Poem introduction

Vaughan's attention to the natural world all around him in the Valley of the Usk certainly does get into his poems, but it will never make us really think of him as a nature poet. Still, in some of his poems there are surprising moments. In this one, he can suddenly show that he's observed things that would come naturally to a later poet like John Clare: 'He that hath found some fledg’d bird’s nest, may know / At first sight, if the bird be flown'. Vaughan can always be shown to have an eye for natural things; in this poem, his 'world of light', though of course, conceptual and metaphysical in implication, is also in a sense simply the sunset upon Allt yr Esgair, a specific place indicated in the poem by the deictic article 'this'. 'Like stars upon some gloomy grove, / Or those faint beams in which this hill is drest / After the sun's remove'. 'Some gloomy grove' reads like a classical poeticism, but 'this hill' is quite precisely a particular place, and as the end of the poem makes clear, what Vaughan sees here he's seeing through a telescope which he's taken with him on a walk up the hill behind his house. I think it gives a beautiful validity to his yearning argument.

They Are All Gone into the World of Light

They are all gone into the world of light!
       And I alone sit ling’ring here;
Their very memory is fair and bright,
       And my sad thoughts doth clear.
It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast,
       Like stars upon some gloomy grove,
Or those faint beams in which this hill is drest,
       After the sun’s remove.
I see them walking in an air of glory,
       Whose light doth trample on my days:
My days, which are at best but dull and hoary,
       Mere glimmering and decays.
O holy Hope! and high Humility,
       High as the heavens above!
These are your walks, and you have show’d them me
       To kindle my cold love.
Dear, beauteous Death! the jewel of the just,
       Shining nowhere, but in the dark;
What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust
       Could man outlook that mark!
He that hath found some fledg’d bird’s nest, may know
       At first sight, if the bird be flown;
But what fair well or grove he sings in now,
       That is to him unknown.
And yet as angels in some brighter dreams
       Call to the soul, when man doth sleep:
So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted themes
       And into glory peep.
If a star were confin’d into a tomb,
       Her captive flames must needs burn there;
But when the hand that lock’d her up, gives room,
       She’ll shine through all the sphere.
O Father of eternal life, and all
       Created glories under thee!
Resume thy spirit from this world of thrall
       Into true liberty.
Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill
       My perspective still as they pass,
Or else remove me hence unto that hill,
       Where I shall need no glass.

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