« PreviousContinue »
another mind is touched into sympathy with our reverence and love and valuation of these Worthies, our words shall not have been spoken to empty air. Hitherto our experience has been that those most capable themselves to pronounce a verdict have been kindliest and warmest in their thanks for our work and words on the works reproduced.
The Life of Henry Vaughan presents four noticeable things that I want to discuss successively and as leading to like in-look upon his Writings : (a) BIRTH-PLACE AND EARLY TRAINING : (6) FRIENDSHIPS AND ASSOCIATES : (c) ROYALISM : (d) INSER-LIFE. Similarly his Writings have these two characteristics that it may reward us to dwell on (a) SUBJECTIVENESS : (b) SEEINGNESS : Then there is (o) HIS RELATION TO GEORGE HERBERT.
This Essay is intended to state and illustrate these points, and perhaps the Reader will go on and through with it. Looking at the Life I seek to fix attention on the four points enumerated, as being those elements that went to the fullest and deepest utterances of his Poetry, and a knowledge of which is essential to its mastery.
(a) BIRTH-PLACE AND EARLY TRAINING. Our Memoir has brought out this peculiarity, that HENRY Vaughan's life began and closed within the same little circle : the cradle rocked at Lower Newton, the grave dug in Llansaintfread churchyard. With the exception of his few collegeyears and transitory visits rather than residences in London, the life of “The Silurist” (as he delighted to call himself) rounded itself within a sphere narrow as Nazareth compared with Jerusalem, or as any lowliest village with our huge Metropolis. One inevitably thinks of WORDSWORTH born and reared in monotonous, common-place COCKEN MOUTU, and only later nested in sacred Rydal Mount, and of SHELLEY opening his lustrous eyes in “ Field Place", Sussex, but driven as a sea-mew over Life's sea, unto the tragic close. I name Wordsworth and Shelley because affinities with Vaughan of a memorable sort will emerge in the sequel.
It was (and is) a covetable birth-place and as covetable death-place and last resting-place. Perchance then (as now) the sparse population of the mountain-enclosed region, found earning dailybread a hard and eager thing: found perchance that the great mountains with their storm-clouds and storm-winds, and the Usk, given to sudden swellings that left the humble huts plashed and unhealthful, and the mists and rains and the manifold lights and shadows of the hill-country, did not
keep out the troubles poor human flesh is heir to entail here working with inexorable hereditariness among simple as the other among gentle. Two hundred and fifty years ago the God-made portion of Siluria – name revired for geologic ends by Murchison—was all there, and is all there to-day very much as then But two hundred and fifty years ago, -or one may take off a century and three quarters or more, — the Many looked without seeing, saw and yet didn't see what of wonderful, grand, beautiful, were in such in violate scenes. I go back two hundred and fifty years because it was
—as we have elsewhere recorded - in 1621 that the twin-brothers were born : and I make the general assertion as to the unseeingness of the Many that it may be the more recognized gratefully that HENRY VAUGHAN was one who did see and has made the world his debtor thereby. More of this anon. But broadly and in the after-light of what he became, it was something for the Silurist that his birth-place was where it was, and that his life was spent as and where it was, under the shadow as of the presence of God, of the “ererlasting hills”, amid all darknesses, and brightnesses, and monotones of waters and winds - now incisive and now soft-and woodland-sounds and bird-voices, and flower-beauty and flowerscents, and dews and stillnesses, and unstained sunlight and moonlight, - with fringes of terror and mystery,—and the fairy-visions of cloud-land, and almost every acre consecrate by some legend or name accepted as great. I feel sure that HENRY VAUGHAN owed well-nigh infinitely to his lifescene. I can't conceive that had he been immured among the bricks of London, or trained among the meannesses and basenesses and uncleanlinesses and worry of the town', we should have got from him “ The Showre ”, “ The Retreate", “ Midnight”, “Saints as Stars”, “ The Morning Watch”, “Peace”, “ The Dawning ”, “ Beyond the Veil”—to name only a very few, and certainly few or none of his marvellous epithets, vivid as colours. Granted one does hear o'times in the smoky, grimy street and from the bare, hard perch or sanded floor, the pathetic warbles and the silvery-rain trills of caged birds: but I for one seem to miss the passion, the rapture, the fulness, the rush, the variety of tones, the consciousness, of say the nightingale on its swinging branch or the sky-lark rising from its field-nest to the blinding summer sky. Similarly under whatever conditions, our HENRY VAUGHANS and WORDSWORTus and SHELLEYS must have sung as few or none have sung, but we may be grateful