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HE name of Henry Vaughan, of ous trio of names John Donne, George 1 Scethrog, is by this time tolerably Herbert, and Henry Vaughan—which give familiar to all Welshmen who care in any Wales a place of honour in the English way for the memory of the Cymric dead. literature of the seventeenth century. But to a great many even of those who
The biographical details which we possess desire to learn and to know, he still remains not much more than a name. His works,
about Vaughan and his brother are very in a complete form, are virtually inaccess
scanty and uncertain. They were born
probably in 1621, at Newton, in the parish ible, except to the curious who will go to
of Llansantffraid, in Brecknockshire. the trouble of hunting them up in the British Museum or the Bodleian or some
Scethrog was the name of the family seat such well-stocked depository. Even pro
of the Vaughans, but the grandfather of fessed students of English literature are
the two poets appears to have taken up
his residence at Newton, a mansion about not well acquainted with what Vaughan
five miles distant from Scethrog, which is wrote, beyond the collection of religious
now a farm-house on the road between poems of which we have an Aldine edition by Lyte. The original editions of Vaughan's
Crickhowel and Brecon. poems are exceedingly scarce, and the only The river Usk flows close by. All poets, complete modern edition is an expensive in whom the love of Nature has been strong, one in four volumes, privately printed for have had their favourite streams to sing subscribers by Dr. A. B. Grosart. The only of, and most of the picturesque rivers of collection of his secular poems which, after this country have thus had their names much diligent search in book-stalls, I my- "shrined in the amber of immortal verse.” self have been able to secure is a small The Thames, the Severn, the Wye, the selection published early last year in a Yarrow, the Duddon—to mention only a limited edition of 500 copies, by Mr. J. R. few that at once occur to the mind-have Tutin, of Hull. In this little volume a few had their praises sung in lines that will live of the poems of Thomas Vaughan, which as long as the English language. The verses have also been edited by Dr. Grosart, are which the two Vaughans have addressed to included. It is possible that many who the Usk are not unworthy of a place side by can claim to possess some acquaintance side with the praises of mightier and more with Henry Vaughan, may not have even famous streams. Let us first of all hear as much as heard of Thomas. Students of the tribute of Henry mystical literature probably know him well, "Mosella boasts Ausonius, and the Thames but it may be safely presumed that but Doth murmur Sidney's Stella to her streams; very few readers of English poetry know While Severn, swollen with joy and sorrow, wears him at all. Thomas Vaughan—“Eugenius
Castara's smiles mixed with fair Sabrin's tears.
Thus poets-like the nymphs, their pleasing Philalethes," as he calls himself in most of
themeshis prose works in both Latin and English, - Haunted the bubbling springs and gliding streams, was a twin brother of Henry Vaughan, And happy banks! whence such fair flowers have after the flesh; and a comparison of their
sprung, poems will show that, after the spirit also,
But happier those where they have sate and sung! they were indeed twin sons of Arcady,
But, Isca, whensoe'er those shades I see, Et cantare pares, et respondere parati.
And thy loved arbours must no more know me,
When I am laid to rest hard by thy streams, Thomas did not write anything like the
And my sun sets, where first it sprang in beams, same amount of poetry as his brother, but I'll leave behind me such a large, kind light, in what he did write we detect the same As shall redeem thee from oblivious night, note and the same inspiration. Had he
And in these vows which--living yet-I pay,
Shed such a pervious and enduring ray, persevered in his devotion to the Muses, he
As shall from age to age thy fair name lead, might have added another to the illustri Till rivers leave to run, and men to read.”
ratard of may not qua
Like Shakespeare in his Sonnets, and like Henry Vaughan, in which he speaks of most great poets, Henry Vaughan is con Fletcher as second to Jonson alone. fident of the immortality of his verse; and
"This or that age may write, but never see the verdict of the best modern critics is
A wit that dares run parallel with thee, that this confidence was not ill-placed, for True, Ben must live! but bate him, and thou hast the more his poetry is studied the more Undone all future wits, and matched the past.” will its great merits, in spite of obvious
Soon after the close of his university defects, be appreciated. Having thus vaunted that the Usk, like Shakespeare's Doctor of Medicine, but where he took it,
career, Henry Vaughan took the degree of "Love," "shall ever in his verse live young,"
it is impossible to ascertain. He practised Vaughan breathes out a fervent prayer for first at Brecon, and then in his native blessings upon its streams.
village Scethrog, where he died in 1695.
