Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Witch of Edmonton at The Swan, Stratford


I rolled up to the Swan at Stratford on Wednesday 19th with a party of students who will be taking my ‘Witchcraft and Drama’ course next term to see the current production of The Witch of Edmonton. These are a few notes of my impressions, and no doubt pedantic. As I was saying subsequently to a colleague, if I were directing any such play, my cast would have to act all the footnotes, and the production would last four and a half hours.

Jay Simpson as Tom the Devil-Dog, Eileen Atkins as Mother Sawyer, and set design.


First, the stage setting is excellently well conceived, simple and effective: the apron part of the stage bare, but textured, the rear part of the stage a thicket of stylised reeds or withies. This brilliantly suggests a margin, a wilderness, a world that’s just outside the Christian parish. From here, Elizabeth Sawyer emerges, and the devil Tom, or it is where the villagers conduct panicky searches.

I was less entirely persuaded by the costuming. Eileen Atkins is in suitable grey. I had some feeling that, having come up with the stage set, and the splendid attire for Jay Simpson as the devil dog, the designer took rest on her laurels. Specifically, I thought Frank Thorney was inattentively costumed: too down-at-heel for a character who is indeed a servant, but who aspires to be more than that, a pretentious talker who would be more conscious, in his attire, of the image he’s projecting.

Jim Dale in Carry on Stabbing, no, apologies, Ian Bonar as Frank Thorney


So to the direction by Gregory Doran, which has been much praised by the critics. It did seem to me that the audience were getting the point of Frank – as, quite early on, in the laughter at his ‘Am I a talker?’ This even though that character and his tangled affairs must come as a challenge to all that part of the audience that don’t know the play. I hadn’t really noticed just how close to a confession to Susan Frank gets (prior to the actual murder).

A director works with what she or he has, and in this case, Doran had Eileen Atkins out of retirement to play the role of Mother Sawyer. Atkins has the presence, the age, and the ability. But I was surprised that her Sawyer was so lucid, so wry: Atkins makes her intelligent, wary of the devil when he first appears, gives her soliloquies as steady exposition direct to the audience. I anticipated a Mother Sawyer wrapped up in her own anger, a fury who will bring the devil down on Edmonton. “Be not so furious”, says the Justice to her during their crucial conversation in Act IV. But Eileen Atkins was not being ‘furious’, but perceptive, witty, even low-key.

Atkins as Mother Sawyer



I can imagine that at her years Eileen Atkins has the right to set her own pace and tone. But her refusal to tear a cat made for a strange balance in the production, for a lot of the characters in the sub action are involved in the moral melodrama Ford wrote for them, with much pointing and shouting. Winifred, for instance: I don’t think I had ever really registered just what an extensive role that is in the play. I don’t think any performer could make sense of it all, Shvorne Marks seemed to me involved more in taking up some of the shouty slack left to hand by Atkins’ low-key Mother Sawyer and missed the occasional chance to suggest that Winifred can be aware of what clap-trap she talks.

Ian Bonar had the Frank Thorney role, and has been praised by the reviewers. I think neither he nor his director had really seen through to the unpleasant depths of Frank. He is played as young man in a frightful mess, and distressed about what he has stumbled in to. Frank Thorney deserves closer scrutiny than that: you can see him thinking about murder quite unprompted (as in his ominous protestation to Susan, "thou art so rare a goodness, as death would rather put itself to death, than murther thee"). He might also be suspected of a half-formed notion that once his father has settled his inheritance, he might find a way to off his old dad before any changes get made to the favourable settlement.

Doran’s direction is chiefly to blame. Unaccountably, with Tom the devil dog half-hidden in the reeds, the diabolic insight that (about Frank’s murder) ‘The mind’s about it now, / One touch from me soon sets the body forward’ was NOT followed up by any touch from the devil. This baulks at the clear requirements made by the text. One of my students objected reasonably enough that a touch was an inadequate representation of the devil taking control. But through the whole text the importance of the devil’s touch is apparent, as in these passages and stage directions:

1.      Sawyer  … first upon him I’ld be reveng’d.
Dog.
Thou shalt: Do but name how.
Sawyer.
Go, touch his life.
Dog.
I cannot.
Sawyer.
Hast thou not vow'd? Go, kill the slave…
Dog. …His Cattle
And Corn, I'll kill and mildew: but his life
(Until I take him, as I late found thee,
Cursing and swearing) I have no power to touch…

2.      .....
Dog. Now for an early mischief and a sudden:
The minde's about it now. One touch from me
Soon sets the body forward…
3.      Sawy.
Touch her.
Radcliffe. Oh my Ribs are made of a paynd Hose, and they break.
4.      SD: dog rubs him
5.      SD As they whisper, enter at one end o'th' Stage Old Carter and Katharine, Dog at th' other, pawing softly at Frank.

Doran needs to read the text he’s directing a bit more closely. Sawyer makes the explicit pact with the devil, Frank’s pact is implicit, but he is weak and wicked enough to allow the devil to prompt his evil. Look how his words to Susan, in rising anger ‘So, I shall have more trouble. Thank you for that’ are made by the touch of the dog into a partial acknowledgement of the devil’s prompting, ‘Thank you for that. Then I’ll ease all at once’:

Speech and SD in the 17th century text



Similarly I think there’s warrant for bringing the devil back into our view at the end of Act IV, for Frank’s closing couplet:

I have served thee, and my wages now are paid,
Yet my worst punishment shall, I hope, be stayed.

Who is Frank talking to, alone here? Obviously, the departing Old Carter, but it could be to the devil he can’t quite see, but who is there (or at least, would be there if an attentive director brought him into sight). The 17th century text was urgently instructive about how we give the devil access to us, if we blaspheme, or have evil thoughts.

Did Doran conceive that the play would be more acceptable to the audience at The Swan if he denied the devil his ‘touch’ on Frank? There may be some reason to suspect that he ducked out of potentially difficult moments. I cannot conceive for a moment why Faye Castelow as the wretched Susan, brought in by her father as a corpse in a coffin, did not, as the text requires, open her eye to glare accusingly at her murderer, Frank, who cries out: 'For pities sake, remove her: see, she stares with one broad open eye still in my face.' Did he not understand it? Did he blench at it? Either explanation is unsatisfactory. Elizabeth Sawyer, as the play mentions in passing, was one-eyed. The moment passes from the evil supernatural of Mother Sawyer, to the dead Susan, now operating in the realm of the good supernatural, like a corpse bleeding afresh in the presence of the murderer. Interestingly, Liz Crowther as the mad Anne Radcliffe did in extremis, see the devil, and that was very effective.

