‘Of Many Worlds in This World’ by Margaret Cavendish is a sixteen-line poem that has been written within a structured and consistent rhyme scheme. The poem follows a pattern of aabbccddee… and so on, throughout its entirety. From one point of view, a reader might analyze this poem as being formatted within of sets of rhyming couplets, or sets of two lines.
There is one place, among the third/fourth and ninth/tenth lines in which a rhyme repeats, and another, also within the ninth/tenth lines which may now be considered a half or slant rhyme due to pronunciation changes.
The speaker begins Of Many Worlds in This World by stating that the world is like a “nest of boxes.” It is made out of different-sized boxes, all placed within one another. This nesting of the world is a perfect metaphor for how the existence known to humankind lies on and within the existences of other organisms.
These other worlds might be, the speaker describes, smaller than a human could ever see. They might be “Thinner and less” than anything yet known. This does not mean that they don’t exist. It also doesn’t mean they are not valuable or worth understanding.
In the next set of lines, the speaker makes a comparison between the size of an imagined world and a “ladies ear-ring.” The “world” could be small enough to fit within or on a piece of jewelry. The speaker seems to marvel at this concept. She sees beauty in the fact that a world of “creatures,” as she describes them, could fit on a pendant, or on each of a ladies earrings.
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Analysis of Of Many Worlds in This World
Just like as in a nest of boxes round,
Degrees of sizes in each box are found:
So, in this world, may many others be
Thinner and less, and less still by degree:
Although they are not subject to our sense,
A world may be no bigger than two-pence.
The speaker begins this first section of lines of Of Many Worlds in This World with an initial metaphor regarding how she sees the world. While the inspiration for the metaphor is not immediately made known, it becomes clear by the end of this section. She speaks on how worlds come in many forms. They are like “a nest of boxes.” There are many different sizes, all of which fit together to form a whole.
The world, she states, may contain an innumerable variety of other worlds. These might be too small for one to see with their eye, and may decrease “by degree,” getting “Thinner and less.” But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. They might be “no bigger than two-pence” but this doesn’t decrease their value or preclude their worth.
Nature is curious, and such works may shape,
Which our dull senses easily escape:
For creatures, small as atoms, may there be,
If every one a creature’s figure bear.
In the next four lines the speaker describes how there is much about the world which escapes her, and in general, human understanding. There are many shapes, which are so small, like “atoms,” which may be present but unseen.
The speaker describes nature at first as being “curious.” The poet has chosen to use this word to show how life is both strange and interesting. One may study or analyze one element for years and never fully understand it.
She is marvelling over this fact. It is miraculous to think that there are infinitely complex worlds too small for the human eye to see. These are some of the smallest boxes that fit inside the lager box which is the world entire. She describes the atoms, and all the small organisms, as “creatures.” She doesn’t see them as mindless, purposeless, refuse of the world. They are their own beings. They have agency and lives they must lead.
This section concludes with a statement saying that she believes there are these tiny worlds one is unable to see and that they “bear” form.
If atoms four, a world can make, then see
What several worlds might in an ear-ring be:
For, millions of those atoms may be in
The head of one small, little, single pin.
In the next four lines of Of Many Worlds in This World the speaker continues describing the abilities and worth of “atoms.” She does not, by any means, disregard the part they play in our existence. In fact, she stipulates that if four atoms can “a world…make” then imagine what else there could be.
The speaker has moved beyond what is known to her, and cast her thoughts out to further and more complex possibilities. She wonders what creatures and organism could be living under her nose everyday. Some of these might “in an ear-ring be.” Even the simplest item could contain thousands of lives.
And if thus small, then ladies may well wear
A world of worlds, as pendents in each ear.
In the final two lines of Of Many Worlds in This World the speaker muses on the availability of these worlds and the fact that one could be function in and around them every day. She gives the example of a woman’s earring and how within it, an infinite number of organisms could exist.
She states that if this is the case then a lady “may well wear” a world in a world within her jewelry, such as within a “pendent” in each of her ears. While this might sound frivolous, it serves the poet’s purpose in making the other worlds accessible.