He lies buried in Llansantffraid Church“No sullen heats, nor flames that are
yard, his epitaph, in which he describes Offensive and canicular,
himself as “servus inutilis, peccator maxShine on thy sands, nor pry to see Thy scaly, shading family,
imus,” being well known. Thomas Vaughan But noons as mild as Hesper's rays,
had a more chequered career. He took Or the first blushes of fair days.
orders in the church and got himself preWhat gifts more Heaven or Earth can add, sented, soon after leaving Oxford, to the With all those blessings be thou clad!”
living at Llansantffraid. Like his brother
he was a sturdy Royalist, and, at the close Thomas Vaughan writes of the river in a of the Civil Wars, was expelled from his more reflective strain, and moralises his living on a number of stock charges, of song in a way that recalls Denham's famous
which, perhaps, that of “having borne apostrophe to the Thames in his poem arms for the king" had alone any found"Cooper's Hill."
ation in fact. He then retired to Oxford,
and devoted himself to the study of "Shall I seek thy forgotten birth, and see chemistry, and to the pursuit of various What days are spent since thy nativity ?
occult sciences. The results of his specDidst run with ancient Kishon ? canst thou tell
ulations appeared in the form of works in So many years as holy Hiddekel? Thou art not paid in this: I'll levy more
both English and Latin prose written under Such harmless contributions from thy store, the name of Eugenius Philalethes. The And dress my soul by thee as thou dost pass, nature of some of these works may best As I would do my body by my glass:
be gauged from their titles. One reads, What a clear running crystal here I find! Sure I will strive to gain as clear a mind.”
“Magia Adamica, or the Antiquity of
Magic, and the descent thereof from Adam Henry and Thomas received their early and full discovery of the true Coelum
downward, proved; together with a perfect education under the Rev. Matthew Herbert, one of the Herberts of the Pembroke
terrae, or the Magician's Heavenly Chaos,
Another family, and a relation of George Herbert, extraordinary title runs, -"Euphrates or
and first matter of all things." the poet. In 1638 they both entered Jesus
the Waters of the East; being a short disCollege, Oxford. During his residence at
course of that secret fountain, whose water Oxford, Henry Vaughan seems to have
flows from fire. and carries in it the beams found opportunities of paying occasional
of the sun and the moon." He died at visits to London, where he soon man
Albury, near Oxford, on February 27th, aged to join the company of wits and
1665. poets who met at the Globe Tavern. Although he praises him in his verse, he can Thomas Vaughan's poetry, or at least as not have met Ben Jonson, for the “great much of it as has come down to us, is Ben" died in 137. But Fletcher he seems but slight in quantity, and in quality is to have known intimately, and an edition distinctly unequal. He does not appear of the dramatist's plays was published in
to have courted the Muses very seriously, 1647 with some commendatory verses by and his work is of greater interest as show
ing what he might have done, than as in- make us lament that Thomas Vaughan did dicating any very brilliant actual achieve- not devote to poetry the time he spent in ment. No one but a man gifted with the exploring the Magician's Heavenly Chaos, true poetic faculty could, for instance, or in describing the fountain whose water have written such lines as these on “The carried in it the beams of the sun and the Dawn,"
moon. "Now had the night spent her black stage, and
Henry Vaughan's fame has travelled far all Her beauteous twinkling flames grew sick and beyond that of his brother-he has, through pale.
his poetry, left behind him that “large, Her scenes of shades and silence fled; and Day kind light” which he predicted in his adDressed the young East in roses; where each ray
dress to the Usk. Just now his star is Falling on sables, made the Sun and Night Kiss in a checker of mixed clouds and light.” very much in the ascendant, and is likely
to remain so with all discerning readers It would be difficult to find in the whole of poetry. Some modern critics, Mr. range of English poetry a passage, dealing Saintsbury, for example, a writer who with the same subject, to beat those last careers through the field of Elizabethan four lines. Almost perfect of their kind, literature, with a boisterous confidence also, are some lines in which he envies the which consorts ill with the critical temper flowers among which his mistress lay, -are, indeed, apt to depreciate him. The
Silurist is not a poet either for the finical “They found their heaven at hand, and in her
or for the feverish. Those who delight in eyes Enjoyed a copy of their absent skies.
the simpering refinements of the so-called Their weaker paint did with true glories trade, æsthetic poetry of these latter days, or in And, mingled with her cheeks, one posy made. the wild vagaries of what has been well And did not her soft skin confine their pride,
styled “the Fleshly School” of poetry, will And with a screen of silk both flowers divide, They had sucked life from thence, and from her not nnd much to their taste in henry heat
Vaughan. He appeals in the main to the Borrowed a soul to make themselves complete.” constituency of readers among whom
Wordsworth finds his greatest admirers. I will give one more quotation—a little
His poems possess, indeed, qualities which poem of three verses in a style of which
should and do recommend him to readers George Herbert, and Henry Vaughan, and
who are inclined to be impatient with Herrick in his pious fits, were masters.
the moralising of Wordsworth. He is not It is entitled "A Stone, and the Stony Heart.”
altogether without that grace, and that
airy play of fancy which the earlier • Lord God! This was a stone
seventeenth century poets, in spite of their As hard as any one
fondness for far-fetched conceits and Thy laws in Nature framed:
“metaphysical” absurdities, share with the 'Tis now a springing well, And many drops can tell .
