Monday, December 23, 2019

Henry Vaughan*

Henry Vaughan (1622―1695) is a Welsh metaphysical poet, who was educated at Oxford. He had already become a successful poet, prior to his conversion, which he attributed to his experience of reading George Herbert’s poetry. After this, he gave up what he called “idle verse.” Although two more collections of his earlier poetry appeared without his authorization, it is still his more mature religious poetry he is celebrated for.

Besides writing his own poetry, Henry Vaughan also translated religious, medical and moral works into English. He was also a medical practitioner.

Although his poetry did not receive the attention it deserved within his lifetime, or even in the years that followed, his brilliance was rediscovered in the 20th century, which has led to modern acknowledgement of his worth.

Christ’s Nativity

Awake, glad heart! get up and sing!
It is the birth-day of thy King.
Awake! awake!
The Sun doth shake
Light from his locks, and all the way
Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day.

Awake, awake! hark how th’ wood rings;
Winds whisper, and the busy springs
A concert make;
Awake! awake!
Man is their high-priest, and should rise
To offer up the sacrifice.

I would I were some bird, or star,
Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far
Above this inn
And road of sin!
Then either star or bird should be
Shining or singing still to thee.

I would I had in my best part
Fit rooms for thee! or that my heart
Were so clean as
Thy manger was!
But I am all filth, and obscene;
Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.

Sweet Jesu! will then. Let no more
This leper haunt and soil thy door!
Cure him, ease him,
O release him!
And let once more, by mystic birth,
The Lord of life be born in earth.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Henry Vaughan: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.