Saturday, May 10, 2014

Looke Home

Retirèd thoughts enjoy their own delights,
As beauty doth, in self-beholding eye;
Man's mind a mirror is, of heavenly sights,
A brief, wherein all marvels summèd lie;
Of fairest forms and sweetest shapes the store,
Most graceful all, yet thought may grace them more.

The mind a creature is, yet can create,
To nature's patterns adding higher skill;
Of finest works, wit better could the state
If force of wit had equal power of will;
Devise of man in working hath no end;
What thought can think, another thought can mend.

Man's soul, of endless beauties image is,
Drawn by the work of endless skill and might;
This skilful might gave many sparks of bliss,
And to discern this bliss a native light.
To frame God's image as his worths required,
His might, his skill, his word, and will conspired.

All that he had, his image should present;
All that it should present, he could afford;
To that he could afford, his will was bent,
His will was followed with performing word.
Let this suffice, by this conceive the rest:
He should, he could, he would, he did the rest.

--Robert Southwell, 1561-1595

Stanza 1:
  • "mirror", "brief", and "store":  three different images of "Man's mind".
  • "Most graceful all":  the "forms" and "shapes".

Stanza 2:
  • "better could":  could better (in the sense of improve).

Stanza 3:
  • "endless skill and might", "This skillful  might":  God.
  • "worths":  OED, sv worth 3b:  "The character or standing of a person in respect of moral and intellectual qualities; esp. high personal merit or attainments", but used in the plural sometimes for the worth of a single human individual (here God).  The examples cited at worth 3b are from Southwell's period precisely, ranging as they do from 1586-1631.
Stanza 4:
  • "To that":  To what.

     It isn't the modern critical edition ed. by McDonald & Brown (1967), but for a sense of Southwell's own orthography, see pp. 65-66 of the Grossart edition of 1872.

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