Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
  
Henry Vaughan. 1621–1695
  
362. 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         5
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:  10
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  15
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.  20
 
  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  25
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;  30
And when this dust falls to the urn, 
In that state I came, return. 
 
 
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