The Star

Original Text: 
Henry Vaughan, Silex Scintillans (1650). Scolar Press, 1970. PR 3669 R2 1680AC ROBA.
2Attracts thee thus and makes thee stream and flow,
3     And wind and curl, and wink and smile,
4          Shifting thy gate and guile;
6My present search, for eagles eye not stars,
7     And still the lesser by the best
8          And highest good is blest;
9Yet, seeing all things that subsist and be,
10Have their commissions from divinity,
11     And teach us duty, I will see
12          What man may learn from thee.
13First, I am sure, the subject so respected
14Is well dispos'd, for bodies once infected,
15     Deprav'd, or dead, can have with thee
16          No hold, nor sympathy.
17Next, there's in it a restless, pure desire
18And longing for thy bright and vital fire,
19     Desire that never will be quench'd,
20          Nor can be writh'd, nor wrench'd.
21These are the magnets which so strongly move
22And work all night upon thy light and love,
23     As beauteous shapes, we know not why,
24          Command and guide the eye.
25For where desire, celestial, pure desire
26Hath taken root, and grows, and doth not tire,
27     There God a commerce states, and sheds
28          His secret on their heads.
29This is the heart he craves, and who so will
30But give it him, and grudge not, he shall feel
31     That God is true, as herbs unseen
32          Put on their youth and green.


1] In Hermetic thought (occult and mystical doctrines of God, nature, and alchemy ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus--Hermes the thrice great, a title given to the Egyptian god Thoth--but very prevalent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries), there are powerful "magnetic" or "sympathetic" attractions between things terrestrial and things heavenly. Dame Helen Gardner quotes from Magia Adamica by Vaughan's brother Thomas: "Heaven itself was originally extracted from Inferiors, yet not so entirely but some portion of the Heavenly Natures remained still below and are the very same in Essence and Substance with the separated starrs and skies." Back to Line
5] commerce: a favourite Hermetic word meaning a secret affinity and communication. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
3RP 1.369-70.