John Davies (poet)

English poet, lawyer, and politician, born 1569

Sir John Davies (baptised 16 April 15698 December 1626) was an English poet and lawyer, who became attorney general in Ireland and formulated many of the legal principles that underpinned the British Empire.

We that acquaint ourselves with every zone,
And pass both tropics and behold the poles,
When we come home, are to ourselves unknown,
And unacquainted still with our own souls.

Quotes edit

  • Much like a subtle spider which doth sit
    In middle of her web, which spreadeth wide;
    If aught do touch the utmost thread of it,
    She feels it instantly on every side.
    • The Immortality of the Soul (c. 1594); comparable to:
      "Our souls sit close and silently within / And their own webs from their own entrails spin; / And when eyes meet far off, our sense is such / That, spider-like, we feel the tenderest touch." John Dryden, Mariage à la Mode, act ii, sc. 1;
      "The spider’s touch—how exquisitely fine!— / Feels at each thread, and lives along the line." Alexander Pope, Epistle i, line 217
  • Wedlock, indeed, hath oft compared been
    To public feasts, where meet a public rout,—
    Where they that are without would fain go in,
    And they that are within would fain go out.
    • A contention betwixt a Wife, a Widdow and a Maide (1602). Compare:
      "’T is just like a summer bird-cage in a garden: the birds that are without despair to get in, and the birds that are within despair and are in a consumption for fear they shall never get out." John Webster, The White Devil, act i, sc. 2;
      "Le mariage est comme une forteresse assiégée; ceux qui sont dehors veulent y entrer, et ceux qui sont dedans veulent en sortir." (Translated as: "Marriage is like a beleaguered fortress: those who are outside want to get in, and those inside want to get out.") Quitard, Études sur les Proverbes Français, p. 102.;
      "It happens as with cages: the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair of getting out." Michel Eyquem, seigneur de Montaigne, Upon some Verses of Virgil, chap. v.;
      "Is not marriage an open question, when it is alleged, from the beginning of the world, that such as are in the institution wish to get out, and such as are out wish to get in?" Ralph Waldo Emerson, Representative Men: Montaigne

Nosce Teipsum (1599) edit

Also referred to as The Vanity of Human Learning.
  • Why did my parents send me to the schools
    That I with knowledge might enrich my mind?
    Since the desire to know first made men fools,
    And did corrupt the root of all mankind.
    • Stanza 1
  • What can we know, or what can we discern,
    When error chokes the windows of the mind,
    The diverse forms of things, how can we learn,
    That have been ever from our birthday blind?
    • Stanza 15
  • We seek to know the moving of each sphere,
    And the strange cause of th' ebbs and floods of Nile;
    But of that clock within our breasts we bear,
    The subtle motions we forget the while.
    • Stanza 24
  • We that acquaint ourselves with every zone,
    And pass both tropics and behold the poles,
    When we come home, are to ourselves unknown,
    And unacquainted still with our own souls.
    • Stanza 25
  • As spiders touched seek their webs' inmost part,
    As bees in storms unto their hives return,
    As blood in danger gathers to the heart,
    As men seek towns when foes the country burn.
    • Stanza 37
  • I know my soul hath power to know all things,
    Yet is she blind and ignorant of all;
    I know I am one of nature's little kings,
    Yet to the least and vilest things am thrall.
    • Stanza 44
  • I know my life's a pain and but a span,
    I know my sense is mocked with everything;
    And to conclude, I know myself a man,
    Which is a proud and yet a wretched thing.
    • Stanza 45

External links edit

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