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An Introduction
to the 17th Century
Metaphysical Poets

This is the Bookwise complete ebook of The Metaphysical Poets by Various Authors, available to read online as an alternative to epub, mobi, kindle, pdf or text only versions. For information about the status of this work, see Copyright Notice.



ABRAHAM COWLEY
1618 – 1667


Platonic Love

1

Indeed I must confess, When souls mix ’tis an happiness, But not complete till bodies too do join, And both our wholes into one whole combine; But half of heaven the souls in glory taste Till by love in heaven at last Their bodies too are placed.

2

In thy immortal part Man, as well as I, thou art. But something ’tis that differs thee and me, And we must one even in that difference be. I thee both as a man and woman prize, For a perfect love implies Love in all capacities.

3

Can that for true love pass When a fair woman courts her glass? Something unlike must in love’s likeness be: His wonder is one and variety. For he whose soul nought but a soul can move Does a new Narcissus prove, And his own image love.

4

That souls do beauty know ’Tis to the body’s help they owe; If when they know’t they straight abuse that trust And shut the body from’t, ’tis as unjust As if I brought my dearest friend to see My mistress and at th’instant he Should steal her quite from me.


RICHARD CRASHAW
1612 – 1649


The Weeper

Hail sister springs, Parents of silver-footed rills ! Ever bubbling things ! Thawing crystal ! Snowy hills ! Still spending, never spent ; I mean Thy fair eyes, sweet Magdalene.

Heavens thy fair eyes be ; Heavens of ever-falling stars ; ‘Tis seed-time still with thee, And stars thou sow’st, whose harvest dares Promise the earth to countershine Whatever makes Heaven’s forehead fine.

But we’re deceived all : Stars indeed they are too true, For they but seem to fall As Heaven’s other spangles do : It is not for our earth and us, To shine in things so precious.

Upwards thou dost weep ; Heaven’s bosom drinks the gentle stream. Where the milky rivers creep, Thine floats above and is the cream. Waters above the heavens, what they be, We are taught best by thy tears and thee.

Every morn from hence, A brisk cherub something sips, Whose soft influence Adds sweetness to his sweetest lips ; Then to his music : and his song Tastes of this breakfast all day long.

Not in the evening’s eyes, When they read with weeping are For the Sun that dies, Sits Sorrow with a face so fair. Nowhere but here did ever meet Sweetness so sad, sadness so sweet.

When Sorrow would be seen In her brightest majesty, For she is a Queen, Then is she drest by none but thee. Then, and only then, she wears Her richest pearls, I mean thy tears.

The dew no more will weep, The primrose’s pale cheek to deck ; The dew no more will sleep, Nuzzled in the lily’s neck. Much rather would it tremble here, And leave them both to be thy tear.

There is no need at all, That the balsam-sweating bough So coyly should let fall His med’cinable tears ; for now Nature hath learnt t’extract a dew More sovereign and sweet from you.

Yet let the poor drops weep, Weeping is the case of woe ; Softly let them creep, Sad that they are vanquish’d so ; They, though to others no relief, May balsam be for their own grief.

Such the maiden gem By the wanton spring put on, Peeps from her parent stem, And blushes on the watery sun : This watery blossom of thy eyne Ripe, will make the richer wine.

When some new bright guest Takes up among the stars a room, And Heaven will make a feast, Angels with crystal vials come ; And draw from these full eyes of thine Their Master’s water, their own wine.

Golden though he be, Golden Tagus murmurs ; though Were his way by thee, Content and quiet he would go ; So much more rich would he esteem Thy silver, than his golden stream.

Well does the May that lies Smiling in thy cheecks, confess The April in thine eyes ; Mutual sweetness they express. No April e’er lent kinder showers, Nor May return’d more faithful flowers.

O cheeks ! Beds of chaste loves, By your own showers seasonably dash’d. Eyes ! nests of milky doves, In your own wells decently wash’d. O wit of love ! that thus could place Fountain and garden in one face.

O sweet contest ; of woes With loves, of tears with smiles disporting ! O fair and friendly foes, Each other kissing and comforting ! While rain and sunshine, cheeks and eyes, Close in kind contrarieties.

