By Henry Vaughan 1621–1695 Henry Vaughan
A ward, and still in bonds, one day
         I stole abroad;
It was high spring, and all the way
    Primrosed and hung with shade;
    Yet was it frost within,
         And surly winds
Blasted my infant buds, and sin
    Like clouds eclipsed my mind.

Stormed thus, I straight perceived my spring
         Mere stage and show,
My walk a monstrous, mountained thing,
    Roughcast with rocks and snow;
    And as a pilgrim’s eye,
         Far from relief,
Measures the melancholy sky,
    Then drops and rains for grief,

So sighed I upwards still; at last
         ’Twixt steps and falls
I reached the pinnacle, where placed
    I found a pair of scales;
    I took them up and laid
         In th’ one, late pains;
The other smoke and pleasures weighed,
    But proved the heavier grains.

With that some cried, “Away!” Straight I
         Obeyed, and led
Full east, a fair, fresh field could spy;
    Some called it Jacob’s bed,
    A virgin soil which no
         Rude feet ere trod,
Where, since he stepped there, only go
    Prophets and friends of God.

Here I reposed; but scarce well set,
         A grove descried
Of stately height, whose branches met
    And mixed on every side;
    I entered, and once in,
         Amazed to see ’t,
Found all was changed, and a new spring
    Did all my senses greet.

The unthrift sun shot vital gold,
         A thousand pieces,
And heaven its azure did unfold,
    Checkered with snowy fleeces;
    The air was all in spice,
         And every bush
A garland wore; thus fed my eyes,
    But all the ear lay hush.

Only a little fountain lent
         Some use for ears,
And on the dumb shades language spent
    The music of her tears;
    I drew her near, and found
         The cistern full
Of divers stones, some bright and round,
    Others ill-shaped and dull.

The first, pray mark, as quick as light
         Danced through the flood,
But the last, more heavy than the night,
    Nailed to the center stood;
    I wondered much, but tired
         At last with thought,
My restless eye that still desired
    As strange an object brought.

It was a bank of flowers, where I descried
         Though ’twas midday,
Some fast asleep, others broad-eyed
    And taking in the ray;
    Here, musing long, I heard
         A rushing wind
Which still increased, but whence it stirred
    No where I could not find.

I turned me round, and to each shade
         Dispatched an eye
To see if any leaf had made
    Least motion or reply,
    But while I listening sought
         My mind to ease
By knowing where ’twas, or where not,
    It whispered, “Where I please.”

“Lord,” then said I, “on me one breath,
And let me die before my death!”

             Cant. chap. 5. ver. 17

Arise O North, and come thou South-wind and blow upon my garden, that
the spices thereof may flow out.

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Poet Henry Vaughan 1621–1695


SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century


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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SCHOOL / PERIOD 17th Century

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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