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Henry Charles Beeching, ed. (1859–1919). Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse. 1903.

By William Habington (1605–1654)

Nox Nocti Indicat Scientiam

    WHEN 1 I survey the bright
        Celestial sphere,
So rich with jewels hung, that Night
Doth like an Ethiop bride appear,
    My soul her wings doth spread        5
        And heavenward flies,
The Almighty’s mysteries to read
In the large volumes of the skies.
    For the bright firmament
        Shoots forth no flame        10
So silent, but is eloquent
In speaking the Creator’s name.
    No unregarded star
        Contracts its light
Into so small a character,        15
Removed far from our human sight,
    But if we steadfast look,
        We shall discern
In it, as in some holy book,
How man may heavenly knowledge learn.        20
    It tells the conqueror
        That far-stretch’d power,
Which his proud dangers traffic for,
Is but the triumph of an hour.
    That from the farthest north        25
        Some nation may,
Yet undiscover’d, issue forth,
And o’er his new-got conquest sway;
    Some nation yet shut in
        With hills of ice        30
May be let out to scourge his sin,
Till they shall equal him in vice.
    And then they likewise shall
        Their ruin have;
For as yourselves your empires fall,        35
And every kingdom hath a grave.
    Thus those celestial fires,
        Though seeming mute,
The fallacy of our desires
And all the pride of life confute.        40
    For they have watch’d since first
        The world had birth;
And found sin in itself accurst,
And nothing permanent on earth.
Note 1. William Habington wrote a series of poems upon his wife under the style of Castara. His religious poetry is almost entirely upon the grave. The example here given is much above the average of his writing. [back]