My students were most bemused by the end, unable to believe the level of forgiveness extended to Frank by Old Carter and the other villagers. Once again, I had to feel that Eileen Atkins’ Mother Sawyer, going more or less quietly to her fate, was partly to blame. There wasn’t a strong enough contrast established between her partial repentance (but actually it is quite clear admission of insufficient contrition when she says she wishes she still had Tom to help her) and Frank’s lengthy words before his exit to the gallows. The dramatists overreached, and thought they could finesse this contrast, and perhaps it did work for the audience in 1621, ever willing to hear penitent sinners. For us, it’s just another display of Frank’s glib way with words. The more sincere he tries to sound, the worse he sounds (at least to us).

The villagers were all rather clean looking. Come on now, Old Banks is under demonic compulsion to kiss his cow’s backside every ten times an hour. Can’t he be a bit a bit mucky-faced as a result? The morris dance was superb: an adequate sort of dance was going on until Tom and devil dog gets hold of Old Sawgut’s fiddle, and plays, and then a frenzy descends on all participants and witnesses to the dance. Cuddy Bank's hobby horse was a horse's skull, as in the witchcraft art of Oostsanen or others up to Jan Svankmajer.

Suitably unchristian looking morris men.


 Dafydd Llyr Thomas could have been tubbier still as Cuddy Banks, the role Rowley wrote for himself. The scene where Tom assumes the shape of Kate Carter to lure Cuddy into a pond was surprisingly effective. I think the actress must have filled her voluminous skirts with a mist of dry ice, she floated all the way across the apron stage on wreathes of smoke. The final expository dialogue between Cuddy and Tom was rather wearing. I don’t think it has to be, but that Jay Simpson was coasting on the strength of how super he looks, and Daffyd Llyr Thomas was still too much in role as Cuddy. Both characters are slightly out of their usual parts here, the dog oddly inclined to reveal, Cuddy more intelligent than usual. I think they could have done that dialogue with less performance, and greater lucidity and speed.





A visit to the ‘Mundus tenebrosus’ with Samuel Pordage





Back again to Samuel Pordage’s Behmenist poem of 1661, Mundorum explicatio, his explanation of the worlds of Wrath and Love. Much of the poem consists of a lengthy contrast between a black magician and a practitioner of theurgical magic. My set of extracts with commentary will focus on the evil magician, as it all touches on witchcraft.

The episode of the black magician getting the full endorsement of Lucifer as his representative on earth involves Lucifer prompting the process, the temptation of the bad magus into wicked use of magic, and then, once he is far enough involved or corrupted, a very elaborate visit to hell, where the Faust figure (Faustus is alluded to as one of the mages that had trodden this way before) sees what is going off in hell, learns about the familiar spirits of witches (‘Teter spirits’, Pordage mysteriously calls them). On his visit, the origin of hell is explained, by way of theodicy, and the dark adept finally meets Lucifer (a most unsavoury presence), who grants him the right to eat the fruit of the Tree of Death.

Pordage, a wordy writer, spins it out, but his easy couplets are not hard to read, and I will quote quite a few extracts. Here’s how he starts, with a striking proposition to the reader:

   Suppose the mighty Prince of darknesse wou’d 
   Himself incarnate, vail with with fleshly Hood 
   His Stygian Face; to shew the power, and might 
   Of the vast Kingdom of Æternal Night, 
   Upon this Earth: He finds a man propense 
   From genial starres to ill; a mind immense 
   After abstruser prying; piercing Wit 
   Grave look and studious; such a Man is fit 
   For this his high design.

   Himself incarnate, vail with with fleshly Hood 
   His Stygian Face; to shew the power, and might 
   Of the vast Kingdom of Æternal Night, 
   Upon this Earth: He finds a man propense 
   From genial starres to ill; a mind immense 
   After abstruser prying; piercing Wit 
   Grave look and studious; such a Man is fit 
   For this his high design.


A good start, this, though it’s a promise unfulfilled, we do not get to hear any more about Lucifer incarnating himself in a man’s body for some dire purpose. What happens when Lucifer has identified a suitable adept is that he sends agents from his hellish recruitment agency. Ceremonial magic is required by Lucifer, in his familiar role as the ape of God:

   He fastings, vigils, doth command him; nor 
   Lesse prayers than the other World requires, 
   Washings, and Ceremoies he desires: 
   And also that he should be Celebate, 
   Thus like an Ape he God doth imitate 
   In all his biddings, th’ better to beguile 
   Man, with his high deceits, and cunning vile. 

The black magician has to carry on like this for some years, until
         at the last he [Lucifer] doth bequeath 
   To him the fruits of the black Tree of Death. 

To this purpose, a solemn invitation from Lucifer is delivered by a prince among devils:
   My soveraign Leige, hath sent me unto you 
   His faithful servant, with his leave to shew 
   Our Kingdom’s glory

The adept of the dark arts is delighted, and is ready to leave the instant he hears about his opportunity. The theme is B-text Faustian, really: that rather surprising eagerness (in the circumstances) to get a preview of hell and its torments. It is explained to the evil mage that he doesn’t need a traveller’s staff, for the journey will be in the spirit:

        only make fast your Closet door 
   That none may enter to disturb you: for 
   Your Body here shall lye: Then shall you see, 
   How nimble Spirits without Bodies be. 

So, it is the demonologist’s notion of the ecstatic journey of the witch. Pordage has already explained to us that the “Man whose Soul’s drench’d in the Stygian pool; / Thinks not Hell’s worst deformed spirits foul.” 

 On his visit to hell, the magician is not going to be given any reaction to what he sees: in effect, he’s simply there to be expounded to by his demonic cicerone, as Pordage gives his (or maybe his father’s) view of what Hell is. A Behmenist theodicy operates here in which God is both Wrath (by his first) and Love (by his second) principle. Lucifer and his fellow fallen angels simply preferred wrath to love, and, leaving heaven, populate a Hell God never intended to create, but which comes into being through the fiery wrath of the fallen angels who are present, as sparks are generated off a cold grindstone, as Pordage has the expository demon explain.

