A critical, old-spelling edition of Samuel Pordage's "Mundorum Explicatio"
In 1661, six years before the publication of Milton's Paradise Lost, another epic appeared that justified the ways of God to men--Samuel Pordage's Mundorum Explicatio. Unusual among the many poetic biblical narratives of the seventeenth century for its mixture of theology with magic, mysticism, astrology, and alchemy, Mundorum Explicatio anticipates Paradise Lost in its treatment of hexameral themes Pordage, whose mystical natural philosophy is derived from the works of the German mystic Jacob Boehme, attempts to shape his material into epic form: He includes invocations, catalogues, extended similes, and celestial messengers, self-consciously measuring his style against the models of Tasso, Spenser, and DuBartas. However, Mundorum Explicatio is stylistically closer to the emblematic mode than the epic. A hieroglyphical figure that precedes the poem is the foundation for its structure. Pordage frequently refers his reader to the visual representation of the four spheres contained in the figure, creating a dialectic between the illustration and the poem that imitates the relationship of icon and gloss found in emblem books Pordage divides the poem into three parts. The first contains a didactic account of Creation and the Fall of Man, followed by an allegorical journey through the horrors of Hell. In the second part Pordage depicts the journey of a Pilgrim to the celestial world. The narration is propelled up the ladder of mystical ascent by a sequence of animated tableaux, emblematic representations of virtues and vices illustrating the spiritual struggles of the seeker of God. The third part is a brief description of the three orbs of the eternal world; each increases the Pilgrim's rapture as he moves toward ecstatic fusion with the Godhead at His golden throne in the center of the New Jerusalem The 1661 edition has served as the copy-text. The critical apparatus includes a record of substantive and accidental emendations, a set of textual and discursive notes, a historical collation of the 1661 edition and the manuscript, and specimens of the four scribal hands of the manuscript