Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
The World
By Henry Vaughan (1621–1695)
 
I SAW 1 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,
        Driv’n by the spheres        5
Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world
        And all her train were hurl’d.
The doting lover in his quaintest strain
        Did there complain;
Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights,        10
        Wit’s sour delights;
With gloves, and knots, the silly snares of pleasure,
        Yet his dear treasure,
All scatter’d lay, while he his eyes did pour
        Upon a flow’r.        15
 
The darksome statesman, 2 hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight-fog, mov’d there so slow,
        He did nor stay, nor go;
Condemning thoughts—like sad eclipses—scowl
        Upon his soul,        20
And clouds of crying witnesses without
        Pursued him with one shout.
Yet digg’d the mole, and lest his ways be found,
        Work’d under ground,
Where he did clutch his prey; but one did see        25
        That policy:
Churches and altars fed him; perjuries
        Were gnats and flies;
It rain’d about him blood and tears, but he
        Drank them as free.        30
 
The fearful miser on a heap of rust
Sate 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.        35
Thousands there were as frantic as himself,
        And hugg’d each one his pelf;
The downright epicure plac’d heav’n in sense,
        And scorn’d pretence;
While others, slipp’d into a wide excess,        40
        Said little less;
The weaker sort slight, trivial wares enslave,
        Who think them brave;
And poor, despisèd Truth sate counting by
        Their victory.        45
 
Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
And sing, and weep, soar’d up into the ring;
        But most would use no wing.
O fools—said I—thus to prefer dark night
        Before true light!        50
To live in grots and caves, 3 and hate the day
        Because it shows the way;
The way, which from this dead and dark abode
        Leads up to God;
A way where you might tread the sun, and be        55
        More bright than he!
But as I did their madness so discuss,
        One whisper’d thus,
‘This ring the Bridegroom did for none provide,
        But for His bride.’        60
 
Note 1. 1 John ii. 16–17. “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lusts thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” [back]
Note 2. The darksome statesman: Mr. Chambers thinks this is a reference to Oliver Cromwell. [back]
Note 3. Grots and caves: “It is possible that Vaughan had in mind the Myth of the Cave in Plato’s Republic, Bk. vii, and of the ascent to the Idea of Good there described.” (Chambers). [back]
 
 
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