Verse > Anthologies > Edward Farr, comp. > Elizabethan Poetry
Edward Farr, ed.  Select Poetry of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth.  1845.
The Soul
VII. Sir John Davies
THE LIGHTS of Heauen (which are the world’s fair eyes)
  Looke downe into the world, the world to see;
And as they turne or wander in the skies,
  Surueigh all things that on this center bee.
And yet the lights which in my towre do shine,        5
  Mine eyes, which view all obiects, nigh and farre,
Looke not into this little world of mine,
  Nor see my face, wherein they fixed are.
Since Nature failes vs in no needfull thing,
  Why want I meanes mine inward selfe to see?        10
Which sight the knowledge of myselfe might bring,
  Which to true wisdome is the first degree.
That powre, which gaue me eyes the world to view,
  To view myselfe enfusd an inward light,
Whereby my soule, as by a mirror true,        15
  Of her own forme may take a perfect sight.
But as the sharpest eye discerneth nought,
  Except the sun-beames in the aire doe shine;
So the best sense with her reflecting thought
  Seekes not herselfe without some light diuine.        20
O Light, which mak’st the light which makes the day,
  Which setst the eye without, and mind within,
Lighten my spirit with one cleare heauenly ray,
  Which now to view itselfe doth first begin.
For her true forme how can my sparke discerne,        25
  Which, dimme by nature, art did neuer cleare,
When the great wits, of whom all skill we learne,
  Are ignorant both what shee is, and where?
One thinks the soule is aire; another, fire;
  Another, blood defus’d about the hart;        30
Another saith the elements conspire,
  And to her essence each doth giue a part.
Musicians thinke our souls are harmonies;
  Physicians hold that they complexions bee;
Epicures make them swarmes of atomies,        35
  Which do by chaunce into our bodies flee.
Some thinke one generall soule fils euery braine,
  As the bright sunne sheds light in euery starre;
And others thinke the name of soule is vaine,
  And that we onely well-mixt bodies are.        40
In iudgment of her substance thus they varie;
  And thus they varie in iudgment of her seate:
For some her chaire vp to the braine do carrie,
  Some thrust it downe into the stomake’s heate.
Some place it in the roote of life, the hart;        45
  Some in the liuer, fountaine of the vaines;
Some say she is all in all, and all in part:
  Some say she is not containd, but all containes.
Thus these great clerks their little wisedome shew,
  While with their doctrines they at hazard play;        50
Tossing their light opinions to and fro,
  To mocke the lewd, as learnd in this as they.
For no craz’d braine could euer yet propound
  Touching the soule so vaine and fond a thought;
But some among these maisters haue been found,        55
  Which in their schooles the self-same thing haue taught.
God onely wise, to punish pride of wit,
  Among men’s wits hath this confusion wrought;
As the proud towre, whose points the clouds did hit,
  By tongues’ confusion was to ruine brought.        60
But Thou, which didst man’s soule of nothing make,
  And when to nothing it was fallen agen,
To make it new, the forme of man didst take,
  And God with God becam’st a man with men;
Thou, that hast fashioned twise this soule of ours,        65
  So that she is by double title thine,
Thou onely knowest her nature and her powers;
  Her subtile forme thou onely canst define.
To iudge herselfe she must herselfe transcend;
  As greater circles comprehend the lesse:        70
But she wants power her owne power to extend;
  As fettred men cannot their strength expresse.
But thou, bright morning Starre, thou rising Sunne,
  Which in these later times hast brought to light
Those mysteries, that, since the world begun,        75
  Lay hid in darknesse and eternall night;
Thou, like the sunne, dost with indifferent ray
  Into the pallace and the cottage shine,
And shew’st the soule both to the clarke and lay
  By the cleere lampe of thy oracle diuine.        80
This lampe through all the regions of my braine,
  Where my soule sits, doth spread such beames of grace,
As now, methinks, I do distinguish plain
  Each subtill line of her immortall face.
The soule a substance and a spirit is,        85
  Which God himselfe doth in the bodie make,
Which makes the man: for euery man from this
  The nature of a man and name doth take.
And though this spirit be to the bodie knit,
  As an apt meane her powers to exercise,        90
Which are life, motion, sense, and will, and wit,
  Yet she suruiues, although the bodie dies.

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