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Best Famous Henry Vaughan Poems

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Written by Henry Vaughan | |

The Retreat

 this time has finished me.
I feel like the German troops whipped by snow and the communists walking bent with newspapers stuffed into worn boots.
my plight is just as terrible.
maybe more so.
victory was so close victory was there.
as she stood before my mirror younger and more beautiful than any woman I had ever known combing yards and yards of red hair as I watched her.
and when she came to bed she was more beautiful than ever and the love was very very good.
eleven months.
now she's gone gone as they go.
this time has finished me.
it's a long road back and back to where? the guy ahead of me falls.
I step over him.
did she get him too?


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

The Retreat

 1 Happy those early days, when I
2 Shin'd in my angel-infancy!
3 Before I understood this place
4 Appointed for my second race,
5 Or taught my soul to fancy ought
6 But a white, celestial thought;
7 When yet I had not walk'd above
8 A mile or two from my first love,
9 And looking back (at that short space)
10 Could see a glimpse of his bright face;
11 When on some gilded cloud or flow'r
12 My gazing soul would dwell an hour,
13 And in those weaker glories spy
14 Some shadows of eternity;
15 Before I taught my tongue to wound
16 My conscience with a sinful sound,
17 Or had the black art to dispense,
18 A sev'ral sin to ev'ry sense,
19 But felt through all this fleshly dress
20 Bright shoots of everlastingness.
21 O how I long to travel back, 22 And tread again that ancient track! 23 That I might once more reach that plain, 24 Where first I left my glorious train, 25 From whence th' enlighten'd spirit sees 26 That shady city of palm trees.
27 But ah! my soul with too much stay 28 Is drunk, and staggers in the way.
29 Some men a forward motion love, 30 But I by backward steps would move; 31 And when this dust falls to the urn, 32 In that state I came, return.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

The Revival

 1 Unfold! unfold! Take in His light,
2 Who makes thy cares more short than night.
3 The joys which with His day-star rise, 4 He deals to all but drowsy eyes; 5 And (what the men of this world miss) 6 Some drops and dews of future bliss.
7 Hark! how his winds have chang'd their note, 8 And with warm whispers call thee out.
9 The frosts are past, the storms are gone, 10 And backward life at last comes on.
11 The lofty groves in express joys 12 Reply unto the turtle's voice; 13 And here in dust and dirt, O here 14 The lilies of His love appear!


More great poems below...

Written by Henry Vaughan | |

The Timber

 Sure thou didst flourish once! and many springs, 
Many bright mornings, much dew, many showers, 
Pass'd o'er thy head; many light hearts and wings, 
Which now are dead, lodg'd in thy living bowers.
And still a new succession sings and flies; Fresh groves grow up, and their green branches shoot Towards the old and still enduring skies, While the low violet thrives at their root.
But thou beneath the sad and heavy line Of death, doth waste all senseless, cold, and dark; Where not so much as dreams of light may shine, Nor any thought of greenness, leaf, or bark.
And yet—as if some deep hate and dissent, Bred in thy growth betwixt high winds and thee, Were still alive—thou dost great storms resent Before they come, and know'st how near they be.
Else all at rest thou liest, and the fierce breath Of tempests can no more disturb thy ease; But this thy strange resentment after death Means only those who broke—in life—thy peace.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

The Shepherds

 Sweet, harmless lives! (on whose holy leisure
Waits innocence and pleasure),
Whose leaders to those pastures, and clear springs,
Were patriarchs, saints, and kings,
How happened it that in the dead of night
You only saw true light,
While Palestine was fast asleep, and lay
Without one thought of day?
Was it because those first and blessed swains
Were pilgrims on those plains
When they received the promise, for which now
'Twas there first shown to you?
'Tis true, He loves that dust whereon they go
That serve Him here below,
And therefore might for memory of those
His love there first disclose;
But wretched Salem, once His love, must now
No voice, nor vision know,
Her stately piles with all their height and pride
Now languished and died,
And Bethlem's humble cotes above them stepped
While all her seers slept;
Her cedar, fir, hewed stones and gold were all
Polluted through their fall,
And those once sacred mansions were now
Mere emptiness and show;
This made the angel call at reeds and thatch,
Yet where the shepherds watch,
And God's own lodging (though He could not lack)
To be a common rack;
No costly pride, no soft-clothed luxury
In those thin cells could lie,
Each stirring wind and storm blew through their cots
Which never harbored plots,
Only content, and love, and humble joys
Lived there without all noise,
Perhaps some harmless cares for the next day
Did in their bosoms play,
As where to lead their sheep, what silent nook,
What springs or shades to look,
But that was all; and now with gladsome care
They for the town prepare,
They leave their flock, and in a busy talk
All towards Bethlem walk
To see their souls' Great Shepherd, Who was come
To bring all stragglers home,
Where now they find Him out, and taught before
That Lamb of God adore,
That Lamb whose days great kings and prophets wished
And longed to see, but missed.
The first light they beheld was bright and gay And turned their night to day, But to this later light they saw in Him, Their day was dark, and dim.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

