Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
Extracts from Nosce Teipsum: The Soul Compared to a River
By Sir John Davies (1570–1626)
AND as the moisture, which the thirsty earth
  Sucks from the sea, to fill her empty veins,
  From out her womb at last doth take a birth,
  And runs a nymph along the grassy plains:
Long doth she stay, as loth to leave the land,        5
  From whose soft side she first did issue make;
  She tastes all places, turns to every hand,
  Her flowr’y banks unwilling to forsake:
Yet Nature so her streams doth lead and carry,
  As that her course doth make no final stay,        10
  Till she herself unto the ocean marry,
  Within whose wat’ry bosom first she lay:
Even so the Soul which in this earthly mould
  The Spirit of God doth secretly infuse;
  Because at first she doth the earth behold,        15
  And only this material world she views:
At first her mother-earth she holdeth dear,
  And doth embrace the world and worldly things:
  She flies close by the ground, and hovers here,
  And mounts not up with her celestial wings.        20
Yet under heaven she cannot light on ought
  That with her heavenly nature doth agree;
  She cannot rest, she cannot fix her thought,
  She cannot in this world contented be:
For who did ever yet, in honour, wealth,        25
  Or pleasure of the sense, contentment find?
  Who ever ceas’d to wish, when he had health?
  Or having wisdom was not vext in mind?
Then as a bee which among weeds doth fall,
  Which seem sweet flowers, with lustre fresh and gay;        30
  She lights on that, and this, and tasteth all,
  But pleas’d with none, doth rise, and soar away;
So, when the Soul finds here no true content,
  And, like Noah’s dove, can no sure footing take;
  She doth return from whence she first was sent,        35
  And flies to Him that first her wings did make.

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