Thursday, November 27, 2014

Herrick parting, Donne valedicting

Herrick sends a tear downstream

I was scrolling through the text of Hesperides one day – there’s a first sentence that sounds like an academic’s awful version of the famous old-time music hall song – when I came across Herrick’s poem, ‘The parting Verse, or charge to his supposed Wife when he travelled’. As I am currently teaching my special author course on John Donne, I thought I might write a little about this poem, so clearly inspired by Donne. I will quote the whole poem, with some comments.

As Herrick’s title reveals, to a charming or artless effect, this is a completely gratuitous composition. Herrick did not have a wife to write a poem of valediction to (nor do I imagine him ever getting out of Devon), but Herrick liked writing poems, and he is aware that there’s this sub-genre, attractive to him as being both intimate and reflective, which Donne has re-created in a contemporary way. So he wants a part of the action, and gamely offers what he would say, if he were married, and if he were parting from his wife for lengthy travels.

It’s interesting that Herrick clearly understands Donne to be personally present in the Valedictions, writing them to his wife. This is how Izaak Walton read the famous ‘Valediction: forbidding mourning’, and really, all said and done, he was probably right. Robin Robbins, whose scholarship I am inclined to revere, dates the more famous poems of valediction to 1605, when Donne was setting off abroad and leaving Ann. Robbins’ amazing effort to date the ‘Valediction: Of my Name in the Window’ to late August-early September 1599 deserves to be right too.

I’m not sure that Robbins does note anywhere that ‘Valediction’ looks likely to be a word with Donne’s stamp on it. The OED has it from 1614, when Donne thought to print his poems as his “valediction to the world, before I take Orders”. But Donne probably invented the word in 1599 or 1605 (he later uses it a lot in sermons too). It was rapidly taken up, and we can imagine it propelled into usage by Donne’s superlative poems, which I believe Donne did call 'Valedictions'. EEBO finds it first, antedating the OED, in a sermon of 1607 by Robert Crakanthorp. Poems with ‘Valediction’ as their title or part title follow from the usual mob of Caroline gentlemen who wrote with ease: Sir Robert Ayton, Charles Cotton, William Cartwright.

But this is a digression: Herrick wasn’t willing to measure up quite so directly to Donne, and so he goes for the unpretentious ‘Parting Verse’. Memories of Donne fill his opening couplet (especially Donne’s simpler poems, his songs):

Go hence, and with this parting kisse, 
Which joyns two souls, remember this; 

So, what does Herrick want his imaginary wife to remember? First of all, that ‘she’ is ‘married’ to him. It seems to me typical that Herrick then wants to write about her erotic power. This imagined addressee, this fantasy young wife, could have thousands of lovers pursuing her, at the smallest effort. Herrick likes this thought, with the proviso that her desire remains confined to him. In a Donne-derived thought (I mean, of ‘all’ quickly becoming nothing), the very multiplicity of these potential admirers cancels them all out:

Though thou beest young, kind, soft, and faire, 
And may'st draw thousands with a haire: 
Yet let these glib temptations be 
Furies to others, Friends to me. 
Looke upon all; and though on fire 
Thou set'st their hearts, yet chaste desire 
Steere Thee to me; and thinke (me gone) 
In having all, that thou hast none. 

Herrick continues, though, in a kind of mental dialogue with Donne’s prior poems. They clearly seem to him to border on sequestering the beloved, once she has been so reluctantly left. Herrick, pleasing himself with the thought of all that frustrated desire aroused by his ‘wife’, is happy to imagine her out and about, setting hearts on fire, but then, returning to the Donne mode, wants to direct her thoughts: think of him, see him in her thoughts.

Nor so immured wo'd I have 
Thee live, as dead and in thy grave; 
But walke abroad, yet wisely well 
Stand for my comming, Sentinell.
And think (as thou do'st walke the street) 
Me, or my shadow thou do'st meet. 

Her returns now to reflections on how she must deal with all her admirers. Once can see the example of Penelope hoving into view well before the inevitable allusion is made:

I know a thousand greedy eyes 
Will on thy Feature tirannize, 
In my short absence; yet behold 
Them like some Picture, or some Mould 
Fashion'd like Thee; which though' tave eares 
And eyes, it neither sees or heares. 
Gifts will be sent, and Letters, which 
Are the expressions of that itch, 
And salt, which frets thy Suters; fly 
Both, lest thou lose thy liberty: 
For that once lost, thou't fall to one, 
Then prostrate to a million. 
But if they wooe thee, do thou say, 
(As that chaste Queen of Ithaca 
Did to her suitors) this web done 
(Undone as oft as done) I'm wonne; 

Herrick imagines the imaginary wife he is addressing to be both alluring, and young, and wise enough to see through the flattery that will come her way, know it for what it really intends. He makes room for a very standard reflection on how jealousy and mistrust are the worst ways to secure fidelity:

I will not urge Thee, for I know, 
Though thou art young, thou canst say no, 
And no again, and so deny, 
Those thy Lust-burning Incubi. 
Let them enstile Thee Fairest fair, 
The Pearle of Princes, yet despaire 
That so thou art, because thou must 
Believe, Love speaks it not, but Lust; 
And this their Flatt'rie do’s commend 
Thee chiefly for their pleasures end. 
I am not jealous of thy Faith, 
Or will be; for the Axiome saith, 
He that doth suspect, do’s haste 
A gentle mind to be unchaste. 