The True Christians

 So stick up ivy and the bays,
And then restore the heathen ways.
Green will remind you of the spring, Though this great day denies the thing.
And mortifies the earth and all But your wild revels, and loose hall.
Could you wear flowers, and roses strow Blushing upon your breasts' warm snow, That very dress your lightness will Rebuke, and wither at the ill.
The brightness of this day we owe Not unto music, masque, nor show: Nor gallant furniture, nor plate; But to the manger's mean estate.
His life while here, as well as birth, Was but a check to pomp and mirth; And all man's greatness you may see Condemned by His humility.
Then leave your open house and noise, To welcome Him with holy joys, And the poor shepherd's watchfulness: Whom light and hymns from heaven did bless.
What you abound with, cast abroad To those that want, and ease your load.
Who empties thus, will bring more in; But riot is both loss and sin.
Dress finely what comes not in sight, And then you keep your Christmas right.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

The Water-Fall

 1 With what deep murmurs through time's silent stealth
2 Doth thy transparent, cool, and wat'ry wealth
3 Here flowing fall,
4 And chide, and call,
5 As if his liquid, loose retinue stay'd
6 Ling'ring, and were of this steep place afraid;
7 The common pass
8 Where, clear as glass,
9 All must descend
10 Not to an end,
11 But quicken'd by this deep and rocky grave,
12 Rise to a longer course more bright and brave.
13 Dear stream! dear bank, where often I 14 Have sate and pleas'd my pensive eye, 15 Why, since each drop of thy quick store 16 Runs thither whence it flow'd before, 17 Should poor souls fear a shade or night, 18 Who came, sure, from a sea of light? 19 Or since those drops are all sent back 20 So sure to thee, that none doth lack, 21 Why should frail flesh doubt any more 22 That what God takes, he'll not restore? 23 O useful element and clear! 24 My sacred wash and cleanser here, 25 My first consigner unto those 26 Fountains of life where the Lamb goes! 27 What sublime truths and wholesome themes 28 Lodge in thy mystical deep streams! 29 Such as dull man can never find 30 Unless that Spirit lead his mind 31 Which first upon thy face did move, 32 And hatch'd all with his quick'ning love.
33 As this loud brook's incessant fall 34 In streaming rings restagnates all, 35 Which reach by course the bank, and then 36 Are no more seen, just so pass men.
37 O my invisible estate, 38 My glorious liberty, still late! 39 Thou art the channel my soul seeks, 40 Not this with cataracts and creeks.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

The Morning-Watch

 1 O joys! infinite sweetness! with what flow'rs
2 And shoots of glory my soul breaks and buds!
3 All the long hours
4 Of night, and rest,
5 Through the still shrouds
6 Of sleep, and clouds,
7 This dew fell on my breast;
8 Oh, how it bloods
9 And spirits all my earth! Hark! In what rings
10 And hymning circulations the quick world
11 Awakes and sings;
12 The rising winds
13 And falling springs,
14 Birds, beasts, all things
15 Adore him in their kinds.
16 Thus all is hurl'd 17 In sacred hymns and order, the great chime 18 And symphony of nature.
Prayer is 19 The world in tune, 20 A spirit voice, 21 And vocal joys 22 Whose echo is heav'n's bliss.
23 O let me climb 24 When I lie down! The pious soul by night 25 Is like a clouded star whose beams, though said 26 To shed their light 27 Under some cloud, 28 Yet are above, 29 And shine and move 30 Beyond that misty shroud.
31 So in my bed, 32 That curtain'd grave, though sleep, like ashes, hide 33 My lamp and life, both shall in thee abide.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

