Of Fairies in the Brain


Who knows, but that in every2 brain may dwell
Those creatures we call3 fairies—who can tell?
And by their several actions they may make4
Those forms and figures we for fancy take.5
And when we sleep, those visions dreams we call                5
May by their industry6 be raisèd all,
And all the objects which through senses get,
Within the brain they may in order set,
And some pack up, as merchants do each thing,7
Which they8 sometimes may to the mem’ry9 bring.            10
And thus,10 besides our own imaginations,
May fairies11 in our brain beget inventions.
If so, then th’eye’s the sea where, by the gale12
Of passions, on salt tears their ship doth sail,13
And when14 a tear doth break, as it doth fall                         15
Or wiped away, they may a shipwreck call.
When15 from the stomach vapors do arise,
Fly up into16 the head (as to the skies),
And, as great storms,17 their houses down may blow,
Which18 by their fall the head may dizzy grow.                    20
And when those houses they build up again,
With knocking they may19 put the head to pain.
When they dig deep, perchance a20 tooth may ache,
And from a tooth a quarry-bone may take,
Which they, like21 stone, may build their house withal;      25
If much took out, the tooth may rotten fall.
Those that dwell near the ears are very cool,
For they are both the South, and Northern Pole.
The eyes are sun and moon, which give them light:
When open, day; when shut, it is dark night.                         30

  1. Of Fairies in the Brain] Of small Creatures, such as we call Fairies. 1653
  2. that in every] in the 1653
  3. Those creatures we call] Little small 1653
  4. make] frame 1664, 1668
  5. we for fancy take.] which we Fancies name; 1664; which we Fancies name. 1668
  6. May by their industry] By their industry may 1653
  7. In the 1653 edition, a marginal note by line 9 reads, “All objects that the senses bring in, are as merchandises brought from foreign parts.” In 1664 and 1668 the note is identical, except for “that” they read “which” and for “as” they read “like.”
  8. they] out 1653
  9. mem’ry] Memory 1653
  10. And thus,] Thus, 1653
  11. May fairies] Fairies 1653
  12. then th’eye’s the sea where, by the gale] the eye’s the sea they traffick in, 1653
  13. Of passions, on salt tears their ship doth sail,] And on salt watry teares their ship doth swim. 1653
  14. And when] But if 1653
  15. When] There 1664, 1668
  16. Fly up into] And fly up to 1664; And flye up to 1668
  17. And, as great storms,] And as stormes use, 1653
  18. Which] Where, 1664, 1668
  19. they may] hard they 1653
  20. a] the 1653
  21. they, like] like to 1653