But can these fair floods be Friends with the bosom fires that fill ye ! Can so great flames agree Eternal tears should thus distil thee ! O floods, O fires, O suns, O showers ! Mix’d and made friends by love’s sweet pow’rs.

‘Twas his well-pointed dar That digg’d these wells, and dress’d this vine ; And taught that wounded heart The way into these weeping eyne. Vain loves avaunt ! bold hands forbear ! The lamb hath dipped his white foot here.

And now where’er he strays Among the Galilean mountains, Or more unwelcome ways, He’s follow’d by two faithful fountains ; Two walking baths, two weeping motions, Portable and compendious oceans.

O thou, thy Lord’s fair store, In thy so rich and large expenses, Even when he show’d most poor, He might provoke the wealth of princes. What prince’s wanton’st pride e’er could Wash with silver, wipe with gold ?

Who is that King, but he Who call’st his crown to be call’d thine, Thus can boast to be Waited on by a wand;ring mine,— A voluntary mint, that strews Warm silver show’rs where’er he goes ?

O precious prodigal ! Fair spendthrift of thyself ! thy measure, Merciless love ! is all Even to the last pearl in thy treasure. All places, times, and objects be Thy tear’s sweet opportunity.

Does the day-star rise ? Still thy stars do fal, and fall ; Does day close his eyes ? Still the fountain weeps for all. Let night or day do what they will, Thou hast thy task, thou weepest still.

Does thy song lull the air ? Thy falling tears keep faithful time. Does thy sweet-breath’d pray’r Up in clouds of incense climb ? Still at each sigh, that is, each stop, A bead, that is, a tear, does drop.

At these thy weeping gates, Watching their wat’ry motion, Each winged moment waits, Takes his tear, and gets him gone. By thine eye’s tinct ennobled thus, Time lay’s him up : he’s precious.

Not, so long she lived, Shall thy tomb report of thee ; But, so long she breathed, Thus must we date thy memory. Others by moments, months, and years, Measure their ages ; thou, by tears.

So do perfumes expire ; So sigh tormented sweets, oppress’d With proud unpitying fires ; Such tears the suff’ring rose that’s vex’d With ungentle flames does shed, Sweating in a too warm bed.

Say, ye bright brothers, The fugitive sons of those fair eyes Your fruitful mothers, What make you here ? What hopes can ‘tice You to be born ? What cause can borrow You from those nests of noble sorrow ?

Whither away so fast ? For sure the sordid earth Your sweetness cannot taste, Nor does the dust deserve their birth. Sweet, whither haste you then ? O, say Why you trip so fast away ?

We go not to seek The darlings of Aurora’s bed, The rose’s modest cheek, Nor the violet’s humble head. Though the field’s eyes, too, weepers be, Because they want such tears as we.

Much less mean we to trace The fortune of inferior gems, Preferr’d to some proud face, Or perch’d upon fear’d diadems. Crowned heads are toys. We go to meet A worthy object, our Lord’s feet.


JOHN DONNE
1572 - 1631


The Dream

Dear love, for nothing less than thee Would I have broke this happy dream; It was a theme For reason, much too strong for fantasy, Therefore thou wak’d’st me wisely; yet My dream thou brok’st not, but continued’st it. Thou art so true that thoughts of thee suffice To make dreams truths, and fables histories; Enter these arms, for since thou thought’st it best, Not to dream all my dream, let’s act the rest.

As lightning, or a taper’s light, Thine eyes, and not thy noise wak’d me; Yet I thought thee (For thou lovest truth) an angel, at first sight; But when I saw thou sawest my heart, And knew’st my thoughts, beyond an angel’s art, When thou knew’st what I dreamt, when thou knew’st when Excess of joy would wake me, and cam’st then, I must confess, it could not choose but be Profane, to think thee any thing but thee.

Coming and staying show’d thee, thee, But rising makes me doubt, that now Thou art not thou. That love is weak where fear’s as strong as he; ‘Tis not all spirit, pure and brave, If mixture it of fear, shame, honour have; Perchance as torches, which must ready be, Men light and put out, so thou deal’st with me; Thou cam’st to kindle, goest to come; then I Will dream that hope again, but else would die.


