by Henry Vaughan

SWEET, harmless live[r]s !—on whose holy leisure
       Waits Innocence and Pleasure—
Whose leaders to those pastures and clear springs
       Were patriarchs, saints, and kings :
How happen'd it that in the dead of night
       You only saw true light,
While Palestine was fast asleep, and lay
       Without one thought of day ?
Was it because those first and blessed swains
       Were pilgrims on those plains,
When they receiv'd the promise, for which now
       'Twas there first shown to you ?
'Tis true, He loves that dust whereon they go
       That serve Him here below,
And therefore might for memory of those
       His love there first disclose ;
But wretched Salem, once His love, must now
       No voice nor vision know,
Her stately piles with all their height and pride
       Now languishèd and died,
And Bethlem's humble cots above them stept,
       While all her seers slept ;
Her cedar, fir, hew'd stones and gold were all
       Polluted through their fall,
And those once sacred mansions were now
       Mere emptiness and show.
This made the angel call at reeds and thatch,
       Yet where the shepherds watch,
And God's own lodging—though he could not lack—
       To be a common rack ;
No costly pride, no soft-cloth'd luxury,
       In those thin cells could lie ;
Each stirring wind and storm blew through their cots,
       Which never harbour'd plots ;
Only Content and Love and humble joys
       Liv'd there, without all noise ;
Perhaps some harmless cares for the next day
       Did in their bosoms play,
As where to lead their sheep, what silent nook,
       What springs or shades to look :
But that was all ;  and now with gladsome care
       They for the town prepare ;
They leave their flock, and in a busy talk
       All towards Bethlem walk
To see their souls' Great Shepherd, Who was come
       To bring all stragglers home ;
Where now they find Him out, and, taught before,
       That Lamb of God adore,
That Lamb Whose days great kings and prophets wish'd
       And long'd to see, but miss'd.
The first light they beheld was bright and gay,
       And turn'd their night to day ;
But to this later light they saw in Him,
       Their day was dark and dim.

Vaughan, Henry. The Poems of Henry Vaughan, Silurist. vol I.
E. K. Chambers, Ed. London, Lawrence & Bullen Ltd., 1896. 158-160.

Backto Works of Henry Vaughan

Site copyright ©1996-2000 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Created by Anniina Jokinen on October 10, 2000.

Background by the kind permission of Gini Schmitz.