"Let the mind's interior compass first circle the whole extent of the material."

— Vinsauf, Geoffrey of [called Galfridus Anglicus] (fl. 1208-1213)

Work Title
w. c. 1210
"Let the mind's interior compass first circle the whole extent of the material."
Metaphor in Context
If a man has a house to build, his impetuous hand does not rush into action. The measuring line of his mind lays out the work, and he mentally outlines the successive steps in a definite order. The mind's hand shapes the entire house before the body's hand builds it. Its mode of being is archetypal before it is actual. Poetic art may see in this analogy the law to be given to poets: let the poet's hand not be swift to take up the pen, nor his tongue impatient to speak; trust neither hand nor tongue to the guidance of fortune. To ensure greater success for the work, let the discriminating mind, as a prelude to action, defer the operation of hand and tongue, and ponder long on the subject matter. Let the mind's interior compass [circinus interior mentis] first circle the whole extent of the material. Let a definite order chart in advance at what point the pen will take up its course, or where it will fix its Cadiz. As a prudent workman, construct the whole fabric within the mind's citadel; let it exist in the mind before it is on the lips.
(pp. 16-17)
Contributed by A.C. Spearing
Poetry Nova of Geoffrey of Vinsauf, trans. Margaret F. Nims (1967; reprint, Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2007).
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.