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

By Henry Vaughan (1622–1695)

The Retreat

HAPPY 1 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 ought        5
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;        10
When on some gilded Cloud or Flow’r
My gazing soul would dwell an hour,
And in those weaker glories
Some shadows of eternity;
Before I taught my tongue to wound        15
My conscience with a sinful sound,
Or had the black art to dispense
A sev’ral sin to ev’ry sense,
But felt through all this fleshly dress
Bright shoots of everlastingness.        20
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’enlightened spirit sees        25
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;        30
And, when this dust falls to the urn,
In that state I came, return.
Note 1. “The Retreat” is interesting, besides its own merits, as the germ of Wordsworth’s great ode on the “Intimations of Immortality.” We know that a copy of the rare “Silex Scintillans” was in Wordsworth’s library. [back]