But what was of interest to me here was the way this evil Dante figure and his guide see all the lesser devils thronging outside hell proper. These are, it is explained to the epopt of black magic, the evil spirits that have commerce with witches:

   These palpable dark clouds they enter; where 
   He doth a thousand shreeks, and howlings hear, 
   Cursings, Blasphemings, swearing, murmuring voyces, 
   Bellowing, with a thousand ugly noyses …

With a slight shudder of demonic class odium, the evil spirit guiding the adept explains:

              What you did hear 
   Caus’d was by Spirits that inhabit there, 
   Who sporting were together: Teter haggs 
   In th’ outward World feed these with shriv’led baggs, 
   The which they suck …

The OED is no help with ‘Teter’, though it seems clear that Pordage is applying the word to those aged female witches that feed demonic familiar spirits through supernumerary teats. Immediately afterwards, the informant tells the visitor about the sexual relations such lower spirits have with the hags:

 There dwell the Incubi, 
   And Succubi; deformed Spirits lye 
   By millions there; those who desire to feed 
   On humane morsels; such who shed their seed 
   Into old Haggs: and these are those which they 
   Call down to their assistance: these obey 
   To teter charmes, oyntments, perfumes, and these 
   Appear to them in various shapes

The last reference is to familiar spirits in a variety of forms. What is difficult to measure here is the author’s attitude. Pordage is completely committed to the spirit world: there’s no doubt about that. This whole episode of the black magician visiting hell will be mirrored by an honorific account of the upwards spiritual journey undertaken by the true magus. Pordage believes spirits are everywhere.

The hellish informant is matter-of-fact about familiar spirits (he or it simply would be). What Pordage thought about witchcraft is the point here, the point where all these airy dreams of massively populated elements and other worlds coincide with the real human world with the most potential to do harm.

The passage that follows immediately on from the last quotation is the usual jumble of trivial and more serious malefice that witches, aided by such spirits can produce:

                             and please 
   Them with their antic Tricks: make hoggs to dance 
   On hinder feet, platters to skip, and prance, 
   With such like sports; make Cows, and Cattel languish, 
   And mortal men strike too with pain, and anguish: 
   And these old haggs command, unlesse they are 
   By the other World resisted, then they dare 
   Not do’t. These are our slaves, we them command, 
   And when we need them on our errands send. 

‘These’ lower spirits are commanded, we seem to be told, by both the hags and the more princely sorts of devils: a limit to the commands of the witches is implied in that reference to resistance from ‘the other World’, which one supposes means good in general. It seems to be left ambiguous whether the commands to the spirits of the superior devils can be resisted with equal success.

The informant now turns (after talking about familiars, demoniality and malefice) to the nocturnal ecstatic flight (the adept has arrived at hell by just such means, but has a superior evil spirit as his pilot):

   In these th’ old Haggs delight, for often they 
   (Such power they have) their Bodies do conveigh 
   From place, to place; and often meet their sp’rights, 
   Their Bodies left: where fed with grosse delights, 
   They back return: These are our Prince’s slaves 
   Who bring him many Souls, when that the graves 
   Their Bodies take: But oft times these do flye, 
   And tear in pieces as in sportful play 
   Those whom they serv’d, when that their date is out… 

The last part of the passage is about the familiar spirit finally turning on the witch it has notionally served.

Being from further up the diabolic hierarchy, the demon talking wants it known that old hags certainly cannot command princely devils of his type. It’s a re-write of Mephostophilis explaining to Faustus about who is really in charge:

   Now we are Princes, and alas but flout 
   Those pouting Witches, when with charms they think 
   To call us down t’obey their dreiry wink. 
   No, we stir not, but when our mighty Prince 
   Imposes his Commands; then wend we hence 
   Into the World. When that you do return 
   These Sp’rites you heard shall all obey your charm; 
   Nay we; and if our Prince that power gives, 
   But yet that power has no man that lives: 
   For to call down, an Angel of his Throne, 
   He first with him must have high union. 

The silent and undaunted black magician then gets a tour of the torments hell has for the wicked. It’s the usual extreme cold/extreme heat treatment, the kind of thing a set of damned Swedes might take to:

         presently they are arriv’d upon 
   The burning Banks of fiery Plegeton. 
   In here they souse them: Cries, and shrieks they make, 
   But hard-heart Devils can no pity take: 
   Over, and over here they plunge them, then 
   To cold-stream’d Styx they bear them back agen, 
   And thus by turns these torments, with delight 
   They give...

Before we get to the centre of hell and meet Lucifer, the devilish tour guide pauses for an exposition of how all this gruesome mechanism of punishment was set up. There is a God, he solemnly assures the magician, and God involves two principles, Wrath and Love. Hell is just an accidental by product of His wrath: God did not create hell or devils out of that divine anger: the fallen angels generated it out of their own nature after their fall:

   Think not that God in Wrath did us create, 
   Or that for damned Souls he made this state, 
   For to torment them in: He did not Will 
   That there a Hell should be: or any ill. 
   Thus then it came. God from Æternity 
   Did generate two Principles, which be 
   Contrary to each other. God alone 
   Cannot (but by these Principles) be known. 
   These generate he did Æternally, 
   Both in, and by himself, a mysterie 
   Not to be comprehended. Neither tho 
   Is God; yet he’s the Root from whence they flow: 
   This Principle in which we make abode 
   Is call’d the first: An ang’ry, zealous God 
   And full of Wrath, Vengeance, and Ire, here 
   To mortal Men, and us he doth appear. 
   In th’other Principle of Love, and Light, 
   To men he doth appear quite opposite: 
   The nature of our Principle is this, 
   It full of raging, anxious prickling is, 
   An harsh, sour, tart, fell, eager essence, and 
   Of bitterness, and stinging full; we stand 
   In this. The other Principle is quite 
   Another nature, to this opposite, 
   We know no more of that: this I can tell 
   That accidentally is the cause of Hell. 

The narrative pauses again for another analeptic account of Lucifer’s fall:

   Our Prince more bright, than your light-giving Sun 
   In glorious Rays of Heavn’ly Light out-shon 
   All other Angels, sat upon the Throne 
   Of God, and like a God himself did reign. 
   Out of both Principles compos’d we were, 
   As Man’s Soul is; and other Angels are: 
   The first recluded was, and we were made 
   I’th second, there we should for aye have stay’d: 
   But our brave Prince (I must commend him for’t) 
   Did bravely Lord it in a Kingly sort 
   Over the heart of God; that meekness scorn’d, 
   Did higher fly, and his high Spirit turn’d 
   Into the fiery property; that Rage 
   And fiery flash which Love could not assuage 
   He there begat. We as our Master did, 
   Raged as he; and so defiance bid
   To Love 

And from here Pordage goes to his notion of how Hell generates itself:

       that great rage, and burning of the Wrath, 
   This Fire you see we live in then hurst forth, 
   Which from our selves proceeds, and which is made 
   By that strong enmity which doth invade 
   Us, 'gainst the adverse Orb of Light: and know 
   This Fire doth from bitter harshness grow; 
   As when you rub your flint upon a wheel 
   Which turneth round, and is compos’d of Steel, 
   You see from bitter grating Fires proceed, 
   So our harsh grating Spirits Fire breed, 
   Which is the same you see; This is the pain 
   That we, and all the damned in remain.

