Saturday, 9 May 2009

Henry Vaughan

Wales is known as the Land of Song. It is also a land of poetry and the land of Henry Vaughan (1621-1695). Vaughan was born in 1621 to Thomas Vaughan and Denise Morgan in Newton-upon-Usk in Breconshire, Wales. In 1638, it is assumed, he entered Oxford University with his twin brother Thomas who gained fame as a hermetic philosopher and alchemist. In 1640 Vaughan left Oxford to study law in London for two years. His studies were interrupted by the Civil War in which Vaughan briefly took the King’s side. He is thought to have served on the Royalist side in South Wales sometime around 1645. Vaughan returned to Breconshire in 1642 as secretary to Judge Lloyd, and later began to practice medicine. By 1646 he had probably married Catherine Wise with whom he was to have a son and three daughters. He is considered one of the major Metaphysical Poets whose works ponder one’s personal relationship to God. After the death of his first wife, Vaughan married her sister Elizabeth possibly in 1655. Vaughan had another son, and three more daughters by his second wife. He died on April 23, 1695, and was buried in Llansantffraed churchyard. One of my favourite poems is Peace and I find it hard to read aloud without tears coming to my eyes. Here it is.

My soul, there is a country,
Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a wing├Ęd sentry,
All skillful in the wars.
There, above noise and danger,
Sweet Peace sits crowned with smiles,
And One born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files.
He is thy gracious Friend
And (O my soul, awake!)
Did in pure love descend,
To die here for thy sake.
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flower of peace,
The rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress, and thy ease.
Leave, then, thy foolish ranges;
For none can thee secure
But One, who never changes,
Thy God, thy Life, thy Cure.

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