Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature Tudor Rose Sir John Davies

Sir John Davies | Biography | Quotes | Works | Essays | Online Resources | Renaissance English Literature



Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century



<--Sir John Davies

Title-page of Sir John Davies' 'Nosce Teipsum'


Nosce Teipsum

by Sir John Davies


HE lights of heau'n (which are the World's fair eies)
Looke downe into the World, the World to see ;
   And as they turne, or wander in the skies,
   Suruey all things that on this Center bee.

And yet the lights which in my towre do shine,
   Mine eyes which view all obiects, nigh and farre ;
   Looke not into this little world of mine,
   Nor see my face, wherein they fixèd are.

Since Nature failes vs in no needfull thing,
   Why want I meanes my inward selfe to see ?
   Which sight the knowledg of my self might bring,
   Which to true wisdome is the first degree.

That Power which gaue me eyes the World to view,
   To see my selfe infus'd an inward light ;
   Whereby my Soule, as by a mirror true,
   Of her owne forme may take a perfect sight,

But as the sharpest eye discerneth nought,
   Except the sunne-beames in the ayre doe shine ;
   So the best Soule7 with her reflecting thought,
   Sees not her selfe without some light diuine.

O Light which mak'st the light, which makes the day !
   Which setst the eye without, and mind within ;
   'Lighten my spirit with one cleare heauenly ray,
   Which now to view it selfe doth first begin.

For her true forme how can my sparke discerne ?
   Which dimme by nature, Art did neuer cleare ;
   When the great wits, of whom all skill we learn,
   Are ignorant both what shee is, and where.

One thinks the Soule is aire ; another, fire ;
   Another blood, diffus'd about the heart ;
   Another saith, the elements conspire,
   And to her essence each doth giue a part.

Musicians thinke our Soules are harmonies,
   Phisicians hold that they complexions bee ;
   Epicures make them swarmes of atomies,
   Which doe by chance into our bodies flee.

Some thinke one generall Soule fils euery braine,
   As the bright sunne sheds light in euery starre ;
   And others thinke the name of Soule is vaine,
   And that we onely well-mixt bodies are.

In judgement of her substance thus they vary ;
   And thus they vary in iudgement of her seat ;
   For some her chaire vp to the braine doe carry,
   Some thrust it downe into the stomackes heat.

Some place is in the root of life, the heart ;
   Some in the liuer,8 fountaine of the veines ;
   Some say, Shee is all in all, and all in part :
   Some say, She is not containd but all containes.

Thus these great clerks their little wisdome show,
   While with their doctrines they at hazard play,
   Tossing their light opinions to and fro,
   To mocke the lewd, as learn'd in this as they.

For no craz'd braine could euer yet propound,
   Touching the Soule, so vaine and fond a thought,
   But some among these masters haue been found,
   Which in their Schooles the self-same thing haue taught.

God onely wise, to punish pride of wit,
   Among men's wits hath this confusion wrought,
   As the proud towre whose points the clouds did hit,
   By tongues' confusion was to ruine brought.

But Thou which didst Man's soule of nothing make,
   And when to nothing it was fallen agen,
   “ To make it new, the forme of man didst take,
   “ And God with God, becam'st a Man with men.

Thou, that hast fashioned twice this Soule of ours,
   So that she is by double title Thine ;
   Thou onely knowest her nature and her pow'rs,
   Her subtill forme Thou onely canst define.

To iudge her selfe she must her selfe transcend,
   As greater circles comprehend the lesse ;
   But she wants power, her owne powers to extend,
   As fettered men can not their strength expresse.

But Thou bright Morning Star, Thou rising Sunne,
   Which in these later times hast brought to light
   Those mysteries, that since the world begun,
   Lay hid in darknesse, and eternall night :

Thou (like the sunne) dost with indifferent ray,
   Into the palace and the cottage shine,
   And shew'st the soule both to the clerke and lay,9
   By the cleare lampe of Thy Oracle diuine.

This Lampe through all the regions of my braine,
   Where my soule sits, doth spread such beames of grace,
   As now, me thinks, I do distinguish plain,
   Each subtill line of her immortall face.

7   'Sense' in Ist edn.   G.
8   Davies and Southey mispring egregiously 'river.'   G.
9   Laymen.   G.

Davies, Sir John. The Complete Poems of Sir John Davies. Vol I.
Rev. Alexander B, Grosart, ed. London: Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly, 1876. 25-29.

Back to Works of Sir John Davies

Site copyright ©1996-2023 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Created by Anniina Jokinen on October 18, 2000. Last updated May 14, 2023.


The Tudors

King Henry VII
Elizabeth of York

King Henry VIII
Queen Catherine of Aragon
Queen Anne Boleyn
Queen Jane Seymour
Queen Anne of Cleves
Queen Catherine Howard
Queen Katherine Parr

King Edward VI
Lady Jane Grey
Queen Mary I
Queen Elizabeth I

Renaissance English Writers
Bishop John Fisher
William Tyndale
Sir Thomas More
John Heywood
Thomas Sackville
John Bale
Nicholas Udall
John Skelton
Sir Thomas Wyatt
Henry Howard
Hugh Latimer
Thomas Cranmer
Roger Ascham
Sir Thomas Hoby
John Foxe
George Gascoigne
John Lyly
Thomas Nashe
Sir Philip Sidney
Edmund Spenser
Richard Hooker
Robert Southwell
Robert Greene
George Peele
Thomas Kyd
Edward de Vere
Christopher Marlowe
Anthony Munday
Sir Walter Ralegh
Thomas Hariot
Thomas Campion
Mary Sidney Herbert
Sir John Davies
Samuel Daniel
Michael Drayton
Fulke Greville
Emilia Lanyer
William Shakespeare

Persons of Interest
Visit Encyclopedia

Historical Events
Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520
Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
The Babington Plot, 1586
The Spanish Armada, 1588

Elizabethan Theatre
See section
English Renaissance Drama

Images of London:
London in the time of Henry VII. MS. Roy. 16 F. ii.
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's Panoramic View of London, 1616. COLOR

Luminarium | Encyclopedia | What's New | Letter from the Editor | Bookstore | Poster Store | Discussion Forums | Search