Tomorrow, April 17, marks the birthday of poet Henry Vaughan…
We honor the occasion with seven of our favorite poems by Henry Vaughan …
Henry Vaughan (17 April 1621 – 23 April 1695) was a Welsh metaphysical poet, author, translator, and physician, who wrote in English. He is chiefly known for religious poetry contained in Silex Scintillans, published in 1650, with a second part in 1655. In 1646 his poems, with the Tenth Satyre of Juvenal Englished, were published, followed by a second volume in 1647. Meanwhile, he had been “converted” by reading the religious poet George Herbert and gave up “idle verse”. The prose Mount of Olives or Solitary Devotions (1652) show the depth of his religious convictions and the authenticity of his poetic genius. (via Wikipedia)
Henry Vaughan: Oxford Poetry Library
WHATEVER ’tis, whose beauty here below
Attracts thee thus and makes thee stream and flow,
And wind and curl, and wink and smile,
Shifting thy gate and guile,
Though thy close commerce nought at all imbars
My present search, for eagles eye not stars ;
And still the lesser by the best
And highest good is blest ;
Yet, seeing all things that subsist and be,
Have their commissions from Divinity,
And teach us duty, I will see
What man may learn from thee.
First, I am sure, the subject so respected
Is well-disposed ; for bodies, once infected,
Deprav’d, or dead, can have with thee
No hold, nor sympathy.
Next, there’s in it a restless, pure desire
And longing for thy bright and vital fire,
Desire that never will be quench’d,
Nor can be writh’d nor wrench’d.
These are the magnets, which so strongly move
And work all night upon thy light and love ;
As beauteous shapes, we know not why,
Command and guide the eye.
For where desire, celestial, pure desire,
Hath taken root, and grows, and doth not tire,
There God a commerce states, and sheds
His secret on their heads.
This is the heart he craves ; and whoso will
But give it Him, and grudge not, he shall feel
That God is true ; as herbs unseen
Put on their youth and green.