Does this theology, which must be Behmenist in its basic outlines, absolve God? If it does, it does so at the cost of some diminishment to the divine omnipotence. If the principles of Wrath and Love start with God, and apply in different degrees to all beings, God seems unable to control the consequences of His own nature. Pordage’s talkative, well-meaning God often seems to be doing His best with outcomes He didn’t intend, and the gruesome sadism of Hell looks out of control

There follows Pordage’s major invention, the vision of the Tree of Death in Hell, on which the black magician feeds to complete his installation as hell’s number one magician on earth. First, we finally meet Lucifer, who is bearing up quite well and holding on to some dignity despite his unfortunate appearance:

                                  Great Lucifer 
   A sable Crown upon his head did bear, 
   One hand a Scepter held, the other bore 
   A hissing Snake, upon his back he wore 
   Nothing but griesly hair, more black than Night, 
   Under his supercilious brow a Light 
   Like burning coals came from his saucer eyes: 
   His rugged cheeks like Rephean Rocks did rise, 
   With dented Vallies: every time he spoke 
   From’s hellish mouth came clouds of pitchy smoak, 
   Which intermixed were with flakes of fire. 
   His breast beset with hair as stiffe as wire, 
   Bore two great duggs, from whence like spring-lets fell 
   Ereban Nectar , or the milk of Hell, 
   More black than pitch, and bitterer then soot 
   It was, from whence unto h’s cloven foot 
   He was beset with hair, a shaggy Beast 
   Thus sat in state to entertain his guest. 
   Behind his Throne Hel’s Armes were plac’d which were 
   A Dragon guils, with wings erect i’th’ ayr, 
   A wreathed tail, his mouth flames proper yield, 
   Holding a Banner, in a sable Field. 
   Earth’s solid Globe was on the other part 
   Pourtrai’d; where stood grim Griesly Death, his Dart 
   Piercing a tender Lamb, who yields his breath 
   And Life, unto the cruel stroke of Death.

Pordage makes all his supernatural beings voluble, so Lucifer is given plenty to say, interrupted by an infernal belch:

   Welcome my Son unto these glowing parts, 
   I have considered thy great deserts, 
   For which I did permit that thou might’st see, 
   My Kingdom’s Glory, and my Majesty. 
   Here is a Throne, and here a Crown lies by 
   For thee, when it shall be thy destiny 
   To leave the prison of thy Soul: I do 
   In the meantime my power confirm on you; 
   Thou shalt my great Magitian be, and show 
   Strange uncouth Wonders in the Orb below. 
   Hau---Let this blast imbue thy fetid Soul, 
   Accept my power, and let none controul 
   Thy might, and force. Go to the Tree of Death, 
   Eat of the fruit, and so confirm my Breath: 
   Choose what thou pleasest, there is choice, nay all 
   If thou canst use them in the earthly Ball, 
   For our great Glory. Our great Mysteries 
   When thou hast eaten, thou wilt better prize: 
   When thou shalt be confirm’d: Love then shall fly, 
   None in thy Heart shall ever reign but I. 
   This said, he nodded to the Prince that brought 
   Him thither, who conceiv’d his Princes thought: 
   Doing obeisance both withdrew: and strait 
   Towards the Tree of Death they ambulate. 

So, having been given the Satanic nod for the go-ahead, they amble over to The Tree of Death, and Pordage gives it the full works descriptively:

   Thorow the midst a pitchy stream 
   (The which from Styx and other Rivers came) 
   Runs; this they follow till they saw it shoot 
   Its sooty waters, at the very Root 
   Of the mortiferous Tree; in there it fell 
   Conveighing thither all the dregs of Hell. 
   By which that Tree is nourished: He now 
   Lifts up his eyes, and that strange Tree doth view. 
   The trunck more hard than solid steel, for mosse, 
   With filthy spawn of Toads inclosed was, 
   Poyson of Asps instead of shining gum, 
   Thorow the bark from every limb did come. 
   Thrice fifty Cubits scarce could close about 
   Its mighty bole: on every limb stretch’d out 
   Hung crawling Vipers, sucking with delight 
   The juyce of Henbane , and of Aconite 
   From off the leaves, which gave a filthy stink, 
   And were more black than Pitch, or blackest ink. 
   An horrid blast arising from the ground 
   Concusse the leaves, which make a dryery sound 
   In their forc’t Kissing: Bitterer then soot 
   Mixed with Gall, and Wormwood’s juyce, the fruit 
   Was, which thick sparsed here, and there did grow, 
   In sundry colours on each sable bow. 
   A while he views this Tree: Hel’s horrid Fiend 
   From’s smoky throat at last these words doth send. 

   Seest thou this stately Tree, those Fruits I wis 
   Are our Ambrosia; and our Nectar is 
   That humid juice you see; no other food 
   But what grows here our Prince esteemeth good. 

The Tree of Death closely follows the characteristics of the trees in Paradise: it has no seasons, but bears its horrible fruit continuously:

   No Winter with its nipping frosts bereaves 
   This lurid Tree of there his sable leaves: 
   Nor leaves, nor blossoms adds the spring unto’t: 
   Nor yellow Autumn robs it of its Fruit, 
   It thus continues as it is, and tho 
   We daily feed thereon it doth not grow 
   Barren of Fruit, for tho we cul apace 
   Others supply straitway their vacant place, 
   And should we off the Fruit we see now pull, 
   Next moment renders it again as full. 
   We need not fear but here is choyce enough, 
   For every Prince hath here his several bough. 
   Yon’ fair-spread arm whose fruit so rarely dy’d, 
   Spec’t like the Peacock’s tail, yields food for Pride . 
   Yon Snake-betwisted bow, Toad-specled fruit 
   Doth best the slavering Chaps of Envy sute. 
   Yon’ sire-coloured Pome loves mighty wrath : 
   Lust thinks that jetty Apple better worth. 
   Yon’ mighty Limb which beareth Apples thrice 
   As big as all the rest, Loves Avarice ; 
   Yon’ juicy Fruit which liquor doth express 
   Thorow the skin loves beastly Drunkennesse . 
   And those two thick fruit-pressed limbs close by, 
   Belongs to wantonness, and gluttony . 
   On that feeds sloth, and that arm which you there 
   Behold doth serve the Table of despair. 
   Yon’ strange-shap’d Fruit, which on that bow you see, 
   Is suck’d upon by foul-mouth’d Perjury: 
   It’s endless to name all: Rare Fruit beside 
   All these, we have upon the other side. 