The Ecstasy

Where, like a pillow on a bed A pregnant bank swell’d up to rest The violet’s reclining head, Sat we two, one another’s best. Our hands were firmly cemented With a fast balm, which thence did spring; Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread Our eyes upon one double string; So to’intergraft our hands, as yet Was all the means to make us one, And pictures in our eyes to get Was all our propagation. As ‘twixt two equal armies fate Suspends uncertain victory, Our souls (which to advance their state Were gone out) hung ‘twixt her and me. And whilst our souls negotiate there, We like sepulchral statues lay; All day, the same our postures were, And we said nothing, all the day. If any, so by love refin’d That he soul’s language understood, And by good love were grown all mind, Within convenient distance stood, He (though he knew not which soul spake, Because both meant, both spake the same) Might thence a new concoction take And part far purer than he came. This ecstasy doth unperplex, We said, and tell us what we love; We see by this it was not sex, We see we saw not what did move; But as all several souls contain Mixture of things, they know not what, Love these mix’d souls doth mix again And makes both one, each this and that. A single violet transplant, The strength, the colour, and the size, (All which before was poor and scant) Redoubles still, and multiplies. When love with one another so Interinanimates two souls, That abler soul, which thence doth flow, Defects of loneliness controls. We then, who are this new soul, know Of what we are compos’d and made, For th’ atomies of which we grow Are souls, whom no change can invade. But oh alas, so long, so far, Our bodies why do we forbear? They’are ours, though they’are not we; we are The intelligences, they the spheres. We owe them thanks, because they thus Did us, to us, at first convey, Yielded their senses’ force to us, Nor are dross to us, but allay. On man heaven’s influence works not so, But that it first imprints the air; So soul into the soul may flow, Though it to body first repair. As our blood labors to beget Spirits, as like souls as it can, Because such fingers need to knit That subtle knot which makes us man, So must pure lovers’ souls descend T’ affections, and to faculties, Which sense may reach and apprehend, Else a great prince in prison lies. To’our bodies turn we then, that so Weak men on love reveal’d may look; Love’s mysteries in souls do grow, But yet the body is his book. And if some lover, such as we, Have heard this dialogue of one, Let him still mark us, he shall see Small change, when we’are to bodies gone.


The Flea

Mark but this flea, and mark in this, How little that which thou deniest me is; It sucked me first, and now sucks thee, And in this flea our two bloods mingled be; Thou know’st that this cannot be said A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead, Yet this enjoys before it woo, And pampered swells with one blood made of two, And this, alas, is more than we would do.

Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare, Where we almost, nay more than married are. This flea is you and I, and this Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is; Though parents grudge, and you, w’are met, And cloistered in these living walls of jet. Though use make you apt to kill me, Let not to that, self-murder added be, And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since Purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence? Wherein could this flea guilty be, Except in that drop which it sucked from thee? Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou Find’st not thy self, nor me the weaker now; ’Tis true; then learn how false, fears be: Just so much honor, when thou yield’st to me, Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.


The Good-Morrow

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then? But sucked on country pleasures, childishly? Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den? ’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be. If ever any beauty I did see, Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls, Which watch not one another out of fear; For love, all love of other sights controls, And makes one little room an everywhere. Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone, Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown, Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, And true plain hearts do in the faces rest; Where can we find two better hemispheres, Without sharp north, without declining west? Whatever dies, was not mixed equally; If our two loves be one, or, thou and I Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.


Love’s Alchemy

Some that have deeper digg’d love’s mine than I, Say, where his centric happiness doth lie; I have lov’d, and got, and told, But should I love, get, tell, till I were old, I should not find that hidden mystery. Oh, ‘tis imposture all! And as no chemic yet th’elixir got, But glorifies his pregnant pot If by the way to him befall Some odoriferous thing, or medicinal, So, lovers dream a rich and long delight, But get a winter-seeming summer’s night.

