The Retreat

Original Text: 
Henry Vaughan, Silex Scintillans (1650). Scolar Press, 1970. PR 3669 R2 1680AC ROBA.
1Happy those early days, when I
2Shin'd in my angel-infancy!
3Before I understood this place
5Or taught my soul to fancy ought
6But a white, celestial thought;
7When yet I had not walk'd above
8A mile or two from my first love,
9And looking back (at that short space)
10Could see a glimpse of his bright face;
11When on some gilded cloud or flow'r
12My gazing soul would dwell an hour,
13And in those weaker glories spy
14Some shadows of eternity;
15Before I taught my tongue to wound
16My conscience with a sinful sound,
17Or had the black art to dispense,
18A sev'ral sin to ev'ry sense,
19But felt through all this fleshly dress
20Bright shoots of everlastingness.
21     O how I long to travel back,
22And tread again that ancient track!
23That I might once more reach that plain,
24Where first I left my glorious train,
25From whence th' enlighten'd spirit sees
27But ah! my soul with too much stay
28Is drunk, and staggers in the way.
29Some men a forward motion love,
30But I by backward steps would move;
31And when this dust falls to the urn,
32In that state I came, return.


4] race: course of life. Back to Line
26] The soul's heavenly home, with reference to Moses' vision of the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 34:1-3. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.366.