As in Pordage’s account of the Temptation of Eve, the devil is keen to draw attention to the tempting nature of the fruit itself:

   Step hither, look! here’s gallant Fruit indeed; 
   Here ‘tis, and if you please, that you shall feed; 
   These are the Fruits will ope your dimmer eyes, 
   Will make you subtle, and exceeding wise. 
   These, these will shew the virtue of this Tree; 
   And I will tell you what those Apples be. 
   Seest that fair one with Crimson-circles deckt, 
   And here and there with Characters bespec’t? 

After that rather tedious passage about the fruit the tree bears for allegorical qualities like Perjury, Envy, Lust, there is rather more interest in the fruit which the Tree of Death bears for the ambitious academic, in more or less any subject discipline:


   Should’st thou eat that as good a linguist strait 
   Should be, as he that seven years had sat 
   Poring on books, enduring cold, and pain 
   A Language, or some Rhetorick to gain: 
   The juice of this fine fruit did Herod lick, 
   When he a God was styl’d for’s Rhetorick. 
   And that round apple, which hangs dangling there, 
   Will make you be a cunning Sophister. 
   Yon apple which is so variegate, 
   Will make you cunning in mechanicks strait. 
   This Apple here which hangs so fair to view; 
   With Mathematick cunning will imbue; 
   See what Cylindres, and Rhomboides 
   What Quadrats, Diagramms, Isoce’les 
   With other lines, and figures printed in 
   Black, red, and yellow streakes upon the skin; 
   These shew its Nature. But yon with a Star 
   So fairly mark’d, makes an Astrologer : 
   Should’st thou eat this which hangeth over us 
   More cunning then was Æsculapius 
   Thou’ldst be; and skilfull too in Chiron’s art 
   If that, which hangeth on that bow a th’ wart. 
   But yon fair fruit which takes up so much room, 
   Will make you know before what is to come: 
   Of this did Baalam often feed, when he 
   Did by our divination Prophesie? 
   In former time this Apple was in use 
   Much, when Delphean Priests did suck the juice: 
   And on the next they fed, when they in verse 
   Their Oracles did usually reherse. 

   But yon five Apples which I shew you now, 
   And which do triumph on the upper bough, 
   Shall be thy food: See here I’ll reach them down, 
   Make much of them, for now they are thine own, 
   Well may’st thou prize them, Heav’n nor Earth such fruit 
   Can give, which may so well thy nature suit. 
   These with thee take, and feed upon below: 
   But first to thee I will their virtues show. 

   This purple colour’d one more cold than Ice, 
   Or Riphæan snow, extinguish in a trice 
   Will that Scintilla Love hath plac’d in thee: 
   Then shalt thou wholly from his chains be free. 
   Floods of temptations, nor whole streams of sin, 
   Nor pleasures, which the World may draw you in, 
   Are strong enough to dout that little spark, 
   Which closely gloweth in thy hollow ark. 
   Well may they cloak it that it may not flame, 
   But ‘tis this fruit that must put out the same. 
   This next although more black than pitch it be, 
   Will firmly glew together Hell, and thee: 
   A thousand chains shall sooner break, than this 
   Resolve thee, of so strong a nature ‘tis. 
   With all Hel’s Peers, and our great Prince you wil 
   By it hold highest Correspondence still. 
   By this third, snaky-colour’d one, below 
   Thou shalt most strange-amazing Wonders do. 
   Th’ Eternal flames which wend above the sky, 
   Unto the Earth thou may’st call by and by: 
   The Hyperborean sconce thou mayst command, 
   To oestuate the Sea to Mountains; and 
   Mayst at thy bidding Taurus rend in twain: 
   Or Atlas fling into the Western main. 
   This reddish one bespotted thus with jet, 
   The lock’d gates of thy senses ope will set; 
   Your quicker eyes although on Earth you stand 
   Shall pierce the Centre of our darker Land: 
   Then shall you see us when you please, and know 
   How that your Prince, and we your Brothers do: 
   Our shriller voices shall assault your ear: 
   Your nose shall smell the sulphur of our Sphear: 

   And our hot breaths, feel blowing in your face; 
   Our Kingdom’s dainties tast in every place, 
   Banquet and deeply drink with us: so you 
   May be on Earth, and in our Kingdom too. 

The final fruit of the Tree of Death loops us back to witchcraft as described by Pordage earlier in the poem: it is a ‘Teter’ fruit, that enables you to call up evil spirits. Simon Magus and Doctor Faustus were previous consumers, the fruit having of course regenerated after they had partly glutted themselves upon it. And this is the one the unnamed, never un-nerved magician takes and eats, so completing his investiture into his role as chief magician of hell:

   By this last teter one, all evil Sprites 
   That b’longs to Hell, to please you with delights 
   You when you please may call, nay if you will 
   Ten thousand Legions shall attend you still. 
   All that belongs toth’ Necromancy Art, 
   And Conjuration ‘twill to you impart; 
   That at your beck from hence you may adjure, 
   The blackest Fiend to be your servitour. 
   Jannes and Jambres, Simon and Faustus eat 
   (Tho not to fill them) of this pretious meat. 
   See now what power thou’rt indued with, 
   By these rare fruits pluck’d from the Tree of Death: 
   The gold of In’d, nor Peru, not the Seas 
   Rich Treasure purchase may such Fruits as these, 
   The fabuliz’d Hesperian fruit of old, 
   Were dirt to these, although they were of Gold. 
   Come now thou great Magitian thou shalt go 
   Unto the Body, which remains below; 
   Our Pomp, and Power, thou hast seen, and I 
   To you our Kingdom’s nature did descry: 
   You need no conduct hither now, for when 
   You please, you may come visit us agen. 
   This said: he strait his body reassumes, 
   And thus Hel’s great Magitian becomes. 

Pordage’s poem would probably have been more important if the teachings of Boehme had taken off in England like, say, Methodism did. He has no obvious poetic merits beyond fluency. His vocabulary occasionally throws up some quirky latinate monstrosity – ‘pinguitude’, ‘anguiferous’, ‘ambulate’, ‘mortiferous’. It’s interesting that the various rival brands of Christianity in the 17th century produce competing Creation-Fall poems: Pordage’s Behmenism, Lucy Hutchinson’s Calvinism, alongside Milton’s epic
, which Anglican orthodoxy, braced by the music of Haydn and the criticism of Johnson and Addison could accept (though attentive readers can spot where the cracks have been papered over).





Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Samuel Pordage: Obscured by Clouds, 1661



Not the Pink Floyd album of 1972, but a line in Samuel Pordage’s lengthy poem of 1661, Mundorum explicatio:
blessed Paradise 
Obscur’d by clouds, is hid from mortal eyes.

