By John Donne

    . . . In the twinckling of an eye, I saw all the roomes in Hell open to my sight. And by the benefit of certain spectacles, I know not of what making, but, I thinke, of the same, by which Gregory the great, and Beda did discerne so distinctly the soules of their friends, when they were discharged from their bodies, and sometimes the soules of such men as they knew not by sight, and of some that were never in the world, and yet they could distinguish them flying into Heaven, or conversing with living men, I saw all the channels in the bowels of the Earth; and all the inhabitants of all nations, and of all ages were suddenly made familiar to me. I thinke truely, Robert Aquinas when he tooke Christs long Oration, as he hung upon the Crosse, did use some such instrument as this, but applied to the eare: And so I thinke did he, which dedicated to Adrian 6, that Sermon which Christ made in prayse of his father Joseph: for else how did they heare that, which none but they ever heard? As for the Suburbs of Hel (I meane both Limbo and Purgatory) I must confesse I passed them over so negligently, that I saw them not: and I was hungerly caned, to find new places, never discovered before. For Purgatory did not seeme worthy to me of much diligence, because it may seeme already to have beene beleeved by some persons, in some corners of the Romane Church, for about 50 yeares; that is, ever since the Councell of Trent had a minde to fulfill the prophecies of Homer, Virgil, and the other Patriarkes of the Papists; and beeing not satisfied with making one Transubstantiation, purposed to bring in another: which is, to change fables into Articles of faith. Proceeding therefore to more inward places, I saw a secret place, where there were not many, beside Lucifer himselfe; to which, onely they had title, which had so attempted any innovation in this life, that they gave an affront to all antiquitie, and induced doubts, and anxieties, and scruples, and after, a libertie of beleeving what they would; at length established opinions, directly contrary to all established before. Of which place in Hell, Lucifer affoarded us heretofore some little knowledge, when more than 200 yeares since, in an Epistle written to the Cardinall S. Sexti, hee promised him a roome in his palace, in the remotest part of his eternall Chaos, which I take to bee this place. And here Pope Boniface 3, and Mahomet, seemed to contend about the highest roome. Hee gloried of having expelled an old Religion, and Mahomet of having brought in a new: each of them a great deluge to the world. But it is to be feared, that Mahomet will faile therein, both because hee attributed something to the old Testament, and because he used Sergius as his fellow-bishop, in making the Alcoran; whereas it was evident to the supreme Judge Lucifer, (for how could he be ignorant of that, which himselfe had put into the Popes mind?) that Boniface had not onely neglected, but destroyed the policy of the State of Israel, established in the old Testament, when he prepared Popes a way, to tread upon the neckes of Princes, but that he also abstained from all Example and Coadjutor, when he took upon him that newe Name, which Gregorie himselfe (a Pope neither very foolish, nor over-modest) ever abhord. Besides that, every day affoords new Advocates to Boniface his side. For since the Franciscans were almost worne out (of whome their General, Francis, had seene 6000 souldiers in one army, that is, in one chapter) which, because they were then but fresh souldiers, he saw assisted with 1800 Divels, the Jesuits have much recompenced those decayes and damages, who sometimes have maintained in their Tents 200000 schollers. For though the Order of Benedict have ever bene so fruitfull, that they say of it, That all the new Orders, which in later times have broken out, are but little springs, or drops, and that Order the Ocean, which hath sent out 52 Popes, 200 Cardinals, 1600 Archbishops, 4000 Bishops, and 50000 Saints approved by the Church, and therefore it cannot be denied, but that Boniface his part is much releeved by that Order; yet if they be compared to the Jesuits, or to the weake and unperfect Types of them, the Franciscans, it is no great matter that they have done. Though therefore they esteeme Mahomet worthy of the name of an Innovator, & therein, perchance not much inferiour to Boniface, yet since his time, to ours, almost all which have followed his sect, have lived barren in an unanimity, and idle concord, and cannot boast that they have produced any new matter: whereas Boniface his successors, awakened by him, have ever beene fruitfull in bringing forth new sinnes, and new pardons, and idolatries, and King-killings. Though therefore it may religiously, and piously be beleeved, that Turkes, as well as Papists, come daily in troupes to the ordinary and common places of Hell; yet certainly to this more honourable roome, reserved for especiall Innovators, the Papists have more frequent accesse; and therefore Mahomet is out of hope to prevaile, and must imitate the Christian Emperours, and be content to sit (as yet hee doth) at the Popes feet. Now to this place, not onely such endeavour to come, as have innovated in matters, directly concerning the soule, but they also which have done so, either in the Arts, or in conversation, or in any thing which exerciseth the faculties of the soule, and may so provoke to quarrelsome and brawling controversies: For so the truth be lost, it is no matter how. But the gates are seldome opened, nor scarce oftener then once in an Age. But my destiny favoured mee so much, that I was present then, and saw all the pretenders, and all that affected an entrance, and Lucifer himselfe, who then came out into the outward chamber, to heare them pleade their owne Causes. As soone as the doore creekt, I spied a certaine Mathematitian, which till then had bene busied to finde, to deride, to detrude Ptolomey; and now with an erect countenance, and setled pace, came to the gates, and with hands and feet (scarce respecting Lucifer himselfe) beat the dores, and cried; "Are these shut against me, to whom all the Heavens were ever open, who was a Soule to the Earth, and gave it motion?"
