Jane Ward Lead (1624–1704)
John Milton (1608–1674)
Following an early experience of revelation, Jane Ward of Norfolk (1624–1704) lived a relatively conventional married life for more than twenty-five years. As a widow, however, she experienced a vision of a female figure, Sophia, and began a life of “spiritual virginity.” A follower of Jacob Boehme, the German mystic and writer, she entered the household of John Pordage, leader of a nonconformist congregation, in 1674. After the death of Pordage, she published more than twenty tracts. With Dr. Francis Lee, a follower who was to become her son-in-law, she established the Philadelphian Society, a group based on Boehme's principles. Many of Lead's mystical visions center on a female figure. Such a figure, Sophia (Holy Wisdom), appears in “Solomon's Porch, or the Beautiful Gate to Wisdom's Temple,” the long prefatory poem to her Fountain of Gardens (1697–1701). Our extract is based on the 1697 edition.
Arise, ye lovers true; Arise, arise, ye wondrous few; Apparitors1divine, ordained, fore-sent