Poem introduction

The poem 'Man' – and what a bold title that is – is a complaint about human restlessness. This restlessness is at odds with the general stability of creation, a quality of predictable behaviour in nature which Vaughan celebrates as 'stedfastness', 'state', and 'staidness'. In particular, in two cunningly parallel alliterative phrases, he contrasts bees, who 'at night get home and hive', with man, who 'about this Earth doth run and ride' – knowing he has a home, but not quite knowing where it is. Even some stones, he says – meaning lodestones – know where their homes are. The poem's rhyme and assonance run easily in close partnership with Vaughan's characteristic logic and musicality.


Weighing the stedfastness and state
Of some mean things which here below reside,
Where birds like watchful Clocks the noiseless date
    And Intercourse of times divide,
Where Bees at night get home and hive, and flowrs
      Early, aswel as late,
Rise with the Sun, and set in the same bowrs;

    I would (said I) my God would give
The staidness of these things to man! for these
To his divine appointments ever cleave,
    And no new business breaks their peace;
The birds nor sow, nor reap, yet sup and dine,
      The flowres without clothes live,
Yet Solomon was never drest so fine.  

    Man hath stil either toyes, or Care,
He hath no root, nor to one place is ty'd,
But ever restless and Irregular
    About this Earth doth run and ride,
He knows he hath a home, but scarce knows where,
      He sayes it is so far
That he hath quite forgot how to go there.  

    He knocks at all doors, strays and roams,
Nay hath not so much wit as some stones have
Which in the darkest nights point to their homes,
    By some hid sense their Maker gave;
Man is the shuttle, to whose winding quest
      And passage through these looms
God order'd motion, but ordain'd no rest.

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