Unprofitableness

 How rich, O Lord! how fresh thy visits are! 
'Twas but just now my bleak leaves hopeless hung 
Sullied with dust and mud; 
Each snarling blast shot through me, and did share 
Their youth, and beauty, cold showers nipt, and wrung 
Their spiciness and blood; 
But since thou didst in one sweet glance survey 
Their sad decays, I flourish, and once more 
Breath all perfumes, and spice; 
I smell a dew like myrrh, and all the day 
Wear in my bosom a full sun; such store 
Hath one beam from thy eyes.
But, ah, my God! what fruit hast thou of this? What one poor leaf did ever I yet fall To wait upon thy wreath? Thus thou all day a thankless weed dost dress, And when th'hast done, a stench or fog is all The odor I bequeath.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

They are all Gone into the World of Light

 1 They are all gone into the world of light!
2 And I alone sit ling'ring here;
3 Their very memory is fair and bright,
4 And my sad thoughts doth clear.
5 It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast, 6 Like stars upon some gloomy grove, 7 Or those faint beams in which this hill is drest, 8 After the sun's remove.
9 I see them walking in an air of glory, 10 Whose light doth trample on my days: 11 My days, which are at best but dull and hoary, 12 Mere glimmering and decays.
13 O holy Hope! and high Humility, 14 High as the heavens above! 15 These are your walks, and you have show'd them me 16 To kindle my cold love.
17 Dear, beauteous Death! the jewel of the just, 18 Shining nowhere, but in the dark; 19 What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust 20 Could man outlook that mark! 21 He that hath found some fledg'd bird's nest, may know 22 At first sight, if the bird be flown; 23 But what fair well or grove he sings in now, 24 That is to him unknown.
25 And yet as angels in some brighter dreams 26 Call to the soul, when man doth sleep: 27 So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted themes 28 And into glory peep.
29 If a star were confin'd into a tomb, 30 Her captive flames must needs burn there; 31 But when the hand that lock'd her up, gives room, 32 She'll shine through all the sphere.
33 O Father of eternal life, and all 34 Created glories under thee! 35 Resume thy spirit from this world of thrall 36 Into true liberty.
37 Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill 38 My perspective still as they pass, 39 Or else remove me hence unto that hill, 40 Where I shall need no glass.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

Upon the Priory Grove His Usual Retirement

 Hail sacred shades! cool, leavy House! 
Chaste treasurer of all my vows, 
And wealth! on whose soft bosom laid 
My love's fair steps I first betrayed: 
Henceforth no melancholy flight, 
No sad wing, or hoarse bird of night, 
Disturb this air, no fatal throat 
Of raven, or owl, awake the note 
Of our laid echo, no voice dwell 
Within these leaves, but Philomel.
The poisonous ivy here no more His false twists on the oak shall score, Only the woodbine here may twine As th'emblem of her love and mine; Th'amorous sun shall here convey His best beams, in thy shades to play; The active air, the gentlest showers Shall from his wings rain on thy flowers; And the moon from her dewy locks Shall deck thee with her brightest drops: What ever can a fancy move, Or feed the eye; be on this Grove; And when at last the winds and tears Of Heaven, with the consuming years, Shall these green curls bring to decay, And clothe thee in an aged gray: (If ought a lover can foresee; Or if we poets, prophets be) From hence transplant'd, thou shalt stand A fresh Grove in th'Elysian land; Where (most blest pair!) as here on earth Thou first didst eye our growth and birth; So there again, thou'lt see us move In our first innocence, and love: And in thy shades, as now, so then, We'll kiss, and smile, and walk again.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

Christs Nativity

 1 Awake, glad heart! get up and sing!
2 It is the birth-day of thy King.
3 Awake! awake! 4 The Sun doth shake 5 Light from his locks, and all the way 6 Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day.
7 Awake, awake! hark how th' wood rings; 8 Winds whisper, and the busy springs 9 A concert make; 10 Awake! awake! 11 Man is their high-priest, and should rise 12 To offer up the sacrifice.
13 I would I were some bird, or star, 14 Flutt'ring in woods, or lifted far 15 Above this inn 16 And road of sin! 17 Then either star or bird should be 18 Shining or singing still to thee.
19 I would I had in my best part 20 Fit rooms for thee! or that my heart 21 Were so clean as 22 Thy manger was! 23 But I am all filth, and obscene; 24 Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.
25 Sweet Jesu! will then.
Let no more 26 This leper haunt and soil thy door! 27 Cure him, ease him, 28 O release him! 29 And let once more, by mystic birth, 30 The Lord of life be born in earth.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