Pordage’s father, John, evidently brought up his son as a follower of Jacob Boehme. Samuel somehow managed to straddle two worlds: his writings were enthusiastically royalist, and his plays successful on the Restoration stage. But his major poem, possibly written in collaboration with his very unorthodox father, expounds Behmenist doctrines. Boehme  had impeccable credentials as a guide towards the world of the spirit, for reasons Pordage enthusiastically explains:

One Jacob Behre, a very pious Man 
By prayer obtain’d an Angel Guardian. 
Which both himself, and’s Wife saw every Night 
About their Bed, like to a shining Light. 
Such is God’s Love, and such the Angels care, 
That we as children, they as Nurses are. 
I do believe that there are many now 
That by the guidance of their Angels go, 
Steer as they do direct; are guided by 
And have converse with their own Genii. 

 I like that intensifier, ‘I do believe’. His affirmation that amongst us are some adepts who are guided by their genii reminds me of the work I have been doing recently on early modern somnambulism – a sleepwalker, moving without concern along a roof-ridge, was a nice proof that guardian angels existed.

These fortunate folk may move unnoticed amongst us, but they are really inhabitants of paradise. Pordage addresses the old question as to where Paradise is, but he knows the answer:

Where’s Paradise? desirously you quaere. 
In what by-corner of the Earth it stands? 
Whether in Peru? or by Ganges sands? 
Whether it under the Antartic lyes? 
Or where the Riphean snowy Mountains rise? 
In what place lyes this blessed part, which is 
The Realm of Joyes, and the state of Blisse? 

His wordy, jog-trot verses serve him well. Many lines intervene before the revelation he has for us:

As Day dwels in the shadows of the Night, 
As darknesse doth involve the splendid Light, 
As the bright flame lyes hidden in the coal, 
So lurking lyes this holy place in all 
The Universe …

Paradise is an interior state. Though you will not perceive it, your neighbour may have it within, and so is in effect living there. This prompts a pleasing image of the early modern neighbourly glance over the fence,  that suspicion that your privileged neighbours are rolling around in joys denied to you:

    while you dwell in Babylonish state, 
In midst of Babel, and her wickednesse, 
Priding your self in all her whorish dresse, 
Your next near neighbour (in the world’s account) 
May dwel upon thrice sacred SION’S Mount, 
And in bless’d Paradise: for tho he may 
In Night seem, He in Night has found the Day. 
He plows, he sows, he reaps the Earth; so you 
The Gleab do plow, sow, reap, and husband too, 
But yet your aym, and end, and his infers 
He is God’s Stuart, you are Lucifer’s: 
From several principles you act, and he 
Is in the second, in the first you be; 
He dwells in EDEN, and JERUSALEM, 
But you in Aegypt, and in Babylon. 

Near at hand is far away: your neighbour is actually living in a place that’s far, far away from you, maybe beyond your attaining. Maybe Pordage was thinking of his enthusiast father.

Meanwhile, the world seethes with spiritual inhabitants (that you also can’t see), but like your next neighbour’s state of bliss, they are there:

Some love the River, some a stinking Pool. 
Some clear-spring’d Jordan; some Asphaltes foul; 
Some stinking Lakes, which as Maeotis love; 
Some likewise never from Avernus move. 
So some the lesser Rivers, some the Great 
Do chuse (some wander) for a constant seat. 
Some to the Earth belong, and these abound 
In numbers great, or on, or under ground. 
The subterran, within their hidden den, 
Hide treasures from, sometimes disclose, to Men: 
Sometimes such move the Treasures that they hide, 
Sometimes by these are Mines, to Men deny’d. 
Sometimes great treasures they disclose; anon 
To durt convert them, or thence steal ag’en. 
Others: which on the Earth do dwell, some Love 
The Rocks, and Caves, and some the shady Grove; 
Some Woods, & Trees: some stones, some fields, some Planes, 
Some Vales, some Hills, some Marshes, Meadows, Draines. 
Some in Icelandian He
cla love to lye, 
Others in Hechelberg to roare, and cry. 
Some one place, some another Love, but all 
Are frequent almost throughout all the Ball. 
Some love for to converse with men, but some 
More solitary rather’d have their Room. 

Though I collect references to mountains associated with witchcraft or spirits, the Hechelberg was new to me (the Heuchelberg in Baden-Württemberg, I deduce). Though Pordage’s point is not really about specific places, he makes spirits easier to believe in by asserting their ubiquity.
Nevertheless, working along the same lines that Walter Stevens deduced for demonologist/theologians, witchcraft is a useful guarantor that those various spirits really are there. Pordage makes an interesting reference to the witchcraft cases in Lancashire and Warboys (1593):

And what were those so oft appear’d unto 
Lancastrian, and Warbosian witches too? 
What spirit Job tormented! What was he 
Caus’d Sarah, Raguel’s Daughter’s misery,  
Forcing her Grooms by Hymen crown’d at noon, 
To passe the Ferry-boat of Charon soon? 
I should want time to write, and you to read 
Should I but mention every horrid deed 
Of evil Spirits, which in History 
Is noted: who shall doubt this verity? 

It’s interesting that the Lancashire witches are cited by way of affirming ‘verity’: the 1612 case, one assumes. That the 1633-4 case in Lancashire was discredited may have not reached Pordage.

All these spirits are apportioned out. We don’t have one of each, like Faustus, but one or the other, according to whether we live in Boehme’s mundus tenebrosus or mundus luminosus:

Each good Man has an Angel guardian,  
And evil Daemon has each evil Man 
For to attend upon him; one doth still 
Egg Man to Good, the other unto ill. 

The verb, ‘to egg’ in the quotation may not be as informal as it looks. It appears to be used quite often in serious religious contexts (to edge, to whet or incite to). Pordage, writing one suspects at speed, is often informal. God (or ‘Love’, as Pordage likes to call Him) is voluble, even chatty, far from Milton’s severity. The Creator isn’t a sublime idea in Pordage, whose easy-going style contributes to making Boehmist ideas familiar.

Pordage, after his account of the divided worlds, one closed off to most of us, logically enough falls into an account of how Adam lost his chance of living in the world of light.

This wily Serpent all his craft did use, 
His poison th’row this Earth for to diffuse
Which he no way effect could:  b’Adam’s lapse 
Only a way is made; He him entraps, 
Assaults his free-will, doth expose to view 
This World’s rare beauties when ‘twas formed new: 
Shews him the tree forbid, whose dangling fruit 
So pleasing, with a new made creature suit 
He well knew would: This was the only gate· 
By which he hop’d to overthrow him at. 
He knew be
forehand the sad consequence 
Of Adam’s fall:

Pordage approaches the major subject without any change of manner:
But Adam’s fatal lapse, from what, to what, 
In bri
ef my slender Muse shall now relate. 

