Essay / On This Day

Henry More on Creation

Today (September 1) is the day Henry More (1614 – 1687), one of the Cambridge Platonists, died. More wrote a lot of very difficult theology, some of it in extended poetic form. He was a strange mix of rationalist and mystic. He was an important interpreter of Descartes, and probably a major influence on Newton. More apparently coined the term “spissitude” to describe the way spirit maps onto extended matter. Yes, that was exactly the kind of thing he thought about.

But he also wrote some very accessible poetry, published along with his Divine Dialogues. Here is my favorite from among them.


When God the first Foundations laid
Of the well-framed Universe,
And through the darksome Chaos ray’d,
The Angels did his Praise rehearse.

The Sons of God then sweetly sung
At first appearance of his Light,
When the Creation-Morning sprung
To deck the World with Beauty bright.

Within six Days he finish’d all
What-ere Heav’n, Earth, or Sea contain,
And sanctify’d the Seventh withal,
To celebrate his Holy Name.

Then with the Sons of God let’s sing
Our bountiful Creator’s Praise,
Who out of nothing all did bring,
And by his Word the World did raise.

O Holy God, how wonderful
Art thou in all thy Works of might,
Astonishing our Senses dull
With what thou daily bringst in sight!

The fit returns of Night and Day,
The grateful Seasons of the Year,
Which constantly man’s pains repay
With wholesome fruit his Heart to cheer;

The shape and number of the Stars,
The Moon’s set course thou dost define,
And Matter’s wild distracting Jars
Composest by thy Word Divine.

The Parts of th’ Earth thou holdest close
Together by this sweet Constraint:
Thou round’st the Drops that do disclose
The Rain-bow in his glorious Paint.

Thy Clouds drop fatness on the Earth,
Thou mak’st the Grass and Flow’rs to spring:
Thou cloth’st the Woods wherein with mirth
The cheerful Birds do sit and sing.

Thou fill’st the Fields with Beasts and Sheep,
Thy Rivers run along the Plains:
With scaly Fish thou stor’st the Deep,
Thy Bounty all the World maintains.

All these and all things else th’ hast made
Subject to Man by thy Decree;
That thou by Man might’st be obey’d
As duly subject unto thee.

Wherefore, O Lord, in us create
Clean hearts, and a right spirit renew:
That we regaining that just state
May ever pay thee what is due.

That as we wholly from thee are,
Both Gifts of Mind and Body’s frame;
So by them both we may declare
The Glory of thy Holy Name.

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