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Teipsum: This oracle expounded in two elegies : 1. Of Human knowledge. 2. Of the Soul of Man, and the Immortality thereof." This, his great work, was published in quarto in 1599, and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth. To the same royal lady he addressed twenty-six “Hymns of Astræa, in acrostic verse," celebrating the virtues and the glories of " Elizabetha Regina.”

Through the favour of Thomas, Lord Ellesmere, lord keeper of the great seal, Davies was restored to his cham. bers in the Temple, in Trinity term, 1601; and became a counsellor, and a member of the parliament held the samo year at Westminster. Upon the death of Queen Elizabeth,” we quote again from Wood, “he, with the Lord Hunsdon, went into Scotland to congratulate King James as her lawful successor; and being introduced into his presence, the king inquired the names of those gentlemen who were in the company of the said lord, and he naming John Davies among, who stood behind them, the king straightway asked whether he was Nosce Teipsum, and being answered that he was the same, he graciously embraced him, and thenceforth had so great a favour for him that soon after he made him his solicitor, and then his attorney-general in Ireland.”

Davies was knighted at Whitehall, February 11th, 1607. In 1612 he was made one of his Majesty's serjeantsat-law for England, and was thereafter frequently appointed a justice of assize in divers circuits. Through the gradations of honour and employment, he came at length to be nominated to the office of Lord Chief Justice, and his robes were already ordered for his settlement or installation therein, when, before they were completed, he died suddenly of apoplexy, on the 7th of December, 1626, in the fifty-seventh year of his age.

The sequence of events exhibited above is sufficient to falsify the quasi-epigrammatic remark of Campbell that Sir John Davies wrote, at twenty-five years of age, a poem on the “Immortality of the Soul;" and at fiftytwo, when he was a judge and a statesman, another on the “ Art of Dancing.” It is a pity that the vulgar light of chronology should destroy the chiaroscuro resulting from the juxtaposition of the subjects of his Muse, and the inverted distribution of the numerals used at either stage to count his years. Even if the statement were true, the circumstances would not be inexplicable, nor would Sir John Davies be the solitary example of the gradually frivolizing effect of life and the world upon the disillusionized enthusiasm of youth. It is a trite remark that Tragedy is generally the first love; and Comedy the faute de mieux afterthought. Life is, too often, a sort of Platonic procession from the infinite to bagatelle.

Davies's admirable poem is not so well known as its merits deserve. The ingenuity, aptness, and easy grace of his similes are remarkable; and if these fail of demonstration, it is only because it is the common lot of an argument pursued by analogies and illustrations to stop short at probability. Faith in revelation is, in this region, a shorter and surer cut to practical certainty. The verse of Davies is as flowing as if its harmony were not confined by the trammels and severity of reasoning; and it exhibits the same commendable freedom as the translated Psalm of Wotton, quoted a page or two back. The successful translator and the successful reasoner in verse have a common merit of no mean order. In the utterance of original sentiment a poet may modify either his language or his idea without any divarication from his primary intention being discovered. But in poetic reasoning he must suit himself to the exigences of an argument of which the landmarks are laid down, as in translation he must render the recorded and inflexibly expressed thoughts of another. The “Immortality of the Soul" is conceived in great religiousness of spirit, and if in some points it is inferior to the “De Rerum Natura” of Lucretius, it is superior in being warmed and ennobled by the conscious dignity of Christian theism.

Nahum Tate, in 1699, published an edition of Davies's poem, and that distinguished psalmist thus concludes a judicious preface, which, although short, is, in its integrity, beyond our limits : "The poet takes care in every line to satisfy the understandings of mankind; he follows step by step the workings of the mind from the first strokes of sense, then of fancy, afterwards of judgment, into the principle, both of natural and supernatural motives; hereby the soul is made intelligible, which comprehends all things besides; the boundless tracks of sea and land, and the vaster spaces of heaven; that vital principle of action, which has always been busied in inquiries abroad, is now made known to itself, in so much that we may find out what we ourselves are, from whence we came, and whither we must go; we may perceive what noble guests those are, which we lodge in our bosoms, and which are nearer to us than all other things, and yet nothing further from our acquaintance,

“But here all the labyrinths and windings of the human frame are laid open, it is seen by what pullies and wheels the work is carried on, as plainly as if a window were opened into our breast; for it is the work of God alone to create a mind. The next to this is to show how its operations are performed.”




Drawn from the desire of knowledge. First, in man's mind we find an appetite

To learn and know the truth of every thing, Which is co-natural, and born with it,

And from the essence of the soul doth spring.

With this desire, she hath a native right

To find out every truth, if she had time; Th’ innumerable effects to sort aright,

And by degrees from cause to cause to climb. But since our life so fast away doth slide,

As doth a hungry eagle through the wind; Or as a ship transported with the tide,

Which in their passage leave no point behind. Of which swift little time so much we spend,

While some few things we through the sense do strain, That our short race of life is at an end ·

Ere we the principles of skill attain.
Or God (who to vain ends hath nothing done)

In vain this appetite and power had given;
Or else our knowledge, which is here begun,

Hereafter must be perfected in heaven. God never gave a power to one whole kind,

But most part of that kind did use the same : Most eyes have perfect sight, though some be blind;

Most legs can nimbly run, though some be lame. But in this life, no soul the truth can know

So perfectly as it hath power to do: If then perfection be not found below,

An higher place must make her mount thereto.


Drawn from the motion of the soul. Again, how can she but immortal be

When, with the motions of both will and wit, She still aspireth to eternity,

And never rests till she attain to it ? Water in conduit-pipes can rise no higher

Than the well-head from whence it first doth spring: Then, since to eternal God she doth aspire,

She cannot be but an eternal thing.

All moving things to other things do move

Of the same kind, which shows their nature such; So earth falls down, and fire doth mount above,

Till both their proper elements do touch. 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 lymph along the grassy plains. Long doth she stay, as loth to leave the land,

From whose soft side she first did issue make; She tastes all places, turns to every hand,

Her flowery banks unwilling to forsake.

Yet nature so her streams doth lead and carry

As that her course doth make no final stay, Till she herself unto the sea doth marry,

Within whose watery bosom first she lay.

Even as 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 heaven she cannot light on aught

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,

Or pleasure of the sense, contentment find ? Who ever ceased to wish, when he had health,

Or, having wisdom, was not vexed in mind ? Then, as a bee which among weeds doth fall,

Which seem sweet flowers, with lustre fresh and gay, She lights on that, and this, and tasteth all,

But, pleased with none, doth rise and soar away,


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