Our writer was quite disarming in his admissions that he wasn’t really a very good poet. In the dedication to his studied attempt to sound like a Whiggish Dryden, Azaria and Hushai (1692) he confides:

nor am I altogether so doting, as to believe the Issues of my own Brain to exceed all others, and to be so very fond of them, (as most Authors, especially Poets, are) as to think them without fault, or be so blinded as not to see their blemishes, and that they are excelled by others; yet since Poems are like Children, it may be allowed me to be naturally inclined to have some good Opinion of my own, and not to believe this Poem altogether despicable or ridiculous.

Adam is created and placed in the Garden of Eden:

Adam thus made, perfect, and good, by God 
In Paradise is plac’d, a bless’d abode: 
Then was the golden age indeed, Earth gave 
Nor Weeds, nor Thorns, but cloath’d in liv’ry brave 
Had a perpetual spring; continual green 
In ev’ry place, on ev’ry tree was seen: 
No dainty Flower, which art makes now to flourish, 
But then the Earth did naturally nourish. 
A constant verdure it retain’d, and then 
With thousand flowers spotted was the green: 
Each tree at one time bore both fruit, and flower; 
Each herb to heal, but not to hurt had power. 
No sharpnesse in the fruit, no naughty smell, 
The worst fruit then, our best now, did excel: 

Adam is just a probationer in Paradise: God sets him a task of standard duration – can he resist temptation for forty days?

Feed not on the Tree of death, nor on 
The mortal  fruit, but feed thou still upon 
The  Tree of Life: Th’ one darknesse, th’ other death, 
But this doth true Aeternal Life,  bequeath, 
Thou seest now what thou ought’st to do; stand fast, 
But forty dayes will thy temptation last, 
In which time of thou fall’st not, thou shal’t be 
For ever cloath’d with Immortality: 
Be like the Angels, as thou art; possesse 
E’r-lasting Joys; Eternal Happinesse. 
If not, this Body shall another have 
Of the World's nature, subject to the grave, 
And what thou now possessest thou shalt lose, 
Go now or Death, or Life Eternal chuse. 

Set this very explicit challenge by God, Adam wants nothing to do with Satan, darkness and wrath. However, the beauty of the world entices him (in accordance with the devil’s plan to seduce him by that means, as in ‘He him entraps, / Assaults his free-will, doth expose to view / This World’s rare beauties when 'twas formed new’). This weakness of Adam’s precipitates the first part of his double Fall (for the poem uses that teaching, derived from Boehme):

ADAM’S now left alone in Paradise 
Unto the mortal Principle his eyes 
He turns: For he has no desire to prove 
The wrathful Kingdom; He’s quite out of Love 
With it; abhors it, turns his eyes away, 
And lets them on this lower Orb to stray. 
With it he’s capt
ivated, and his Lust, 
Puts after it; he it desires to tast. 

Readers of Paradise Lost, or indeed, readers of Genesis, will be struck by Adam’s Fall (part I) occurring before the creation of Eve. The consequences for Adam of this first lapse are extraordinary, and in line with Boehme’s teachings: Adam is now no longer a creature of light, no longer transparent, he can no longer fly, nor walk on the surface of water. He sees the reflection of this new, ‘gross body’, and also experiences pain:

Strange Metamorphosis! 
What was before diaphanous, and clear, 
Not now transparent;  muddy doth appear: 
What was like air, is now like Earth; what light 
Now’s heavy; and for an unbounded sight, 
Each object intervening hindereth: 
For an immortal, now a mortal breath 
He draws: His Body which before could fly 
Clog’d now is with a load of flesh, doth lie 
Fix’d to this Orb: his quicker pace now’s gone, 
He tries to fly but he can scarcely run: 
He tries the Waters, at the Rivers brinks, 
Pass as before he could not, now he sinks 
Unto the bottom: that same Element 
Small aid for to support his body lent. 
Adam’s amaz’d, and in the Chrystal Glass 
Of Waters, he beholds his limbs, and Face, 
He feels his hair, his nose, his teeth, his flesh, 
Then views, then feels, then views himself afresh. 
Then tries to use his nimble feet; the Reeds 
In running cut his naked legs, he bleeds; 
He feels the smart, he wonders more at this, 
And strangeth at his Metamorphosis. 
With this gross body

Pordage imagines how Adam would have been if he had stayed in the world of light: a spiritual image of God, not eating or (of course) excreting, though God’s foresight has provided him with the ability to do these things when he has to:

had he stood in Paradise 
His bless’d estate, had then been on this wise. 
God’s Image then he should have born for aye 
But not as now, obscur’d with clogs of clay; 
The heav’nly part should th’row the outward shine; 
Free as the air; his meat, and drink divine; 
Nor as we eat, should he have eaten then, 
Magically, yet with mouth, lips, and tongue, 
But not into the body, there’s no vent 
And nothing could turn into Excrement. 
No need should he have had of carnal food, 
The Beasts, nor Fowls could do him little good; 
But God forese’ing he’d lapse from this bless’d state. 
Did therefore them for’s future helps create. 

What is rather wonderful here is the Behmenist capacity to set aside all the vast commentary and doctrine that had accrued to Genesis. Adam has lost an ability to propagate magically. He was bodily unsexed, but had inwardly the potential to be double-sexed, and could have multiplied himself by some ‘celestial’ form of birthing (Pordage does not go into details):

Nor should he have continued alone, 
(Such members as we have now he had none 
To propagate) he magically, as 
The Sun’s bright beams the waters surface pass 
Doth, without pain, so should he have brought forth 
In Paradise. By a Celestial birth, 
He should in God’s bless’d Image more have got, 
Eternal all, none subject to Fate’s Lot. 
He should both Father be, and Mother then, 
For Male, and Female God created Man: 
Both Man, and Woman, Wife, and Virgin he 
Together was, in State of purity. 

