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Henry Vaughan

1622–1695

Henry Vaughan was born on April 17, 1622, in Llansantffraed, Breconshire, Wales. He was educated in Oxford and studied law in London before being recalled home after the Civil War broke out.  He is the author of several volumes of poetry, including Poems, with the Tenth Satyre of Juvenal Englished (1646). Vaughan was considered a metaphysical poet, alongside poets John Donne and George Herbert. He practiced medicine in the latter half of his life, and died on April 23, 1695.

By This Poet

2

Peace

My soul, there is a country
     Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a wingéd sentry
     All skilful in the wars;

There above the noise and danger,
     Sweet Peace sits crown'd with smiles,
And One born in a manger
     Commands the beauteous files.

He is thy gracious Friend,
     And—O my Soul awake!—
Did in pure love descend
     To die here for thy sake.

If thou canst get but thither,
     There grows the flower of Peace,
The Rose that cannot wither,
     Thy fortress and thy ease.

Leave then thy foolish ranges,
     For none can thee secure
But One, who never changes,
     Thy God, thy life, thy cure.

The Retreat

Happy those early days, when I
Shin'd in my Angel-infancy!
Before I understood this place
Appointed for my second race,
Or taught my soul to fancy aught
But a white celestial thought:
When yet I had not walk'd above
A mile or two from my first Love,
And looking back—at that short space—
Could see a glimpse of His bright face:
When on some gilded cloud, or flow'r,
My gazing soul would dwell an hour,
And in those weaker glories spy
Some shadows of eternity:
Before I taught my tongue to wound
My Conscience with a sinful sound,
Or had the black art to dispense
A several sin to ev'ry sense,
But felt through all this fleshly dress
Bright shoots of everlastingness.

O how I long to travel back,
And tread again that ancient track!
That I might once more reach that plain
Where first I left my glorious train;
From whence th' enlightned spirit sees
That shady City of Palm-trees.
But ah! my soul with too much stay
Is drunk, and staggers in the way!
Some men a forward motion love,
But I by backward steps would move;
And when this dust falls to the urn,
In that state I came, return.

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