription on the upper margin, which was, The true System of the World. Having thus satisfied myself, I rolled up the scroll again, and repositing it in the silver tube, easily thrust in the tube into the other part of the key, and disordering the line of letters that contained the motto, all was locked up again safe as before.
Having pleased myself so well with opening this first treasure, I had the more eager desire to assay the other; and knowing all attempt to be vain without the knowledge of the motto or key of the key, I besought that divine sage to impart it to me. That I shall do right willingly, said he, my son: and I pray you take special notice of it. It is, Amor Dei Lux Animæ. An excellent motto indeed, said I, the key is a treasure in itself. However I set me to work as before, and reducing to such an order that a line of them did plainly contain this motto, I pulled at both ends of the golden key, as I did in the silver one, and in a golden tube continued to the handle of the key there was a scroll of such paper, if I may so call it, as in the other, exceeding white and pure, and, though very thin, yet not at all transparent. The writing was also terminated with even margins on all sides as before; only it was much more glorious, being adorned richly with flower-work of gold, vermilion, and blue. And I observed that twelve sentences filled the whole area, written with letters of gold. The first was, The measure of providence is the divine goodness, which has no bounds but itself, which is infinite. 2. The thread of time and the expansion of the universe, the same hand drew out the one and spread out the other. 3. Darkness and the abyss were before the light, and the suns or stars before any opaqueness or shadow. 4. All intellectual spirits that ever were, are, or ever shall be, sprung up with the light, and rejoiced together before God in the morning of the creation. 5. In infinite myriads of free agents which were the framers of their own fortunes, it had been a wonder if they had all of them taken the same path; and therefore sin at the long run shook hands with opacity. 6. As much as the light exceeds the shadows, so much do the regions of happiness those of sin and misery.
These six, Philopolis, I distinctly remember, but had cursorily and glancingly cast mine eye on all twelve. But afterwards fixing my mind orderly upon them, to commit them all perfectly to my memory (for I did not expect that I might carry the keys away with me home), by that time I had got through the sixth aphorism, there had come up two asses behind me out of the wood, one on the one side of the free, and the other on the other, that set a braying so rudely and so loudly, that they did not only awake, but almost affright me into a discovery that I had all this while been but in a dream. For that aged grave person, the silver and golden keys, and glorious parchment were all suddenly vanished, and I found myself sitting alone at the bottom of the same oak where I fell asleep, betwixt two rudely braying asses.