Our ease, our thrift, our honour, and our day, Shall we for this vain bubble’s shadow pay? Ends love in this, that my man Can be as happy’as I can, if he can Endure the short scorn of a bridegroom’s play? That loving wretch that swears ‘Tis not the bodies marry, but the minds, Which he in her angelic finds, Would swear as justly that he hears, In that day’s rude hoarse minstrelsy, the spheres. Hope not for mind in women; at their best Sweetness and wit, they’are but mummy, possess’d.


The Sun Rising

Busy old fool, unruly sun, Why dost thou thus, Through windows, and through curtains call on us? Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run? Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide Late school boys and sour prentices, Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride, Call country ants to harvest offices, Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime, Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams, so reverend and strong Why shouldst thou think? I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink, But that I would not lose her sight so long; If her eyes have not blinded thine, Look, and tomorrow late, tell me, Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me. Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday, And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

She’s all states, and all princes, I, Nothing else is. Princes do but play us; compared to this, All honor’s mimic, all wealth alchemy. Thou, sun, art half as happy as we, In that the world’s contracted thus. Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be To warm the world, that’s done in warming us. Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.


To His Mistress Going to Bed

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy, Until I labour, I in labour lie. The foe oft-times having the foe in sight, Is tir’d with standing though he never fight. Off with that girdle, like heaven’s Zone glistering, But a far fairer world encompassing. Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear, That th’eyes of busy fools may be stopped there. Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime, Tells me from you, that now it is bed time. Off with that happy busk, which I envy, That still can be, and still can stand so nigh. Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals, As when from flowery meads th’hill’s shadow steals. Off with that wiry Coronet and shew The hairy Diadem which on you doth grow: Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed. In such white robes, heaven’s Angels used to be Received by men; Thou Angel bringst with thee A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and though Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know, By this these Angels from an evil sprite, Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright. Licence my roving hands, and let them go, Before, behind, between, above, below. O my America! my new-found-land, My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d, My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie, How blest am I in this discovering thee! To enter in these bonds, is to be free; Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be. Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee, As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth’d must be, To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use Are like Atlanta’s balls, cast in men’s views, That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a Gem, His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them. Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made For lay-men, are all women thus array’d; Themselves are mystic books, which only we (Whom their imputed grace will dignify) Must see reveal’d. Then since that I may know; As liberally, as to a Midwife, shew Thy self: cast all, yea, this white linen hence, There is no penance due to innocence. To teach thee, I am naked first; why then What needst thou have more covering than a man.


A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men pass mildly away, And whisper to their souls to go, Whilst some of their sad friends do say The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise, No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move; ‘Twere profanation of our joys To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears, Men reckon what it did, and meant; But trepidation of the spheres, Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit Absence, because it doth remove Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined, That our selves know not what it is, Inter-assured of the mind, Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one, Though I must go, endure not yet A breach, but an expansion, Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so As stiff twin compasses are two; Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show To move, but doth, if the other do.

And though it in the center sit, Yet when the other far doth roam, It leans and hearkens after it, And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must, Like th’ other foot, obliquely run; Thy firmness makes my circle just, And makes me end where I begun.


GEORGE HERBERT
1593 – 1633


Love (I)

Immortal Love, author of this great frame, Sprung from that beauty which can never fade, How hath man parcel’d out Thy glorious name, And thrown it on that dust which Thou hast made, While mortal love doth all the title gain! Which siding with Invention, they together Bear all the sway, possessing heart and brain, (Thy workmanship) and give Thee share in neither. Wit fancies beauty, beauty raiseth wit; The world is theirs, they two play out the game, Thou standing by: and though Thy glorious name Wrought our deliverance from th’ infernal pit, Who sings Thy praise? Only a scarf or glove Doth warm our hands, and make them write of love.


Love (II)

Immortal Heat, O let Thy greater flame Attract the lesser to it; let those fires Which shall consume the world first make it tame, And kindle in our hearts such true desires. As may consume our lusts, and make Thee way: Then shall our hearts pant Thee, then shall our brain All her invention on Thine altar lay, And there in hymns send back Thy fire again. Our eyes shall see Thee, which before saw dust, Dust blown by wit, till that they both were blind: Thou shalt recover all Thy goods in kind, Who wert disseized by usurping lust: All knees shall bow to Thee; all wits shall rise, And praise Him Who did make and mend our eyes.