    By this I knew it was Copernicus. For though I had never heard ill of his life, and therefore might wonder to find him there; yet when I remembered, that the Papists have extended the name, & the punishment of Heresie, almost to every thing, and that as yet I used Gregories and Bedes spectacles, by which one saw Origen, who deserved so well of the Christian Church, burning in Hell, I doubted no longer, but assured my selfe that it was Copernicus which I saw. To whome Lucifer sayd; "Who are you? For though even by this boldnesse you seeme worthy to enter, and have attempted a new faction even in Hell, yet you must first satisfie those which stand about you, and which expect the same fortune as you do." "Except, O Lucifer," answered Copernicus, "I thought thee of the race of the starre Lucifer, with which I am so well acquainted, I should not vouchsafe thee this discourse. I am he, which pitying thee who wert thrust into the Center of the world, raysed both thee, and thy prison, the Earth, up into the Heavens; so as by my meanes God doth not enjoy his revenge upon thee. The Sunne, which was an officious spy, and a betrayer of faults, and so thine enemy, I have appointed to go into the lowest part of the world. Shall these gates be open to such as have innovated in small matters? and shall they be shut against me, who have turned the whole frame of the world, and am thereby almost a new Creator?" More then this he spoke not. Lucifer stuck in a meditation. For what should he do? It seemed unjust to deny entry to him which had deserved so well, and dangerous to graunt it, to one of so great ambitions, and undertakings: nor did he thinke that himselfe had attempted greater matters before his fall. Something he had which he might have conveniently opposed, but he was loath to utter it, least he should confesse his feare. But Ignatius Layola which was got neere his chaire, a subtile fellow, and so indued with the Divell, that he was able to tempt, and not onely that, but (as they say) even to possesse the Divell, apprehended this perplexity in Lucifer. And making himselfe sure of his owne entrance, and knowing well, that many thousands of his family aspired to that place, he opposed himselfe against all others. He was content they should bee damned, but not that they should governe. And though when hee died he was utterly ignorant in all great learning, and knew not so much as Ptolomeys, or Copernicus name, but might have beene perswaded, that the words Almagest, Zenith, and Nadir, were Saints names, and fit to bee put into the Litanie, and Ora pro nobis joyned to them; yet after hee had spent some time in hell, he had learnt somewhat of his Jesuites, which daily came thither. And whilst he staied at the threshold of Hell; that is, from the time when he delivered himselfe over to the Popes will, hee tooke a little taste of learning. Thus furnished, thus hee undertakes Copernicus. "Do you thinke to winne our Lucifer to your part, by allowing him the honour of being of the race of that starre? who was not onely made before all the starres, but being glutted with the glory of shining there, transferred his dwelling and Colonies unto this Monarchy, and thereby gave our Order a noble example, to spy, to invade, and to possesse forraine kingdomes. Can our Lucifer, or his followers have any honour from that starre Lucifer, which is but Venus? whose face how much wee scorne, appeares by this, that, for the most part we use her aversly and preposterously. Rather let our Lucifer glory in Lucifer the Calaritan Bishop; not therefore because he is placed amongst Heretiques, onely for affirming the propagation of the soule; but especially for this, that he was the first that opposed the dignity of Princes, and imprinted the names of Antichrist, Judas, and other stigmarique markes upon the Emperour; But for you, what new thing have you invented, by which our Lucifer gets anything? What cares hee whether the earth travell, or stand still? Hath your raising up of the earth into heaven, brought men to that confidence, that they build new towers or threaten God againe? Or do they out of this motion of the earth conclude, that there is no hell, or deny the punishment of sin? Do not men beleeve? do they not live just, as they did before? Besides, this detracts from the dignity of your learning, and derogates from your right and title of comming to this place, that those opinions of yours may very well be true. If therfore any