Now stuck with his ‘gross body’, Adam cannot pull off this form of propagation, so God resourcefully reaches into Adam (in a spiritual sort of way) to make exterior his interior Venus-principle, and this is Eve:

God saw that he, in this new lapsed state; 
Had lost the power now to propagate; 
Deterred by that vail of flesh: so would 
He have continu’d still; nor ever could 
From’s loins an issue spring. God just and true, 
T’whom future things are present, all fore-knew, 
Therefore that VENUS, or that power he had 
In him, before to propagate, he clad 
In flesh like him; and of his life, and being 
Framed his EVE: both in all things agreeing. 
Man once was whole-man, but now broke alas! 
Is but the half of what at first 
he was: 
Such members then, as we have now they gat, 
Fit, (as the Beast does) for to propoaate. 
ADAM awakes, and views his new made EVE, 
He knows she’s part of’s self; doth to her cleave, 
And upon her his sole desire doth cast, 
With her he joys, in her he takes repast. 
In Paradise as yet they were, for sin 
Actually had yet not enter’d in …

No, indeed: Adam has lapsed from full transparency, fertile androgyny, and his early capacity for unpowered flight, and the devil tempted him to his desire for the beauty of the world that led to these losses. But we haven’t yet had original sin, but with Eve now in her exterior form, the Fall of Man can now reach its second and climactic phase. Once again, God does his best, and spells out the prohibition and the consequences of disregarding it at discursive length.

Pordage imagines, with that daffy charm that appears in his poem, that Eve has a pet snake, and the devil decides to possess that pet so as to lure Eve to the forbidden tree:

There was a Serpent whose fine speekled hide, 
And pretty features with rare colours dy’d, 
Had gain’d EVE’S Love, and who it may be had 
Entwin’d about her naked neck, and play’d 
With her white hands; or favour’d in her lap: 
This Sathan thought was best her to entrap. 
Into this Beast he goes, and still doth lie 
About the Tree forbid …

Eve’s longing eye 
Full oft salutes that fatal Tree; desire 
She doth to tast the fruit, approaching nigher 
The subtle Serpent frisking on the Tree 
She spies: The shadow cannot hurt, thinks she. 
Nearer she goes; thinking on God’s Command 
She fears for to proceed, then makes a stand, 
But still the more she thought she was forbid, 
The more she longs, the more desire she did. 
(The same we still retain, for even thus 
We most desire what is forbid to us) 
She steps a little forward; then retires 
Then moves again: tempted by her desires 
She doth the Tree approach. God’s stricter Law 
Affright’s her; she’s about for to withdraw: 
Sathan s
eeing her the place about to leave, 
Thus through the Serpent tempts our Grandame Eve. 

Pordage deploys the psychologically obvious argument about the weakness of prohibition: that it simply provokes desire for whatever the thing forbidden is. Eve is already weakened by desire to try the forbidden fruit. Pordage adds in parenthesis that we all owe this psychological trait to Eve, as Wycherley put in in the mouth of Marjorie Pinchwife to her husband, ‘When you forbade it, you made me as 'twere desire it’.

Satan sees Eve about to turn away from the tree, and rallies to save his almost lost bad cause. It is like reading Paradise Lost retold in the manner of Cautionary Verses. Satan as snake points out that he hasn’t been poisoned, that all his wit he owes to the fruit, that eating will make you equal with the gods, and that altogether the tree bears fruit that would do you immense good, which is being withheld from you by a set of lies. Mainly he focusses on the extraordinary beauty of the tree itself, with Pordage devoting many verses to Satan’s description of its beauty. The snake is made to sound like a particularly eloquent patter-merchant or marketplace spieler:

Look how the Apples blush, see how they stand, 
See how the boughs, bow down to kiss thine hand; 
All’s at thy choice: which on this fair-spread Tree. 
(Come tell me Eve!) most liked is by thee? 
See here’s a fine one, this? or this best likes 
Thee? do but look what many pretty strikes 
Of red, and yellow paint; here’s one that skips 
Unto thy mouth: here thine own Cherry lips 
Are answered; thy softer skin thou mayst 
Here find; but there’s a mellow one whose taste 
So  sweet - delicious that 'twil ravish quite 
Thy looser senses with extreme delight; 
Thou hast such choice thou know’st not which to choose: 
Come take this on my word, try what accrues 
By this: here take it, prethee ea
t, and try 
If thou a Goddess art not by, and by. 

So Eve succumbs, and in the usual way of non-Miltonic Creation and Fall poems, Adam follows with little fuss:

Tempted by these fine words, and that fair Fruit, 
Fear holds her Hands, desire prompts her to’t, 
At last she takes the sugar’d bait, doth eat, 
Finds it for th’ present very pleasing meat, 
Now on its pleasing hue her looks she cast, 
Then with her tongue the sweeter Liquor tast 
She doth: mean time her husband passing by 
The place she thus attempts. Look here what I 
Have got (said she) so fair an Apple, yet 
Thou never saw’st: 'tis passing pleasing meat, 
Melts in my mouth; I wonder’d much that we 
So strictly were forbid this pleasing Tree: 
As mortals here we shall not make abode, 
I shall a Goddesse be, and thou a God; 
We shall be wise as they: here eat thou this 
I first have prov’d: me thinks it pleasing is. 
Adam invited thus receives the fruit, 
And without long delay falls rashly to’t. 

The force of that fallacious fruit is soon felt. Pordage produces a splendidly inappropriate extended simile, in which Adam and Eve are compared, in detail, to a drunk who is stripped naked and left out in the woods by his hypocritically censorious boozing mates, and wakes up groggy and unable to work out how he got there:

Some drunken sot 
O
r’e charg’d with Wine or Beer, till h’ has forgot 
To use his reason, a strong drowsiness 
His fume-farc’d Brain, and weakened eyes possess; 
Whilst that he’s drench’d in Lethe, and sleepeth fast 
His fellows for a punishment do cast: 
Agreed; they thence him to a Wood do bear, 
Pull off his clothes, and naked leave him there 
Fast sleeping on the grass: When sleep, the Fume 
That did molest his drunken B
rain o’re come 
Had; he awakes, and his unclosing eyes 
Rubs with his hand; he is about to rise 
When that he feels himself a cold; he sees 
Before his eyes the Skies, and wavering Trees; 
Finds that he has no clothes; gets on his feet 
And ev’r
y object with amaz’d eyes doth greet; 
Amaz’d he stands, wonders how he came there, 
Looks still about, views round, and every where, 
For to resolve him none he spies; doth go 
Doubts wh’r he dreams, or is awak’d or no: 
Now on the ground, now to the skies are hurled 
His eyes: Like one dropt from another World 
He stands, and knows not what to say, or do: 
Just so do stand, and act these guilty two. 

It’s very expressive, hitting both feeling awful and discovering that you are naked at once, but somehow develops a life of its own. It’s in the manner of du Bartas to contemporise like this, but this wavers too close to a funny anecdote.

I will leave Pordage’s Adam and Eve groping around like hung-over drunks. My illustration is the frontispiece of the printed poem, which is, to speak properly of it, an extended disquisition expounding the Behmenist mysteries in the image.