Love (III)

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back Guilty of dust and sin. But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack From my first entrance in, Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning, If I lacked any thing.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here: Love said, You shall be he. I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear, I cannot look on thee. Love took my hand, and smiling did reply, Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame Go where it doth deserve. And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame? My dear, then I will serve. You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat: So I did sit and eat.


The Pearl

MATTHEW xiii I know the ways of learning; both the head And pipes that feed the press, and make it run; What reason hath from nature borrowed, Or of itself, like a good huswife, spun In laws and policy; what the stars conspire, What willing nature speaks, what forc’d by fire; Both th’old discoveries and the new-found seas, The stock and surplus, cause and history; All these stand open, or I have the keys: Yet I love thee.

I know the ways of honour; what maintains The quick returns of courtesy and wit; In vies of favours whether party gains When glory swells the heart and moldeth it To all expressions both of hand and eye, Which on the world a true-love-knot may tie, And bear the bundle wheresoe’er it goes; How many drams of spirit there must be To sell my life unto my friends or foes: Yet I love thee.

I know the ways of pleasure; the sweet strains The lullings and the relishes of it; The propositions of hot blood and brains; What mirth and music mean; what love and wit Have done these twenty hundred years and more; I know the projects of unbridled store; My stuff is flesh, not brass; my senses live, And grumble oft that they have more in me Than he that curbs them, being but one to five: Yet I love thee.

I know all these and have them in my hand; Therefore not seeled but with open eyes I fly to thee, and fully understand Both the main sale and the commodities; And at what rate and price I have thy love, With all the circumstances that may move. Yet through the labyrinths, not my grovelling wit, But thy silk twist let down from heav’n to me Did both conduct and teach me how by it To climb to thee.


ANDREW MARVELL
1621 – 1678


To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime. We would sit down, and think which way To walk, and pass our long love’s day. Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide Of Humber would complain. I would Love you ten years before the flood, And you should, if you please, refuse Till the conversion of the Jews. My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires and more slow; An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast, But thirty thousand to the rest; An age at least to every part, And the last age should show your heart. For, lady, you deserve this state, Nor would I love at lower rate. But at my back I always hear Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near; And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity. Thy beauty shall no more be found; Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound My echoing song; then worms shall try That long-preserved virginity, And your quaint honour turn to dust, And into ashes all my lust; The grave’s a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace. Now therefore, while the youthful hue Sits on thy skin like morning dew, And while thy willing soul transpires At every pore with instant fires, Now let us sport us while we may, And now, like amorous birds of prey, Rather at once our time devour Than languish in his slow-chapped power. Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball, And tear our pleasures with rough strife Through the iron gates of life: Thus, though we cannot make our sun Stand still, yet we will make him run.


The Garden

How vainly men themselves amaze To win the palm, the oak, or bays, And their uncessant labours see Crown’d from some single herb or tree, Whose short and narrow verged shade Does prudently their toils upbraid; While all flow’rs and all trees do close To weave the garlands of repose.

Fair Quiet, have I found thee here, And Innocence, thy sister dear! Mistaken long, I sought you then In busy companies of men; Your sacred plants, if here below, Only among the plants will grow. Society is all but rude, To this delicious solitude.

No white nor red was ever seen So am’rous as this lovely green. Fond lovers, cruel as their flame, Cut in these trees their mistress’ name; Little, alas, they know or heed How far these beauties hers exceed! Fair trees! wheres’e’er your barks I wound, No name shall but your own be found.

When we have run our passion’s heat, Love hither makes his best retreat. The gods, that mortal beauty chase, Still in a tree did end their race: Apollo hunted Daphne so, Only that she might laurel grow; And Pan did after Syrinx speed, Not as a nymph, but for a reed.

What wond’rous life in this I lead! Ripe apples drop about my head; The luscious clusters of the vine Upon my mouth do crush their wine; The nectarine and curious peach Into my hands themselves do reach; Stumbling on melons as I pass, Ensnar’d with flow’rs, I fall on grass.

