The World

By Henry Vaughan 1621–1695 Henry Vaughan
I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
       All calm, as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
       Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world
       And all her train were hurl’d.
The doting lover in his quaintest strain
       Did there complain;
Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights,
       Wit’s sour delights,
With gloves, and knots, the silly snares of pleasure,
       Yet his dear treasure
All scatter’d lay, while he his eyes did pour
       Upon a flow’r.

The darksome statesman hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight-fog mov’d there so slow,
       He did not stay, nor go;
Condemning thoughts (like sad eclipses) scowl
       Upon his soul,
And clouds of crying witnesses without
       Pursued him with one shout.
Yet digg’d the mole, and lest his ways be found,
       Work’d under ground,
Where he did clutch his prey; but one did see
       That policy;
Churches and altars fed him; perjuries
       Were gnats and flies;
It rain’d about him blood and tears, but he
       Drank them as free.

The fearful miser on a heap of rust
Sate pining all his life there, did scarce trust
       His own hands with the dust,
Yet would not place one piece above, but lives
       In fear of thieves;
Thousands there were as frantic as himself,
       And hugg’d each one his pelf;
The downright epicure plac’d heav’n in sense,
       And scorn’d pretence,
While others, slipp’d into a wide excess,
       Said little less;
The weaker sort slight, trivial wares enslave,
       Who think them brave;
And poor despised Truth sate counting by
       Their victory.

Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
And sing, and weep, soar’d up into the ring;
       But most would use no wing.
O fools (said I) thus to prefer dark night
       Before true light,
To live in grots and caves, and hate the day
       Because it shews the way,
The way, which from this dead and dark abode
       Leads up to God,
A way where you might tread the sun, and be
       More bright than he.
But as I did their madness so discuss
       One whisper’d thus,
“This ring the Bridegroom did for none provide,
       But for his bride.”

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Poet Henry Vaughan 1621–1695

POET’S REGION Wales

SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century

Subjects Religion, Living, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Time & Brevity, Nature, Faith & Doubt, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, Christianity, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Couplet

Biography

Henry Vaughan, the major Welsh poet of the Commonwealth period, has been among the writers benefiting most from the twentieth-century revival of interest in the poetry of John Donne and his followers. Vaughan's early poems, notably those published in the Poems of 1646 and Olor Iscanus of 1651, place him among the "Sons of Ben," in the company of other imitators of Ben Jonson, such as the Cavalier poets Sir William Davenant and

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Living, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Time & Brevity, Nature, Faith & Doubt, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, Christianity, God & the Divine

POET’S REGION Wales

SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century

Poetic Terms Couplet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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