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Henry Vaughan: a 17th-century England “metaphysical poet”

Best known for his George Herbert-inspired religious poems

  • Christ’s Nativity
  • Awake, glad heart! get up and sing! 
  • It is the birth-day of thy King. 
  • Awake! awake! 
  • The Sun doth shake 
  • Light from his locks, and all the way 
  • Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day. 
  • Awake, awake! hark how th’ wood rings; 
  • Winds whisper, and the busy springs 
  • A concert make; 
  • Awake! awake! 
  • Man is their high-priest, and should rise 
  • To offer up the sacrifice. 
  • I would I were some bird, or star, 
  • Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far 
  • Above this inn 
  • And road of sin! 
  • Then either star or bird should be 
  • Shining or singing still to thee. 
  • I would I had in my best part 
  • Fit rooms for thee! or that my heart 
  • Were so clean as 
  • Thy manger was! 
  • But I am all filth, and obscene; 
  • Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.
  • Sweet Jesu! will then. Let no more 
  • This leper haunt and soil thy door! 
  • Cure him, ease him, 
  • O release him! 
  • And let once more, by mystic birth, 
  • The Lord of life be born in earth.
  • The Incarnation, and Passion
  • Lord, when Thou didst Thyself undress, 
  • Laying by Thy robes of glory, 
  • To make us more, Thou wouldst be less, 
  • And becam’st a woful story.
  • To put on clouds instead of light, 
  • And clothe the morning-star with dust, 
  • Was a translation of such height 
  • As, but in Thee, was ne’er express’d.
  • Brave worms and earth! that thus could have 
  • A God enclos’d within your cell, 
  • Your Maker pent up in a grave, 
  • Life lock’d in death, heav’n in a shell!
  • Ah, my dear Lord ! what couldst thou spy 
  • In this impure, rebellious clay, 
  • That made Thee thus resolve to die 
  • For those that kill Thee every day?
  • O what strange wonders could Thee move 
  • To slight Thy precious blood, and breath? 
  • Sure it was love, my Lord! for love 
  • Is only stronger far than death!
Henry Vaughan

Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) was a Welsh poet, and considered one of the “metaphysical poets” of 17th-century England. By trade he worked as a physician, and he is best known for his religious poems – which he began writing after reading the works of a contemporary and fellow-English poet, George Herbert. Vaughan’s style was marked by an ingenious use of monosyllables in his verse, alliteration and, like most of the metaphysical poets of the time, a compelling use of elaborate imagery. Merry Christmas.

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  • Christ’s Nativity
  • Awake, glad heart! get up and sing! 
  • It is the birth-day of thy King. 
  • Awake! awake! 
  • The Sun doth shake 
  • Light from his locks, and all the way 
  • Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day. 
  • Awake, awake! hark how th’ wood rings; 
  • Winds whisper, and the busy springs 
  • A concert make; 
  • Awake! awake! 
  • Man is their high-priest, and should rise 
  • To offer up the sacrifice. 
  • I would I were some bird, or star, 
  • Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far 
  • Above this inn 
  • And road of sin! 
  • Then either star or bird should be 
  • Shining or singing still to thee. 
  • I would I had in my best part 
  • Fit rooms for thee! or that my heart 
  • Were so clean as 
  • Thy manger was! 
  • But I am all filth, and obscene; 
  • Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.
  • Sweet Jesu! will then. Let no more 
  • This leper haunt and soil thy door! 
  • Cure him, ease him, 
  • O release him! 
  • And let once more, by mystic birth, 
  • The Lord of life be born in earth.
  • The Incarnation, and Passion
  • Lord, when Thou didst Thyself undress, 
  • Laying by Thy robes of glory, 
  • To make us more, Thou wouldst be less, 
  • And becam’st a woful story.
  • To put on clouds instead of light, 
  • And clothe the morning-star with dust, 
  • Was a translation of such height 
  • As, but in Thee, was ne’er express’d.
  • Brave worms and earth! that thus could have 
  • A God enclos’d within your cell, 
  • Your Maker pent up in a grave, 
  • Life lock’d in death, heav’n in a shell!
  • Ah, my dear Lord ! what couldst thou spy 
  • In this impure, rebellious clay, 
  • That made Thee thus resolve to die 
  • For those that kill Thee every day?
  • O what strange wonders could Thee move 
  • To slight Thy precious blood, and breath? 
  • Sure it was love, my Lord! for love 
  • Is only stronger far than death!
Henry Vaughan

Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) was a Welsh poet, and considered one of the “metaphysical poets” of 17th-century England. By trade he worked as a physician, and he is best known for his religious poems – which he began writing after reading the works of a contemporary and fellow-English poet, George Herbert. Vaughan’s style was marked by an ingenious use of monosyllables in his verse, alliteration and, like most of the metaphysical poets of the time, a compelling use of elaborate imagery. Merry Christmas.

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