Etesia Absent

 Love, the world's life! What a sad death
Thy absence is to lose our breath
At once and die, is but to live
Enlarged, without the scant reprieve
Of pulse and air: whose dull returns
And narrow circles the soul mourns.
But to be dead alive, and still To wish, but never have our will: To be possessed, and yet to miss; To wed a true but absent bliss: Are lingering tortures, and their smart Dissects and racks and grinds the heart! As soul and body in that state Which unto us seems separate, Cannot be said to live, until Reunion; which days fulfil And slow-paced seasons: so in vain Through hours and minutes (Time's long train,) I look for thee, and from thy sight, As from my soul, for life and light.
For till thine eyes shine so on me, Mine are fast-closed and will not see.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

Friends Departed

 They are all gone into the world of light! 
And I alone sit ling'ring here; 
Their very memory is fair and bright, 
And my sad thoughts doth clear.
It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast, Like stars upon some gloomy grove, Or those faint beams in which this hill is drest After the sun's remove.
I see them walking in an air of glory, Whose light doth trample on my days: My days, which are at best but dull and hoary, Mere glimmering and decays.
O holy Hope! and high Humility, High as the heavens above! These are your walks, and you have show'd them me, To kindle my cold love.
Dear, beauteous Death! the jewel of the Just, Shining nowhere, but in the dark; What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust, Could man outlook that mark! He that hath found some fledg'd bird's nest may know, At first sight, if the bird be flown; But what fair well or grove he sings in now, That is to him unknown.
And yet as Angels in some brighter dreams Call to the soul, when man doth sleep: So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted themes, And into glory peep.
If a star were confin'd into a tomb, Her captive flames must needs burn there; But when the hand that lock'd her up gives room, She'll shine through all the sphere.
O Father of eternal life, and all Created glories under Thee! Resume Thy spirit from this world of thrall Into true liberty.
Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill My perspective still as they pass: Or else remove me hence unto that hill, Where I shall need no glass.


Written by Henry Vaughan | |

I Walkd the Other Day

 1 I walk'd the other day, to spend my hour,
2 Into a field,
3 Where I sometimes had seen the soil to yield
4 A gallant flow'r;
5 But winter now had ruffled all the bow'r
6 And curious store
7 I knew there heretofore.
8 Yet I, whose search lov'd not to peep and peer 9 I' th' face of things, 10 Thought with my self, there might be other springs 11 Besides this here, 12 Which, like cold friends, sees us but once a year; 13 And so the flow'r 14 Might have some other bow'r.
15 Then taking up what I could nearest spy, 16 I digg'd about 17 That place where I had seen him to grow out; 18 And by and by 19 I saw the warm recluse alone to lie, 20 Where fresh and green 21 He liv'd of us unseen.
22 Many a question intricate and rare 23 Did I there strow; 24 But all I could extort was, that he now 25 Did there repair 26 Such losses as befell him in this air, 27 And would ere long 28 Come forth most fair and young.
29 This past, I threw the clothes quite o'er his head; 30 And stung with fear 31 Of my own frailty dropp'd down many a tear 32 Upon his bed; 33 Then sighing whisper'd, "happy are the dead! 34 What peace doth now 35 Rock him asleep below!" 36 And yet, how few believe such doctrine springs 37 From a poor root, 38 Which all the winter sleeps here under foot, 39 And hath no wings 40 To raise it to the truth and light of things; 41 But is still trod 42 By ev'ry wand'ring clod.
43 O Thou! whose spirit did at first inflame 44 And warm the dead, 45 And by a sacred incubation fed 46 With life this frame, 47 Which once had neither being, form, nor name; 48 Grant I may so 49 Thy steps track here below, 50 That in these masques and shadows I may see 51 Thy sacred way; 52 And by those hid ascents climb to that day, 53 Which breaks from Thee, 54 Who art in all things, though invisibly! 55 Shew me thy peace, 56 Thy mercy, love, and ease, 57 And from this care, where dreams and sorrows reign, 58 Lead me above, 59 Where light, joy, leisure, and true comforts move 60 Without all pain; 61 There, hid in thee, shew me his life again, 62 At whose dumb urn 63 Thus all the year I mourn.