Henry 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.
In 1646 Poems with the Tenth Satire of Juvenal Englished was published. This was followed in 1650 by the first part of Silex Scintillans, a collection of religious poems. Silex Scintillans, meaning 'The Fiery Flint' or 'The Flashing Flint', refers to the stony hardness of his heart, from which divine steel strikes fire.1 The following year, 1651, Olor Iscanus, or The Swan of Usk, a collection of secular poetry with four prose translations, was published. Named for the river Usk which flows near his hometown, Olor Iscanus contains "rhapsodic passages about natural beauty."2
Silex Scintillans was reprinted in 1655 with a second, additional part. In its preface Vaughan attributed the transformation to a spiritual awakening brought about by the poems of 'the blessed man, Mr. George Herbert'. Vaughan's inspired religious poetry, on which his reputation chiefly rests, is indeed reminiscent of Herbert's The Temple. 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. Vaughan published a few more works, including Thalia rediviva (1678), none of which equalled the fire of Silex. He died on April 23, 1695, and was buried in Llansantffraed churchyard.
- The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Sixth Edition, Vol 1.
New York, W. W. Norton & Co., 1993.
- Microsoft® Encarta® 96 Encyclopedia ©, 1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation.
- Vaughan, Henry. Henry Vaughan, The Complete Poems.
Alan Rudrum, ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981. 21-22.
- The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. Ian Ousby, Ed.
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998. 976.
- Classic Library, © copyright 1993 Andromeda Interactive, Ltd.
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