On Controversies in Religion

Katherine Philips

Edited by Jack Lynch

The text comes from Philips’s Poems by the Most Deservedly Admired Mrs. Katherine Philips, the Matchless Orinda (1667).

Religion, which true Policy befriends,
Design’d by God to serve Man’s noblest ends,
Is by that old Deceiver’s subtle play
Made the chief party in its own decay,
And meets that Eagles destiny, whose breast [5]
Felt the same shaft which his own feathers drest.
For that great Enemy of Souls perceiv’d,
The notion of a Deity was weav’d
So closely in Man’s Soul; to ruine that,
He must at once the World depopulate. [10]
But as those Tyrants who their Wills pursue,
If they expound old Laws, need make no new:
So he advantage takes of Nature’s light,
And raises that to a bare useless height;
Or while we seek for Truth, he in the Quest [15]
Mixes a Passion, or an Interest,
To make us lose it; that, I know not how,
’Tis not our Practice, but our Quarrel now.
As in the Moon’s Eclipse some Pagans thought
Their barbarous Clamours her deliverance wrought: [20]
So we suppose that Truth oppressed lies,
And needs a Rescue by our Enmities.
But ’tis Injustice, and the Mind’s Disease,
To think of gaining Truth by losing Peace.
Knowledge and Love, if true, do still unite; [25]
God’s Love and Knowledge are both Infinite.
And though indeed Truth does delight to lie
At some Remoteness from a Common Eye;
Yet ’tis not in a Thunder or a Noise,
But in soft Whispers and the stiller Voice. [30]
Why should we then Knowledge so rudely treat,
Making our weapon what was meant our meat?
’Tis Ignorance that makes us quarrel so;
The Soul that’s dark will be contracted too.
Chimæra’s make a noise, swelling and vain, [35]
And soon resolve to their own smoak again.
But a true Light the spirit doth dilate,
And robs it of its proud and sullen state;
Makes Love admir’d because ’tis understood,
And makes us Wise because it makes us Good. [40]
’Tis to a right Prospect of things that we
Owe our Uprightness and our Charity.
For who resists a beam when shining bright,
Is not a Sinner of a common height.
That state’s a forfeiture, and helps are spent, [45]
Not more a Sin, than ’tis a Punishment.
The Soul which sees things in their Native frame,
Without Opinion’s Mask or Custom’s name,
Cannot be clogg’d to Sense, or count that high
Which hath its Estimation from a Lie. [50]
(Mean sordid things, which by mistake we prize,
And absent covet, but enjoy’d despise.)
But scorning these hath robb’d them of their art,
Either to swell or to subdue the Heart;
And learn’d that generous frame to be above [55]
The World in hopes, below it all in love:
Touch’d with Divine and Inward Life doth run,
Not resting till it hath its Centre won;
Moves steadily until it safe doth lie
I’th’ Root of all its Immortality; [60]
And resting here hath yet activity
To grow more like unto the Deity;
Good, Universal, Wise and Just as he,
(The same in kind, though diff’ring in degree)
Till at the last ’tis swallow’d up and grown [65]
With God and with the whole Creation one;
It self, so small a part, i’th’ Whole is lost,
And Generals have Particulars engrost.
That dark contracted Personality,
Like Mists before the Sun, will from it flie. [70]
And then the Soul, one shining sphear, at length
With true Love’s wisdom fill’d and purged strength,
Beholds her highest good with open face,
And like him all the World she can embrace.