Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > The Sacred Poets > His links with Wordsworth
  His debt to Herbert, spiritual and literary The re-discovery of Traherne’s poetry and prose-writings  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

II. The Sacred Poets.

§ 13. His links with Wordsworth.

Another link with Wordsworth is Vaughan’s intimate and religious feeling for nature. He has an open-air love for all natural sights and sounds, and a subtle sympathy even with the fallen timber or the stones at his feet. He is happier away from the world of men, and can rejoice equally in
Dear Night! this world’s defeat, the stop to busy fools,
and in the stir that heralds the dawn. It is in his observation of nature that he achieves his most felicitous epithets—“the unthrift sun,” “the pursy clouds” and “purling corn.” The setting of these natural descriptions is usually religious, as in The Rainbow or The Dawning; but the lover of nature is as apparent as the mystical thinker.
  Into the space of half a dozen years, Vaughan crowded all his best work. His prose translations and original books of devotion belong to the same period. The Mount of Olives reveals the occasions of many of his poems, and shows that he has been wrongly described as a pantheist. The silence of the forty years that he had yet to live is broken only by Thalia Rediviva (1678). For this volume, as for Olor Iscanus, the author did not make himself responsible. Most of its contents clearly belong to earlier days. A few poems only appear to have been written after the restoration; for example, The True Christmas, which shows Vaughan to be as little in sympathy with the laxity of the monarchy as with the tyranny of the commonwealth. There is an echo of his former successes in The Retirement and other numbers of the section, which is called Pious Thoughts and Ejaculations. The volume is also interesting because it contains the verse-remains of his brother, “Eugenius Philalethes,” who died in 1666. Of Henry Vaughan, there is no further record, except some casual allusions in the correspondence of his cousin, John Aubrey, till the record of his tombstone in Llansantffread churchyard, commemorating his death on 23 April, 1695, at the age of 73. 11  His retired life was in keeping with his small fame as a writer. He knew that his writing was “cross to fashion,” and only one of his books reached a second edition; with that exception, nothing was reprinted for nearly two hundred years. He holds his place now, not for the mass of his work, but for a few unforgettable lines, and for a rare vein of thought, which remained almost unworked again till Wordsworth’s nature poems and Tennyson’s In Memoriam.   27

Note 11. According to the tombstone: but he completed 74 years six days before his death. [ back ]

  His debt to Herbert, spiritual and literary The re-discovery of Traherne’s poetry and prose-writings  

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