The next three couplets are all over the place: she is to live to herself, but this falls far short of doing what she pleases. He wants her thoughts, and her bed, to be cold. The bed becomes a Donne-like sphere, and she might wake up to find him – what do you expect? – rather bathetically sleeping by her side. Imagined partners come to bedsides in Donne, and it is all tension and drama. Imaginary Mistress Herrick wakes up, and finds her Robert reassuringly asleep at her side (it’s easy to imagine Herrick snoring with sonority through his magnificence nose, as seen in that portrait of the poet in profile):

No, live thee to thy selfe, and keep 
Thy thoughts as cold, as is thy sleep: 
And let thy dreames be only fed 
With this, that I am in thy bed.
And thou then turning in that Sphere, 
Waking shalt find me sleeping there. 
At this point, the poem wanders off into some very surprising lines. He now thinks to advise her on what she mustn’t do if the very worst thing happens. Suppose that there is some terrible breakdown of domestic security or misplacement of trust, and she is forced into having sex? Herrick does not want imaginary Mistress Herrick to follow the Lucrece route, and kill herself:

But yet if boundlesse Lust must skaile 
Thy Fortress, and will needs prevaile; 
And wildly force a passage in, 
Banish consent, and 'tis no sinne 
Of Thine; so Lucrece fell, and the 
Chaste Syracusian Cyane. 
So Medullina fell, yet none 
Of these had imputation 
For the least trespasse; 'cause the mind 
Here was not with the act combin'd. 
The body sins not, 'tis the Will 
That makes the Action, good, or ill. 
And if thy fall sho'd this way come, 
Triumph in such a Martirdome. 

Herrick has pursued his reverie into imagining these melodramatic circumstances. Really, it’s all rather strange. He wants his imaginary life-partner to be as provoking as possible, of general or even of dangerous desire, provided that she consents to nothing. The only way this invented woman might have sex would be if she were forced, but if that case did somehow arise, she must not take the Lucrece route out of an intolerable life. The poem is, in the end, a signal instance of that tendency in Donne for telling a woman (as the imagined or real recipient of his poem) what to think. Herrick dreams her up, to admonish her. The poem becomes a charm, even an instrument of control. It is like a compressed version of a sermon to her:

I will not over-long enlarge 
To thee, this my religious charge. 
Take this compression,

But it also seems, mysteriously, to have some occult power to inform him whether the next kisses she will give him, at his return, are not mentally directed elsewhere, and really meant for another.

so by this 
Means I shall know what other kisse 
Is mixt with mine; and truly know, 
Returning, if't be mine or no: 
Keepe it till then;

I’m not sure how this works. In Massinger’s play, The Picture, a portrait has the power to indicate the fidelity of the person depicted, and maybe Herrick was impressed by that fanciful idea of the art object as an infallible informant. His poem ends with a gesture to that Donne topic of the beloved having some power of destiny over her lover/husband. In his return, he hopes to prove that indeed, somewhere lives a woman true and fair (it’s this imaginary wife he has in his head):

and now my Spouse, 
For my wisht safety pay thy vowes, 
And prayers to Venus; if it please 
The Great-blew-ruler of the Seas; 
Not many full-fac't-moons shall waine, 
Lean-horn'd, before I come again 
As one triumphant; when I find 
In thee, all faith of Woman-kind. 

And finally, Herrick, dreaming over Donne, seems to have absorbed a notion that your laudatory poem might end most effectively with a bit of a barb. The fantasy wife must not imagine that she herself has virtue: all she can hope for is to have assimilated virtue, from ‘Virtue’ itself as an exterior embodiment of good, or from the ‘virtue’ that’s in him:

Nor wo'd I have thee thinke, that Thou 
Had'st power thy selfe to keep this vow; 
But having scapt temptations shelfe, 
Know vertue taught thee, not thy selfe. 

So, Robert Herrick, dressing himself up poetically to resemble John Donne, and discovering in himself as husband a capacity to be wise about everything a husband might have to be wise about, broad-minded up to a point, and gravely appreciative of a young woman’s power over other men. To say nothing of him assigning a subordinate nature to women: in the end, he is essentially aligning himself (after all this instruction) with virtue.

My image, which I found slipped into my text of Herrick, was drawn years ago to accompany a facetious article I had written about Staines, Middlesex (latterly, ‘Staines-upon-Thames’) as it features in literature. Staines is not a romantic town. But this did not deter Herrick from seeing its potential as a site for erotic mourning:

The Tear sent to her from Staines
Glide, gentle streams, and bear
   Along with you my tear
      To that coy Girl;
      Who smiles, yet slays
      Me with delays;
   And strings my tears as Pearle.

   See! See! she's yonder set,
   Making a Carcanet
      Of Maiden-flowers!
      There, there present
      This Orient,
   And Pendant Pearle of ours.

  Then say, I've sent one more
   Gem to enrich her store;
      And that is all
      Which I can send,
      Or vainly spend,
   For tears no more will fall.

   Nor will I seek supply
   Of them, the spring's once dry;
      But I’ll devise,
      (Among the rest)
      A way that's best
   How I may save mine eyes. 
   Yet say; sho’d she condemn
   Me to surrender them;
      Then say; my part
      Must be to weep
      Out them, to keep
   A poor, yet loving heart.
   Say too, She wo’d have this;
   She shall: Then my hope is,
     That when I'm poor,
      And nothing have
      To send, or save;
   I'm sure she'll ask no more. 

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.
Thou shalt: Do but name how.
Go, touch his life.
I cannot.
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).