The World by Henry Vaughan

I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light
     All calm as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time, in hours, days, years,
     Driven by the spheres,
Like a vast shadow moved, in which the world
      And all her train were hurled.
The doting Lover in his quaintest strain
     Did there complain;
Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights,
      Wit’s sour delights;
With gloves and knots, the silly snares of pleasure;
      Yet his dear treasure
All scattered lay, while he his eyes did pour
     Upon a flower.

The darksome Statesman hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight fog, moved there so slow
     He did nor stay nor go;
Condemning thoughts, like sad eclipses, scowl
     Upon his soul,
And clouds of crying witnesses without
     Pursued him with one shout.
Yet digged the mole, and, lest his ways be found,
     Worked under ground,
Where he did clutch his prey; but One did see
     That policy.
Churches and altars fed him, perjuries
     Were gnats and flies;
It rained about him blood and tears, but he
     Drank them as free.

The fearful Miser on a heap of rust
Sat pining all his life there, did scarce trust
     His own hands with the dust;
Yet would not place one piece above, but lives
     In fear of thieves.
Thousands there were as frantic as himself,
     And hugged each one his pelf.
The downright Epicure placed heaven in sense
     And scorned pretence;
While others, slipped into a wide excess,
     Said little less;
The weaker sort, slight, trivial wares enslave,
     Who think them brave;
And poor despisèd Truth sat counting by
     Their victory.

Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
And sing and weep, soared up into the Ring;
     But most would use no wing.
‘Oh, fools,’ said I, ‘thus to prefer dark night
     Before true light,
To live in grots and caves, and hate the day
     Because it shows the way,
The way which from this dead and dark abode
     Leaps up to God,
A way where you might tread the sun, and be
     More bright than he.’
But as I did their madness so discuss,
     One whispered thus,
This Ring the Bridegroom did for none provide
     But for his Bride.


Date: 1650

By: Henry Vaughan (1621-1695)

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