Elizabethans. But what is really great and Since it by art was tamed.
distinctive in his poetry, is rather an antici
pation of the poetry which came in with My God! my heart is so,
Cowper and Wordsworth, than an echo of 'Tis all of flint, and no Extract of tears will yield:
that which died away with Carew and Dissolve it with Thy fire,
Herrick. Professor Palgrave, of all modern That something may aspire,
critics, has done most justice to Vaughan, And grow up in my field.
and his article upon the poet in Y CymBare tears I'll not entreat,
mrodor, for 1890-1, should not be negBut let Thy Spirit's seat
lected by any student of the Silurist. His Upon those waters be;
estimate of Vaughan as a poet of Nature Then I, new-formed with light,
is very high—but that it is not too high Shall move without all night
will, I think, be borne out by every one Or eccentricity.”
whose avocation or inclination has led him Even these short extracts should suffice to to make a critical study of English poetry.
"It is indeed, safe to affirm," writes Mr. Wordsworth portions of his great "Ode Palgrave, “that of all our poets until we on Intimations of Immortality," and the reach Wordsworth, including here Chaucer, poem on "The World,” with its striking Spenser and Milton, Vaughan affords de opening; — cidedly the most varied and the most delicate pictures from Nature; that he
“I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great ring of pure and endless light, looked upon the landscape, both in its
All calm, as it was bright.” fine details and in its larger, and, as they might be called, its cosmic aspects. These religious poems contain many a with an insight, an imaginative pene notable image and inspiring thought. Here tration, not rivalled till we reach our own are one or two, culled at random. century Depth and delicacy of
“Man is the shuttle, to whose winding quest feeling, the heart speaking and spoken to
And passage through these looms more than the head, intimate insight into God ordered motion, but ordained no rest.” Nature, felicitous touches of description,
“Walk with thy fellow-creatures: note the hush the eye always upon the object—these are
And whispers among them. There's not a spring, the leading notes. And with these Vaughan Or leaf but hath his morning-hymn; each bush has the defects of his qualities;' obscur
And oak doth know I AM. Canst thou not ity and abruptness of phrase, though often
sing?” too concentrated for clearness and melody “There is in God-some say— in words; some defect in form and unity A deep, but dazzling darkness; as men here of design-much in short which, in its
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear. own way, we must confess to be true of
O for that Night! where I in Him our lately-lost Robert Browning—both re Might live invisible and dim!” quiring close sympathetic attention from their readers, and both rewarding it.” In
In these sacred poems also, quite as much many points Vaughan shows his kinship
in the secular, we find Vaughan's “deep with the school of poets whom Dr. John- insight into Nature, the heart speaking son labelled “metaphysical.” He has their
and spoken to more than the head.” In straining after fantastic conceit and re particular, I might mention a short poem mote analogy, but he has a depth of called “The Timber,” and another beginsentiment, and a subtle sympathy with the ning moods and changes of Nature, which we “I walked the other day, (to spend my hour), look for in vain in such poets as Cowley
Into a field or Crashaw. Nor is it quite correct to Where I sometimes had seen the soil to yield classify Vaughan with Herbert, as is
A gallant flower;" generally done. He was not so skilled a
as striking examples of this insight and metrist as George Herbert, nor do his sympathy. But of all the poems in which verses preserve so uniform a level of ex
he treats of natural objects, that which cellence. But he had far more of the exhibits at once the most daring flights higher poetical qualities, more of “the of imagination and the most varied play vision and the faculty divine."
of fancy, is one addressed to “The Eagle.”
The poem is worth quoting in full, but I It is impossible for me, within the scope must content myself with giving what is, of such an article as this, to quote many perhaps, the most remarkable passage in passages from Vaughan's poems which
it,give evidence of these qualities. An admirable selection from his religious poems
“Resolved he is a nobler course to try,
And measures out his voyage with his eye: is given in Mr. Palgrave's Treasury of
Then with such fury he begins his flight, Sacred Song, among them being the three As if his wings contended with his sight. or four of Vaughan's poems which various Leaving the moon, whose humble light doth
trade anthologies have made famous. Such are,
With spots, and deals most in the dark and shade: the poem called "The Retreat," which is
To the Day's royal planet he doth pass popularly supposed to have suggested to With daring eyes and makes the sun his glass.
“Her hair laid out in curious sets
Beneath these rays of her bright eyes
W. LEWIS JONES. University College, Bangor.
And seek, with heaven's first dawn upon thy
crest, My lady love, the moonbeam of the west ?
Here doth he plume and dress himself, the
And wantons in that pure and peaceful air.” I have alluded to the fact that Vaughan is not without the lighter lyrical gift which gives to the songs of the Elizabethan age such indefinable charm and grace; and I conclude with a quotation from a description of “Fida, a Country Beauty," which will rank with the best of the lovepoetry of that prolific era.
TO THE LARK.
BY DAFYDD AB
“SENTINEL of the morning light!
Reveller of the spring!
Thy boundless journeying:
“Oh! wilt thou climb yon heavens for me,
Yon rampart's starry height,
'Twixt darkness and the light,
“No woodland caroller art thou;
Far from the archer's eye,
Thy music in the sky: