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From Macmillan's Magazine. with his great master, was Henry Vaughan, HENRY VAUGHAN.
the Silurist. THE man who was possessed of a brain
Henry Vaughan was called the Silurist and an arm when the seventeenth century because he was born among the Silures, opened its book of history in England was
or people of South Wales, at Newton-by. not doomed to live out his life in quiet Usk. The residence of the family, which dalliance, or gather renown from the vic-was ancient enough to number the Welsh tories of peace.
He was to learn some kings in its pedigree, had been at the thing of the stimulant of tumult – to know castle of Tretower, where Shakespeare is something of the “stern alarums "and the said to have been a visitor, but the grand“ dreadful marches” of “grim-visaged father of the poet had moved to Newton. war ;” night and day his hand would grasp The year 1621 is usually assigned as the the hilt of his sword.
year of the birth of Henry and of his twin It is, therefore, not surprising that in brother Thomas. The childhood of the the midst of this stir and action we find a poet was the fatherhood of the man. The similar energy developed in the literature luxuriant scenery surrounding the haunts of the day. England was being crushed of his youth was to him by the iron mace of war, and yet
apparelled in celestial light, still “ a nest of singing-birds." There is The glory and the freshness of a dream; no better mirror of the age to be found than in the writings of the poets, the and one of his earlier poems contains a children of the age; and it is easy to see loving apostrophe to the river Usk, by how in such a tempest of angry strife whose devious banks his feet must often those who stayed to think seriously were
have wandered. filled with a strong and awful yearning for
It appears that their twelfth year saw the the peace of the children of God.
brothers in the tutorial charge of the Rev.
Matthew Herbert, rector of Llangattock. There was many and many a lovely note, In 1638 they both entered at Jesus Col. Some singing loud as if they had complained; lege, Oxford, but their advancement in Some with their notes another manner feigned; quiet literary pursuits was rudely broken And some did sing all out with the full throat. into by the cannon of the Parliamentary And one of them, the happy-hearted generals. The king and his court came Wither, whispers from the other side of to Oxford, and the university became the his dark prison-bars the secret of the centre of fashionable literature and art as hopes that strengthened many of the souls well as of devotion to the sovereign. The of these singers :
twin brothers were both zealous Royal
ists. Thomas is known to have foughton For many books I care not, and my store
the king's side, but whether Henry bore Might now suffice ine, though I had no more Than God's two Testaments, and then withal
arms is an open question. From certain That nighty volume which the world we call. lines in his poems it might be concluded
that he had engaged in the field with his God's two Testaments were the chief countrymen. It would appear that he was source of inspiration and devotion which torn from the side ” of a dear young gave birth to the characteristic abundanc friend the battle of Rowton Heath ; but of sacred poetry in the seventeenth cen. a line in a Latin poem, written in 1647, tury. The Bible was a comparatively suggests that he had taken no part in new book.
The opening of its once open warfare. But though he may have Rome-locked leaves had had an immeas- shrunk from shedding blood, he did not urable influence on the English nation. fear openly to avow his attachment to his It soon became the book of the people, royal master, and in consequence he sufand influenced their character by guiding fered obloquy and imprisonment under the the currents of their thought. The lan. Parliamentary rule. In the mean time his guage of this one book, which in many brother Thomas, who had taken holy cases was the only literature accessible orders, had been deprived of his living by to the commonalty, became the language the Puritan Ecclesiastical commissioners, of common conversation. It was natural and had turned to the study of medicine, that it should be woven into the rhythm which he practised in London till after and verse of the poets whom it inspired. the Restoration. On the plague breaking Of these the most popular of his own out, Thomas left for Oxford with the time and the best known to posterity, was court of Charles the Second, but shortly the poet-priest, George Herbert; the least after was taken ill and died, February know now, as then, though well associated | 27th, 1665. His death was a terrible blow to Henry, who had by that time set. were indeed“ sparks from the flint-stone;" tled down and married in his native home. they were composed during the short in
The poet, after his escape from Puritan tervals of ease and quiet between the clutches, had also studied for the degree weary attacks of agonizing pain. of doctor of medicine. His wish for some The value of his poetical work may best settled employment, and his love of the be estimated by comparing it with that metaphysical, carried his mind to the of his contemporaries. The seventeenth pursuit of alchemy. His profession and century had brought to the front a race of bis literary studies served to keep him in poets, whose one aim was to be concetti. the even tenor of his way in quiet retire. They were disciples of the metaphysical meot when he returned to Newton. Here school; they only wrote to try to say he passed peacefully away on April 23rd, something new; they imitated neither the 1695, in his seventy-third year. While forms of nature nor of art, and nothing thus briefly sketching his life we must not else but the tricks and subtleties of one forget to mention that after his release another. Taken in a mass, their writings from prison he went to London for a holi- were the paragon of analysis but the cari. day, because in discussing his work it is cature of sense. The tawdry flimsiness of necessary to see how he gave it to the their conceits, and the far-fetched subtlety world and what were the chief circum- of their labored allusions, give an air of stances that influenced him at the most unreality to their sublimest conceptions. critical time of his life.
One adinires without understanding, for lo 1646 he published some secular they seem to verses, chiefly amatory, of which in his
lie reclined riper years he appears to have been ashamed. In 1651 his brother, against
On the hills like gods together, careless of
mankind, his own wishes, brought out another little volume of his verse under the title of making witty remarks on the chances of “Olor Iscanus.” But while these stray this mortal life without the slightest emopieces, which he had wished to be de- tion or feeling. Yet for all this they were stroyed, were being published, he was mostly men of learning and good thinkers; himself preparing for the press a collec- some may say that it requires an intellection of poems expressing his maturer tual chemist to recover the golden metal ideas of life. These came out in two vol- of their thought, for their chief emulation umes under the curious title, “ Silex Scin- was to conceal the precious ore under a tillaos."
volubility of recollection and inquiry. As The difference between the cavalier it was then their fashion to disregard both jollity of tbe earlier productions and the sublimity and pathos, so it became their deep seriousness of the latter, published manner to affect a singular defection of almost simultaneously, show the transfor. rhythm and a somewhat blunt sharpness mation through which his mind had been in the expression of their periods. The passing. Maddened and blinded by the power of presenting a picture to the mind darkness of the days of his persecution, by a well-balanced description seemed to on gaining his freedom he seems to have have been lost. Levity of thought natled the wild life of despair and
urally produced levity in the use of lanKissed the painted bloom off Pleasure's lips Scriptural subjects and allusions were
and the free license with which
guage, And found them pale as Pain's.
made to adorn the most trifliog absurdi. The result was a severe and lingering ties must have seemed indelicate even illoess, during which, to heal the solitude to the irreligious. It is hard to decide and suffering, he read considerably. whether this school lays claim to recogni. Among the books of the day brought to tion for the extravagance of its, beteroge. his bedside was "The Temple "of George neity or for the ingenuity of its wit. Herbert. In this he found his guide. It Though Henry Vaughan has much of is impossible to accept the theory that the same extravagance which deforms the Vaughan was altogether independent of poetry of his contemporaries, he has also Herbert. The facts of his life, and the a far larger measure of grace, smoothness circumstantial evidence of his poems, be. of transition, self-repression and continuity lie such a supposition. In truth, from of thought. He shows signs of a natural benceforth Herbert became his model vigor and freshness which are straoge to both in the conduct of his life as well as in the artificiality of his age. He is pedantic bis attempts in verse. It increases our and wanting often in symmetry, but, like interest if we also remember these verses Christopher Smart in a later age, for short
moments he reaches heights where his fashion along the pathway of analysis, but custom-bound contemporaries never trod. he only used this, as true poets should, as The “ Song to David” of Smart stands leading to the broad highway of subjecalone in the eighteenth century. There tive transformation. The materials obis nothing like Vaughan's “ Beyond the tained by the analysis of experience were Veil "in the seventeenth century. It has resolved into the beauty and brilliance of the breath of sincerity upon it; it has the another world of which the imagination simplicity and quiet which returned again alone was cognizant. lo addition to this to the English poets when Wordsworth artistic quality, the truth and reality of gave voice to
his impressions are accentuated by the The silence that is in the starry sky,
intensity of his personal feelings. If he The sleep that is among the lonely hills.
were anything but a lyrical genius we
should say that he only rhymes when his In fact, Vaughan may be said to have mind is in a particular mood; but as he been the predecessor of Wordsworth, the is a lyrical singer and nothing else, the great high-priest of nature, in more ways selection of his material is limited to the than one. Vaughan was the child of na. Auctuations of his own desires and his own ture. It was in the fresh morning walks aspirations. And so the value of his perover the Welsh hills that he found the sonality, his subjective way of looking at Creator of the world speaking to him. the tendencies of things will depend upon That the soul within us,
his mental insight and his method of Our life's star,
combining the picturesque and the imagHath had elsewhere its setting
inative. And cometh from afar,
We have learnt in our time that there was a truth which he proclaimed nearly must be a natural connection between the two centuries before the famous ode was
power of rhythmical expression and the written. He seems to have studied al completeness of insight into the things of chemy not so much for its professional life. The more distinct the transformause as to gratify a desire to see into the tion of experience the more distinct should hidden things of nature, to find a key to Therefore, though Vaughan had the same
be the value of the poetical qualities. unlock the intentions of the first cause at
characteristics with the rest of the poetthe back of all things.
izers of his particular time, he was able Something of the greater poet's mind was also in him when he took up his pen to produce effects which bis contempo
to deal with subjects of his own order and to write of the priesthood of children, the raries could not. We are not surprised reverence, the sanctity, the far-sighted
to find that he shows a knowledge of the simplicity of the age of childhood. No poet's child had ever sweeter garland than
delicate subtlety of a musical rhythm – this on its early grave.
to quote his own words: Blest Infant-Bud whose blossom-life
As angels in some brighter dreams Did only look about and fall,
Call to the soul when man doth sleep; Wearied out in a harmless strife
So some strange thoughts transcend our
wonted themes Of tears, and milk, the food of all I
And into glory peep.
The academical reputation of the cour. For ere thou knewst how to be foul,
tier Herbert, and his biography in the Death weaned thee from the world and sin. leaves of the immortal Walton, bave kept
him a large niche in the temple of fame. Softly rest all thy virgin-crums!
Perhaps also Crashaw, whose verse flows Lapt in the sweets of thy young breath,
with an evenness unknown at that time, Expecting till thy Saviour comes
and Sandys, who struck out an indepenTo dress them, and unswaddle death.
dent line of his own, may go down to pos. There is one quality which the student terity with larger wreaths around their of his verse will soon perceive is not only brows than ever Vaughan will wear. But alien to the literary characteristics of his neitber Herbert oor Crashaw nor Sandys time, but is even an advance beyond the ever deserted the sterility of their wonted homely powers of Wordsworth's rhythmi. themes; their thoughts never became cal expression. Vaughan is essentially a transcendental; they knew not what it lyrical poet; all the elements of his com- was 'to "peep into glory.” For indeed, position therefore are founded on not in all the volumes of their quips and definite basis. He followed the passing cranks will be found such a poetical com
bination of the musical and the pictur- | mode of interpretation, their isolation esque as in Vaughan's description of a from conventionality, their control of fountain in the garden of "Regenera- style, their imaginative vividness, their tion :
intense conception of the mystery of life. Only a little fountain lent
This is strange perlaps in an interval of Some use for ears,
two centuries, but a careful reading of And on the dumb shades language spent
Vaughan's poem entitled “The World ” The music of her tears.
will show us something in the way of po
etic material, something of self-reflection There is more than a touch of broader and esoteric contemplation, which were a thought and modern modes of speculation new phenomena in a day when the flowers in the mysticism that comes to the surface of exoteric culture were the only blooms again and again in the “Silex Scintillans.” thought worth a show. Herbert's critiThis resolves itself from a condition of cism of the world is the criticism of permind almost relative to the half-doubting sonal application and knowledge, and his scepticism of so much of our modern phi. advice and counsel is for those who have losophy; the great contrast of course be to tread the beaten tracks of Vanity Fair. ing the fact that Vaughan was no doubter, A few lines from Vaughan's view of life but so intense a believer in the things here and hereafter will serve to show that eternal that the things temporal were he trod on higher paths. actually spectra, things real to him, though supernatural — the very things which ap. I saw Eternity the otber night, pear upreal to the microscope of modern Like a great ring of pure and endless light, scrutiny. What we have as psychology
All calm, as it was bright; was hardly heard of then. It never in. And round beneath it, i'ime in hours, days, vaded the realm of poetry except in the
Driven by the spheres half-shadows of some mediæval legend, or Like a vast shadow mov'd. in fuller light in the later developments of German romance. We dare hardly call The guiding spirit of Herbert is maniVaughan "a subtle-souled psychologist,” fest in the “Silex Scintillans," especially but we dare say that he was one of our in the first part. And yet there are many first psychical poets. He gives us the differences between the work of the maslife of the soul in a world of dreams, ter and that of the disciple, differences dreams of beauty, dreams of purity, which practically set the disciple above dreams of holiness.
the master. Herbert had been a man of His sympathy with the feelings of later the world, and the world, offering many times, the childlike beauty of his inspira- bright baubles to him with one hand, had tions and the intensity of his impassioned snatched them away ruthlessly with the imagination take us to the songs of Blake other. He was not by this made a cynic, to find their parallel. Between the sun. though he learnt the hard lesson that the set of Blake and the sunrise of Rossetti things of the world pass away. He rethere is another interval, ere “the ways tired into the sanctity of a country parof sleep and dreams” agaio bave poetic sonage and lived the life of an ascetic. interpretation. In style, in form, in wealth Vaughan, on the other hand, had not had of language he is inferior to the author the terrible bitterness of seeing the golden of “ The Blessed Damozel,” but it is cu- day.dreams of his manhood fade away rious to compare the way in which the into the rough substance of stero reality. shadowy world has been realized and From bis youth he seems to have known peopled by both, so similarly, yet from what to expect in a world of curious fate. such different points of view. The Silu- He paid indeed heavily for the licentious rist in the silence of the Welsh hills looks folly of his youth, and we gather that he through all the outward appearance to the had to battle till the day of his death with bidden glory of one who made the earth the temptation of the flesh which had and sky; this is the mysticism of faith. wrecked his constitution so early in life. Rossetti is not troubled with morality. Then, further, Herbert was professionThe Christ and the Mary give pretty le-ally religious; Vaughan was not. This gends, archaic forms whereof to treat is a fact that sufficiently accounts for the amid the city's smoke and din; all the songs of the latter flowing at times with world is a dreamland with little tangible so much more ease. It is in this natural reality at the back of it. The one is spir- piety where we find Vaughan at his best; itual, the other is material and sensuous. and at his best he has an intensity, a And yet they are alike in their mystic clearness and truth which far excel the
stilted sentiments of his master. Herbert Here they will find thoughts that have is at times weak and halting. Like Icarus baffled true expression, put into tender, he tries to fly too high, and his strained speaking words. The sorrow of man is attempt at some fine conceit lands him in the keynote of the harmony ; not the mere the waters of failure. His finest thoughts monotonous wail of Werterism, but the are often dull and crabbed by their very healthy, hopeful, strengthening appeal for ingenuity. The peculiar ingredient of patience and endurance which brings the spicy wit, without which no rhymster truest comfort, “making the whole most could serve up a dish dainty enough for musical.” The very curiousness with the popular appetite, was his great tour which he envelops the healing lessons of de force.
He very soon secured a large his didactic poetry is sufficient charm to audience by the brilliant cleverness with attract attention. which he grasped and made his own the popular versification of his time. He So quaintly fashioned as to add a grace
To the sweet fancies which they bear, speaks, moreover, when a poet should when the torrents and thunders of the Even as a bronze delved from some ancient
place valley have been left behind, when the
For very rust shows fair. beart and the reins have been tried, when the idle ore has been battered into shape and use; and alone in his perfect selfconsciousness, with his soul as peaceful
From The Nineteenth Century. as the abysmal depth of the sea, he
GIVE BACK THE ELGIN MARBLES. stands the image and mouthpiece of his God on the summit of the mount.
It is surely high time for us to think The work of Herbert is the work of a how and when the Elgin marbles are to few years, the flowers that blossomed in be restored to the Acropolis. There they the prime of life. Vaughan's writings are will have ultimately to rest; and the few and far between ; they are the record sooner, and the more gracefully it is done, of his doubts, his sorrows and struggles the better. The ninety years which have from his youth upwards, – Singing passed since they left Athens have en. prayer and prayer to the highest heavens." tirely changed the conditions and the He never strove to gain the ear of popu- facts. The reasons which were held to larity; nor indeed was his poetry ever justify Lord Elgin in removing them, and likely to be popular in any sense of the the British goveromentin receiving them, word. If the struggles of a poet's heart have one and all vanished. All those reaare stinging with sentiment and gaudy sons now tell in favor of their being rewith the tinsels of sensation, the world stored to their national and natural home. will delight to turn its ear to listen. The The protection of these unique monuagonies of a weak soul knocking at the ments, the interests of students of art, door of some higher hope is too simple a pride in a national possession, and the theme in its very depth for the over-fed vis inertiæ of leaving things alone all wisdom of the wise to listen to. It is a call aloud to us to replace on that immor. bird, they will say, that is ever singing on tal steep the sacred fragments where one note, and wearisome to hear.
ericles and Pheidias placed them more Mr. Matthew Arnold has told us that than two thousand years ago. in reading poetry we are apt to give way It is usual to say, that in the British to the frequent temptation “ to adopt the Museum these priceless works are safe, historic estimate, or the personal estimate, whilst they would be exposed to danger and to forget the real estimate; which lat. in Athens; that in London the art stu. ter, nevertheless, we must employ if we dents of the world can study them, whilst are to make poetry yield us its full bene. at Athens they would be buried out of fit." It may be natural for most of us to sight; that the Elgin marbles are now forget the real estimate; we prefer the become a “ British interest "as completely personal one, and indeed that seems the as, Domesday Book; that as they have one likely to attract those who take up the belonged to the nation for seventy-four “Silex Scintillans" and endeavor to dis- years, it is too late to talk about disturbcover the value of Henry Vaughan's criting them now. icism of life.
Every one of these assertions is a He will strike the silent chords in the sophism, and the precise contrary, is in depths of the heart, and arrest the inquiry every case true. They would be much more and humble attention of any who have safe from the hand of man on the Acropo had anything of a similar experience. I lis than they possibly could be in London ;