The Brain Compared to the Elysium


The brain is the2 Elysian fields, for there3
All ghosts and spirits in strong dreams appear.
In gloomy shades do sleepy lovers4 walk,
And5 souls do entertain themselves with talk,
And heroes their great actions do relate,                                   5
Telling both their good fortune and6 sad fate,
What chanced to them when they awake7 did live,
Their world the light did great Apollo give;
And what in life they could a pleasure call,
Here in these fields they pass their time withal,                     10
Where Memory, the ferryman, with him8
Brings9 company, which through the senses swim.
The boat, imagination, ’s10 always full,
Which Charon roweth in the region skull,
In which the famous river Styx doth flow,11                            15
Wherein who’s dipped, straight doth forgetful grow.12
And13 this Elysium poets happy call,
Where poets, as great gods, do record14 all
The souls of those that15 they will choose for bliss,
And their sweet numbered verse their passport is.                20
And16 those that strive this happy place to have17
Must go to bed and sleep as in a grave.18
Yet what a stir do poets make, when they
By their wit, Mercury, those souls convey!
But what, cannot the godhead wit create,                                 25
Whose fancies are both destiny and fate?19
Fame is20 the thread which long or21 short they spin;
The world, as flax unto their distaff bring.22
This distaff spins fine canvas of conceit,
Wherein the sense is woven ev’n23 and straight;                    30
But if’t24 in knots and snarls entangled be,
The thread of fame doth run unevenly.
Those that care not to live in poets’ verse,
Let them lie dead upon oblivion’s hearse.

  1. The Brain Compared to the Elysium] The Elysium. 1653
  2. the] like th’ 1664; like the 1668
  3. for there] and here 1653
  4. do sleepy lovers] sleepy Lovers doe 1653
  5. And] Where 1653
  6. both their good fortune and] their Fortunes good, and their 1653
  7. awake] awak’d 1653
  8. with him] doth bring 1653
  9. Brings] New 1653
  10. imagination, ’s] Imagination’s 1653
  11. In which the famous river Styx doth flow,] And in that Region is that River Styx, 1653
  12. Wherein who’s dipped, straight doth forgetful grow.] There some are dipt, then all things soon forgets. 1653
  13. And] But 1653
  14. poets, as great gods, do record] as Great Gods, they do Register 1664, 1668
  15. that] which 1664, 1668
  16. And] But 1653
  17. have] seek, 1653
  18. Must go to bed and sleep as in a grave.] Is but to goe to bed, and fall asleep. 1653
  19. fate?] Fate, 1653
  20. Fame is] And Fame 1653
  21. or] and 1653
  22. unto their distaff bring.] for th’Distaff is brought in; 1664; for th’Distaff, is brought in. 1668
  23. woven ev’n] woven even, 1653; wove ev’n 1668
  24. if’t] if 1653