When Nature first the world’s foundation laid,2
She called a counsel how it might be made.3
Motion was first, who4 had a subtle wit,
And then came Life, and Form, and Matter fit.
First Nature spake:5 “My friends, if we agree, 5
We can and may do a fine work,” said she,
“Make some things to adore us,6 worship give,
Whereas now we but to7 ourselves do live.
Besides, it is my nature things to make,
To give out work, and8 you directions take. 10
Wherefore if you will pleasure have therein,9
You’ll10 breed the Fates in housewif’ry to spin,
And make strong Destiny to take some11 pains,
Lest she grow idle, let her12 link some chains.
Inconstancy and Fortune turn a wheel, 15
Since both are13 wanton, cannot stand, but reel.
And as for moisture, let it water give,14
Which heat suck up, to make things grow and live,15
And let sharp cold stay things that run about,
And drought stop holes, to keep the water out. 20
Vacuum and darkness they will domineer
If Motion’s power make no16 light appear;
Wherefore produce a light, the world to see,17
My only child from all eternity—
Beauty, my love, my joy and dear delight— 25
Else darkness rude will cover her with spite.”
“Alas!” said Motion, “all pains I can take18
Will do no good, Matter a brain must19 make,
And Figure20 draw a circle, round, and small,
Where in the midst must stand a glassy ball, 30
Without convex, but inwardly21 concave,
And in its middle22 a round small hole must have,
That species may thorough pass, and Life23
May view all things as through a prospective.”24
“Alas!” said Life, “whatever we do make, 35
Death, my great enemy, will from us take:
And who can hinder his strong,25 mighty power?
He with his cruelty doth26 all devour,
And Time, his agent, brings27 all to decay:
Thus neither Death nor Time will you obey. 40
He cares for none of your commands, nor will
Obey your laws, but doth what likes him28 still.
He knows his power far exceedeth ours,
For whatsoe’er we make, he soon devours.
Let me advise you ne’er to take29 such pains 45
A world to make, since Death hath all the gains.”
Figure’s opinion did agree with Life,
“For Death,” said she, “will fill the world with strife.
What Form soever I do turn into,
Death finds me out: that Form he doth undo.” 50
Then Motion spake: “None hath such cause as I
For to complain, for Death makes Motion die.
’Tis best to let alone this work, I think.”
Says Matter, “Death corrupts, and makes me stink.”
Says Nature, “I am of another mind: 55
If we let Death alone, we soon shall find
He wars will make, and raise a mighty power,
If we divert him not, may us devour.
He is ambitious, will in triumph sit,30
Envies my works, and seeks my State to get.31 60
And Fates, though they upon great Life attend,
Yet fear they Death, and dare not him32 offend.
Though two be true, and spin as Life them bids,
The third is false, and cuts short the long threads.33
Let us agree, for fear we should do worse, 65
And make some work for to employ34 his force.”
Then all rose up: “We do submit,” said35 they,
“And36 Nature’s will in every thing obey.”
First Matter she materials in did bring,37
And Motion cut, and carved out every thing. 70
And Figure, she did draw the forms and plots,
And Life divided all out into lots.
And Nature, she surveyed, directed all,
And with four elements38 built the world’s ball.
The solid earth she as foundation39 laid; 75
The waters round about as walls were raised,40
Where every drop lay close, like41 stone or brick,
Whose moisture like to42 mortar made them stick.
Air, as the ceiling, keeps all close within,43
Lest some materials out of place might spring. 80
And presses down the seas, lest44 they should rise
And45 overflow the Earth, and drown the skies.
For as a roof is46 laid upon a wall,
To keep it steady, that no side may47 fall,
So Nature in that place air wisely stayed,48 85
And fire, like tile or slate, the highest laid49
To keep out rain, or wet, else it would rot:
So50 would the world corrupt if fire were not.
The planets, like as weather-fans, turn round;
The sun a dial in the midst is found, 90
Where he doth give so just account of time51
And52 measures all, though round, by even line.
But when the Earth was made, and seed did sow,53
Plants on the Earth, and minerals down grow,54
Then creatures made, which Motion did give55 sense, 95
Yet reason none to give56 intelligence.
But Nature found, when she to make Man came,57
It was more difficult than worlds to frame;58
For she did strive to make him long to last,
And so into eternity him59 cast. 100
Who60 in no other place could be kept61 long,
But in eternity, that castle strong.
There she was sure that Death she could keep62 out,
Although he is a warrior strong and stout.
Man she would make, but not like other kind:63 105
Though not in body, like a God in mind.
Then she did call her counsel once again,
Told them the greatest work did64 yet remain.
“For how,” said she, “can we ourselves new make?65
Yet Man we must like to ourselves create,66 110
Or else he never can67 escape Death’s snare;
To make this work requires68 both skill and care.
But I a mind will mix69 as I think fit,
With knowledge, understanding, and with wit.
