On Henry Vaughan's "The Retreat"


Happy those early days! when I
Shined in my angel-infancy,
Before I understood this place
Appointed for my second race,
Or taught my soul to fancy ought
But a white, celestial thought;
When yet I had not walked above
A mile or two from my first love,
And looking back—at that short space—
Could see a glimpse of His bright face;
When on some gilded cloud, or flower,
My gazing soul would dwell an hour,
And in those weaker glories spy
Some shadows of eternity;
Before I taught my tongue to wound
My conscience with a sinful sound,
Or had the black art to dispense
A several sin to every sense,
But felt through all this fleshy dress
Bright shoots of everlastingness.
tabtabOh 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 the enlightened spirit sees
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
And when this dust falls to the urn,
In that state I came, return.

+ + + + +

The metaphysical poets never fail.

Now, probably their view of their views does not match my view of their views, but from where I'm standing, what we have here is yet another 17th-century poet waxing Mormon.

You got your premortal life. You got your innocent babies. Two doctrines that were not, by my understanding, terribly sanctioned in 1650.

The other (wholly unrelated?) observation I have is that its a shame when words used in endrhyme change in meaning. I thought for a while that sound was some lost archaism because I was trying to rhyme it with wound. Perhaps, therefore, vowel shift is the reason modern poets have in large measure abandoned rhyme?

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