Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray
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   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
84. Nox Nocti Indicat Scientiam
 
William Habington (1605–1654)
 
 
WHEN I survey the bright
  Celestial sphere;
So rich with jewels hung, that Night
  Doth like an Ethiop bride appear:
 
  My soul her wings doth spread        5
      And heavenward flies,
Th’ Almighty’s mysteries to read
  In the large volume of the skies.
 
  For the bright firmament
      Shoots forth no flame        10
So silent, but is eloquent
  In speaking the Creator’s name.
 
  No unregarded star
      Contracts its light
Into so small a character,        15
  Removed far from our human sight,
 
  But if we steadfast look
      We shall discern
In it, as in some holy book,
  How man may heavenly knowledge learn.        20
 
  It tells the conqueror
      That far-stretch’d power,
Which his proud dangers traffic for,
  Is but the triumph of an hour:
 
  That from the farthest North,        25
      Some nation may,
Yet undiscover’d, issue forth,
  And o’er his new-got conquest sway:
 
  Some nation yet shut in
      With hills of ice        30
May be let out to scourge his sin,
  Till they shall equal him in vice.
 
  And then they likewise shall
      Their ruin have;
For as yourselves your empires fall,        35
  And every kingdom hath a grave.
 
  Thus those celestial fires,
      Though seeming mute,
The fallacy of our desires
  And all the pride of life confute:—        40
 
  For they have watch’d since first
      The World had birth:
And found sin in itself accurst,
  And nothing permanent on Earth.
 

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