And Motion, you your servants70 must employ, 115
Which Passions are, to wait still in the eye,
To dress, and clothe this71 mind in fashions new,
Which none knows better how to do72 you,
That, though his body die,73 this mind shall74 live,
And a free will we must unto it give. 120
But Matter, you from Figure form must take,
And Man from other creatures different75 make.
For he shall upright go;76 the rest shall not.
And Motion, you in him must tie a knot
Of several motions, there to meet in one. 125
Thus Man like to himself shall be alone.
You, Life, command the Fates a thread to spin,
From which small thread the body shall begin.
And while the thread doth last, not cut in twain,
The body shall in motion still remain. 130
But when the thread is broke, he77 down shall fall,
And for a time no motion have at all.
But yet the mind shall live and never die;
We’ll raise the body too for company.
Thus, like ourselves, we can78 make things to live 135
Eternally, but no past times can give.
- In 1653 this poem is called “Nature Calls a Counsel, which was Motion, Figure, Matter, and Life, to Advise about Making the World.”
- the world’s foundation laid,] this World she did create, 1653
- how it might be made.] how the same might make; 1653
- who] which 1664, 1668
- First Nature spake:] Nature began: 1664, 1668
- Make some things to adore us,] And make some things which us may 1664; And make some Things which us may 1668
- Whereas now we but to] Which now we only to 1653
- and] but 1664, 1668
- Wherefore if you will pleasure have therein,] And by this worke, a pleasure take therein 1653
- You’ll] And 1653
- some] the 1664, 1668
- she grow idle, let her] she should Idle grow, to 1664; she should idle grow, to 1668
- Since both are] Both are so 1653
- And as for moisture, let it water give,] And Moisture let her poure out Water forth, 1653
- Which heat suck up, to make things grow and live,] And Heat let her suck out, and raise up growth, 1653; Which Heat suck up, to make it grow, and live. 1668
- no] not 1653
- Wherefore produce a light, the world to see,] Produce a Light, that all the World may see, 1653
- all pains I can take] all the pains I take 1664; all the Pains I take, 1668
- Matter a brain must] a Brain must Matter 1664, 1668
- And Figure] Figure must 1653
- but inwardly] the inside a 1653
- its middle] the midst 1653
- thorough pass, and Life] passe, and repasse through, 1653
- May view all things as through a prospective.] Life the Prospective every thing to view. 1653
- strong,] so 1664, 1668
- doth] will 1664, 1668
- brings] bring 1664, 1668
- likes him] he likes 1664; he likes, 1668
- ne’er to take] never take 1653
- sit,] stand, 1664; stand; 1668
- Envies my works, and seeks my State to get.] Envy my works he will, my state Command; 1664; Envy my Works he will, my State Command. 1668
- not him] him not 1664, 1668
- cuts short the long threads.] doth cut short the threads. 1664; doth cut short the Threds. 1668
- employ] imply 1653
- said] say 1653
- And] To 1653
- materials in did bring,] brought the Materialls in, 1653
- And with four elements] With the foure Elements 1653
- she as foundation] as the Foundation 1653; she as the Ground-work 1664, 1668
- raised,] made, 1664; made; 1668
- lay close, like] lies close, like 1653; lay close, as 1664, 1668
- to] as 1653
- keeps all close within,] did keep close each thing, 1664, 1668
- And presses down the seas, lest] Aire presses downe the seas, if 1653; And pressed down the seas, lest 1664; And pressed down the Seas, lest 1668
- And] Would 1653
- roof is] Roofe that’s 1653
- may] might 1653
- in that place air wisely stayed,] Aire makes that place to take, 1653
- like tile or slate, the highest laid] highest laies, like Tyle, or Slat, 1653
- So] And 1664, 1668
- give so just account of time] Time within strict bounds confine, 1664; Time within strict Bounds confine; 1668
- And] He 1653
- did sow,] was sown, 1664, 1668
- down grow,] were grown, 1664; were grown; 1668
- did give] gave them 1653
- give] have 1664, 1668
- to make Man came,] was Man to make, 1653
- It was more difficult than worlds to frame;] More difficult then new Worlds to create: 1653
- And so into eternity him] Into Eternity then he was 1653
- Who] For 1653
- be kept] keep him 1653
- she could keep] would be kept 1664, 1668
- but not like other kind:] not like to other kinde, 1653
- did] edid 1653
- said she, “can we ourselves new make?] can we Create our selves? said she, 1664; can we create our selves? said she; 1668
- like to ourselves create,] make like our selves to be, 1664, 1668
- never can] can never 1653
- requires] belongs 1653
- But I a mind will mix] Wherefore I’l mix his Mind, 1664; Wherefore, I’le mix his Mind 1668
- servants] Serjeants 1653
- this] his 1668
- do] doe’t 1653
- That, though his body die,] What though this Body dye, 1653
- this mind shall] the Mind may 1664, 1668
- And Man from other creatures different] Different from other Creatures, Man must 1653
- upright go;] go upright, 1653
- he] then 1653
- can] may 1664, 1668