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E'en so the soul, which in this earthly mould
The Spirit of God doth secretly infuse, Because at first she doth the earth behold,
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 :
Yet under heav'n she cannot light on aught
That with her heav'nly 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,
Or pleasure of the sense, contentment find ? Who ever ceas'd to wish, when he had health ?
Or having wisdom, was not vex'd in mind ?
Then as a bee which among weeds doth fall,
Which seem sweet flow'rs, with lustre fresh and gay ; 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,
And flies to him that first her wings did make.
Wit, seeking truth, from cause to cause ascends,
And never rests, till it the first attain:
But never stays, till it the last do gain.
Now God the truth, and first of causes is;
God is the last good end, which lasteth still; Being Alpha and Omega nam’d for this;
Alpha to Wit, Omega to the Will.
Since then her heav'nly kind she doth display,
In that to God she doth directly move; And on no mortal thing can make her stay,
She cannot be from hence, but from above."
The peculiar aptness of Sir John Davies's similies induces us to throw a few of them together. Speaking of the Senses, he says,
“ This power spreads outward, but the root doth grow
In th’ inward soul, which only doth perceive ;
Than glasses know what faces they receive."
“ Doubtless this could not be, but that she turns
Bodies to Spirits, by sublimation strange;
As we our meats into our nature change." This is his felicitous description of feeling: “Much like a subtle spider, which doth sit
In middle of her web, which spreadeth wide;
She feels it instantly on ev'ry side.”
As doth an hungry eagle thro' the wind;
Which in their passage leave no print bebind.”
In answering an objection against the immortality of the soul, drawn from the apparent decay of its powers, he says, “But they that know that wit can shew no skill,
But when she things in Sense's glass doth view,
It nothing sees, or sees the false for true.”
And to another objection, that if souls continue to exist, “why do they not return, and bring us news of that strange world,”—he replies,
“But as Noah's pigeon, which return’d no more,
Did shew, she footing found, for all the flood;
Come not again, it shews their dwelling good.”
This poem does not develope any new or striking principles of philosophy, but the arguments are acute and forcible,
VOL. V. PART 1.
and the illustrations novel and surprising. In estimating its merits as a poetical composition, however, great allowance must be made for the disadvantages under which an author who writes a philosophical poem labours, if he treat the subject as a philosopher, from the restraint it imposes upon him, and the difficulty of combining poetical illustration with ratiocinative precision: to be subjected to such a restraint is to have the light and airy pinions of imagination tipped with lead, which must either bring it to the ground, or, at least, render its flight tedious and laborious. This allowance must be extended to Sir John Davies, who has, however, with singular skill, combined close and subtle argumentation with illustrations, always apt, frequently elegant, and sometimes eminently poetical ; conveyed, too, in versification the most smooth and flowing, and in language the most idiomatic and appropriate. His mastery over his native tongue, indeed, is particularly remarkable, both in this poem and in that On Dancing.
The last mentioned poem, which is unfinished, was published in 1596; but this edition has hitherto, we believe, escaped the keen eyes of modern bibliographers. It consists of a dialogue between Penelope and Antinous, one of her suitors, whose invitation to dance she declines, as a novel invention of which she is totally ignorant. Whereupon Antinous undertakes to prove the antiquity and excellency of dancing, which he makes out to be as old as the world, nay, that time himself “ had not one moment of his age outrun”
“ When out leap'd Dancing from the heap of things,
It regulates pomps and solemnities—is found in all learned arts and great affairs—is the civilizer of man—the most persuasive rhetoric—the truest logic and best poetry—the only concord and harmony
“The heaven's true figure, and th' earth's ornament.”
In short, he demonstrates the falsehood of the maxim, ex nihilo nihil fit, and has presented the world with an ingenious mixture of poetry and trifling.
The poet ascribes the origin of dancing to Love, who persuades man to learn this nimble-footed recreation, in stanzas, partaking of the flexibility and grace of his subject.
“ Behold the world, how it is whirld around,
And for it is so whirl'd, is named so;
Of this new art, which it doth fairly show:
From East to West, on no one thing can glance,
But, if you mark it well, it seems to dance.
Of trembling lights, a number numberless;
Than threescore hundreds of those years in all,
Under that spangled sky, five wand'ring flames,
Besides the King of Day, and Queen of Night,
And all in sundry measures do delight,
For by itself, each doth itself advance,
But see the earth, when he approacheth near,
How she for joy doth spring, and sweetly smile ;
When, changing places, he retires a while:
And make them all before his presence fly,
Who doth not see the measures of the moon,
Which thirteen times she danceth ev'ry year?
As doth her brother, of whose golden hair
Then doth she coyly turn her face aside,
And now behold your tender nurse the air,
And common neighbour, that aye runs around,
Within her empty regions are there found,
For what are breath, speech, echoes, music, winds,
For when you breathe, the air in order moves,
Now in, now out, in time and measure true;
That doubling oft, and oft redoubling new,
For all the words that from your lips repair,
Are nought but tricks and turnings of the air.
That dances to all voices she can hear :
Nor any time wherein she will forbear
And yet her hearing sense is nothing quick,
And thou, sweet Music, dancing's only life,
The ear's sole happiness, the air's best speech,
The soft mind's paradise, the sick mind's leech,
That when the air doth dance her finest measure,
Lastly, where keep the Winds their revelry,
Their violent turnings, and wild whirling hays,
Yet in this misrule, they such rule embrace,
For lo, the sea, that fleets about the land,
And, like a girdle, clips her solid waist,
For his great chrystal eye is always cast
And as she danceth in her pallid sphere,
Sometimes his proud green waves, in order set,
One after other flow unto the shore,