Henry Vaughan was born in 1624 in Newton-upon-Usk in Breconshire, Wales. In 1638, it is assumed, he entered Oxford University with his twin brother Thomas who gained fame as a hermetic philosopher and alchemist. In 1640,Vaughan left Oxford to study law in London for two years. His studies were interrupted by the Civil War in which Vaughan briefly took the King's side. He is thought to have served on the Royalist side in South Wales sometime around 1645. Vaughan returned to Breconshire in 1642 as secretary to Judge Lloyd, and later began to practice medicine. By 1646, he had probably married Catherine Wise with whom he was to have a son and three daughters. After the death of his first wife, Vaughan married her sister Elizabeth possibly in 1655. Vaughan had another son, and three more daughters by his second wife. He published a few more works and when he died he was buried in Llansantffraed churchyard.
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;
We come and we go
make our noise on holiday,
come back from the wild land
where the caribou ruts
and the eagle streaks the sky,
return to our civil places
with cameras full of photographs
of what we really did not see.
the mighty mountains wait for us,
majestic in their silence.
Vanity Of Spirit
Where a shrill spring tuned to the early day.
I begged here long, and groaned to know
Who gave the clouds so brave a bow,
Who bent the spheres, and circled in
Corruption with this glorious ring;
What is His name, and how I might
Descry some part of His great light.
I summoned nature: pierced through all her store,
Broke up some seals which none had touched before:
Her womb, her bosom, and her head
Where all her secrets lay abed,
I rifled quite; and having passed
Through all her creatures, came at last
To search myself, where I did find
Traces and sounds of a strange kind.
Here of this mighty spring I found some drills,
With echoes beaten from the eternal hills;
Weak beams and fires flashed to my sight,
Like a young east, or moonshine night,
Which showed me in a nook cast by
A piece of much antiquity,
With hieroglyphics quite dismembered,
And broken letters scarce remembered.
I took them up and, much joyed, went about
To unite those pieces, hoping to find out
The mystery; but this ne'er done,
That little light I had was gone:
It grieved me much. At last, said I,
Since in these veils my eclipsed eye
May not approach Thee (for at night
Who can have commerce with the light?),
I'll disapparel, and to buy
But one half glance, mist gladly die.
Death. A Dialogue
'TIS a sad Land, that in one day
Hath dull'd thee thus ; when death shall freeze
Thy blood to ice, and thou must stay
Tenant for years, and centuries ;
How wilt thou brook't ?
I cannot tell ;
But if all sense wings not with thee,
And something still be left the dead,
I'll wish my curtains off, to free
Me from so dark and sad a bed :
A nest of nights, a gloomy sphere,
Where shadows thicken, and the cloud
Sits on the sun's brow all the year,
And nothing moves without a shroud.
'Tis so : but as thou saw'st that night
We travail'd in, our first attempts
Were dull and blind, but custom straight
Our fears and falls brought to contempt :
Then, when the ghastly twelve was past,
We breath'd still for a blushing East,
And bade the lazy sun make haste,
And on sure hopes, though long, did feast.
But when we saw the clouds to crack,
And in those crannies light appear'd,
We thought the day then was not slack,
And pleas'd ourselves with what we fear'd.
Just so it is in death. But thou
Shalt in thy mother's bosom sleep,
Whilst I each minute groan to know
How near Redemption creeps.
Then shall wee meet to mix again, and met,
'Tis last good-night ; our Sun shall never set.
Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the
land of darkness, and the shadow of death ;
A Land of darkness, as darkness itself, and of the
shadow of death, without any order, and where the
light is as darkness.