Home  »  English Poetry I  »  226. The Retreat

English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Henry Vaughan

226. The Retreat

HAPPY those early days, when I

Shined in my Angel-infancy!

Before I understood this place

Appointed for my second race,

Or taught my soul to fancy aught

But a white, celestial thought;

When yet I had not walk’d above

A mile or two from my first Love,

And looking back, at that short space

Could see a glimpse of his bright face;

When on some gilded cloud or flower

My gazing soul would dwell an hour,

And in those weaker glories spy

Some shadows of eternity;

Before I taught my tongue to wound

My conscience with a sinful sound,

Or had the black art to dispense

A several sin to every sense,

But felt through all this fleshly dress

Bright shoots of everlastingness.

O how I long to travel back,

And tread again that ancient track!

That I might once more reach that plain

Where first I left my glorious train;

From whence th’ enlighten’d spirit sees

That shady City of Palm trees!

But ah! my soul with too much stay

Is drunk, and staggers in the way:—

Some men a forward motion love,

But I by backward steps would move;

And when this dust falls to the urn,

In that state I came, return.