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less, Withdraws into its happiness; The mind, that ocean where each kind Does straight its own resemblance find, Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other worlds, and other seas; Annihilating all that’s made To a green thought in a green shade.

Here at the fountain’s sliding foot, Or at some fruit tree’s mossy root, Casting the body’s vest aside, My soul into the boughs does glide; There like a bird it sits and sings, Then whets, and combs its silver wings; And, till prepar’d for longer flight, Waves in its plumes the various light.

Such was that happy garden-state, While man there walk’d without a mate; After a place so pure and sweet, What other help could yet be meet! But ’twas beyond a mortal’s share To wander solitary there: Two paradises ’twere in one To live in paradise alone.

How well the skillful gard’ner drew Of flow’rs and herbs this dial new, Where from above the milder sun Does through a fragrant zodiac run; And as it works, th’ industrious bee Computes its time as well as we. How could such sweet and wholesome hours Be reckon’d but with herbs and flow’rs!


The Definition of Love

My love is of a birth as rare As ’tis for object strange and high; It was begotten by Despair Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone Could show me so divine a thing Where feeble Hope could ne’er have flown, But vainly flapp’d its tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive Where my extended soul is fixt, But Fate does iron wedges drive, And always crowds itself betwixt.

For Fate with jealous eye does see Two perfect loves, nor lets them close; Their union would her ruin be, And her tyrannic pow’r depose.

And therefore her decrees of steel Us as the distant poles have plac’d, (Though love’s whole world on us doth wheel) Not by themselves to be embrac’d;

Unless the giddy heaven fall, And earth some new convulsion tear; And, us to join, the world should all Be cramp’d into a planisphere.

As lines, so loves oblique may well Themselves in every angle greet; But ours so truly parallel, Though infinite, can never meet.

Therefore the love which us doth bind, But Fate so enviously debars, Is the conjunction of the mind, And opposition of the stars.


HENRY VAUGHAN
1621 - 1695


The Night

John 3.2

Through that pure virgin shrine, That sacred veil drawn o’er Thy glorious noon, That men might look and live, as glowworms shine, And face the moon, Wise Nicodemus saw such light As made him know his God by night.

Most blest believer he! Who in that land of darkness and blind eyes Thy long-expected healing wings could see, When Thou didst rise! And, what can never more be done, Did at midnight speak with the Sun!

O who will tell me where He found Thee at that dead and silent hour? What hallowed solitary ground did bear So rare a flower, Within whose sacred leaves did lie The fulness of the Deity?

No mercy-seat of gold, No dead and dusty cherub, nor carved stone, But His own living works did my Lord hold And lodge alone; Where trees and herbs did watch and peep And wonder, while the Jews did sleep.

Dear night! this world’s defeat; The stop to busy fools; care’s check and curb; The day of spirits; my soul’s calm retreat Which none disturb! Christ’s progress, and His prayer time; The hours to which high heaven doth chime;

God’s silent, searching flight; When my Lord’s head is filled with dew, and all His locks are wet with the clear drops of night; His still, soft call; His knocking time; the soul’s dumb watch, When spirits their fair kindred catch.

Were all my loud, evil days Calm and unhaunted as is thy dark tent, Whose peace but by some angel’s wing or voice Is seldom rent, Then I in heaven all the long year Would keep, and never wander here.

But living where the sun Doth all things wake, and where all mix and tire Themselves and others, I consent and run To every mire, And by this world’s ill-guiding light, Err more than I can do by night.

There is in God, some say, A deep but dazzling darkness, as men here Say it is late and dusky, because they See not all clear. O for that night! where I in Him Might live invisible and dim!


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 aught 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 fleshly dress Bright shoots of everlastingness. 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’ 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 World

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, Driv’n by the spheres 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, 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.

The darksome statesman hung with weights and woe, Like a thick midnight-fog mov’d there so slow, He did not stay, nor go; Condemning thoughts (like sad eclipses) scowl Upon his soul, 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 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.

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; 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, Said little less; The weaker sort slight, trivial wares enslave, Who think them brave; And poor despised Truth sate counting by Their victory.

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, To live in grots and caves, and hate the day Because it shews 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 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.”



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