Friday, April 13, 2018

Through Contemplation's Optics

Seraphick Love
by John Norris

I. 'Tis true, Frail Beauty, I did once resign
To thy imperious Charms this Heart of mine:
There didst thou undisturb'd thy Scepter sway,
And I methought was pleas'd t'obey.
Thou seem'st so lovely, so divine,
With such sweet Graces didst thou mine,
Thou entertain'st my Amorous sense
With such Harmonious Excellence,
That, Credulous and Silly I,
With vain, with impious Idolatry,
Ador'd that Star which was to lead me to the Deity.

II. But now, thou soft Enchantress of the Mind,
Farewel, a change, a mighty change I find;
The Empire of my Heart thou must resign,
For I can be no longer thine.
A Nobler, a Diviner Guest,
Has took possession of my Breast;
He has, and must engross it all,
And yet the Room is still too small.
In vain you tempt my Heart to rove,
A fairer Object: now my Soul does move,
It must be all Devotion, what before was Love.

III. Through Contemplation's Optics I have seed
Him who is Fairer than the Sons of Men:
The Source of good, the light Archetypall,
Beauty in the Original.
The fairest of ten thousand, He,
Proportion all and Harmony.
All Mortal Beauty's but a Ray
Of his bright ever-shining Day;
A little feeble twinkling Star,
Which now the Sun's in place must disappear;
There is but One that's Good, there is but One that's Fair.

IV. To thee, thou only Fair, my Soul aspires
With Holy Breathings, languishing Desires.
To thee m'inamour'd, panting Heart does move,
By Efforts of Ecstatic Love.
How do thy glorious streams of Light
Refresh my intellectual sight!
Tho broken, and strained through a Skreen
Of envious Flesh that stands between!
When shall m'imprison'd Soul be free,
That she thy Native Uncorrected Light may see,
And gaze upon thy Beatifick Face to all Eternity?

From his A Collection of Miscellanies. The notion of 'Seraphick Love' would later form the topic of his correspondence with Mary Astell, Letters Concerning the Love of God Between the Author of the Proposal to the Ladies and Mr. John Norris. In Practical Discourses on the Beatitudes, he will give the martyr as a preeminent example of what he means -- complete devotion that involves reason rising above mere passion. Of course, the general account here is Neoplatonic, probably heavily influenced by Hierocles.

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