man have honour or title to this place in this matter, it belongs wholly to our Clavius, who opposed himselfe opportunely against you, and the truth, which at that time was creeping into every mans minde. Hee onely can be called the Author of all contentions, and schoole-combats in this cause; and no greater profit can bee hoped for heerein, but that for such brabbles, more necessarie matters bee neglected. And yet nor onely for this is our Clavius to bee honoured, but for the great paines also which hee tooke in the Gregorian Calender, by which both the peace of the Church, & Civill businesses have beene egregiously troubled: nor hath heaven it selfe escaped his violence, but hath ever since obeied his apointments: so that S. Stephen, John Baptist, & all the rest, which have bin commanded to worke miracles at certain appointed daies, where their Reliques are preserved, do not now attend till the day come, as they were accustomed, but are awaked ten daies sooner, and constrained by him to come downe from heaven to do that businesse; But your inventions can scarce bee called yours, since long before you, Heraclides, Ecphantus, & Aristarchus thrust them into the world: who notwithstanding content themselves with lower roomes amongst the other Philosophers, & aspire not to this place, reserved onely for Antichristian Heroes: neither do you agree so wel amongst yourselves, as that you can be said to have made a Sect, since, as you have perverted and changed the order and Scheme of others: so Tycho Brachy hath done by yours, and others by his. Let therefore this little Mathematitian (dread Emperour) withdraw himselfe to his owne company. And if heereafter the fathers of our Order can draw a Cathedrall Decree from the Pope, by which it may be defined as a matter of faith: That the earth doth not move; & an Anathema inflicted upon all which hold the contrary: then perchance both the Pope which shall dec'ree that, and Copernicus his followers, (if they be Papists) may have the dignity of this place." Lucifer signified his assent; and Copernicus, without muttering a word, was as quiet, as he thinks the sunne, when he which stood next him, entred into his place. . . .
    . . . I came backe againe, to spie (if the gates were stil open) with what affection Ignatius, and they who were in auncient possession of that place, behaved themselves towardes one an other. And I found him yet in the porch, and there beginning a new contention: for having presently cast his eyes to the principall place, next to Lucifers owne Throne, and finding it possest, he stopt Lucifer, and asked him, who it was that sate there. It was answered, that it was Pope Boniface; to whom, as a principall Innovator, for having first chalenged the name of Universall Bishop, that honour was affoorded. Is he an Innovator thundred Ignatius? shall I suffer this, when all my Disciples have laboured all this while to prove to the world, that all the Popes before his time did use that name? And that Gregory did not reprehend the Patriarch John for taking to himselfe an Antichristian name, but for usurping a name which was due to none but the Pope. And could it be fit for you, Lucifer, (who in this were either unmindfull of the Romane Church, or else too weake and incapable of her secrets and mysteries) to give way to any sentence in Hell, which (though it were according to truth,) yet differed from the Jesuites Oracles? With this Ignatius flyes upwardes, and rushes upon Boniface, and throwes him out of his Seate: And Lucifer went up with him as fast, and gave him assistance, least, if hee should forsake him, his owne seate might bee endangered. And I returned to my body; which
As a flower wet with last nights dew, and then
Warm'd with the new Sunne, doth shake of agen
All drowsinesse, and raise his trembling Crowne,
Which crookedly did languish, and stoope downe
To kisse the earth, and panted now to finde
Those beames return'd, which had not long time shin'd,
was with this returne of my soule sufficiently refreshed. And when I had scene all this, and considered how fitly and proportionally Rome & Hell answered one another, after I had seene a Jesuit turne the Pope out of his Chaire in Hell, I suspected that that Order would attempt as much at Rome.

Harris, Victor and Itrat Husain. English Prose 1600-1660.
New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston, Inc., 1965. 259-264.

to John Donne

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