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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

Nox Nocti Indicat Scientiam

William Habington (1605–1654)

WHEN 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

And heavenward flies,

Th’ Almighty’s mysteries to read

In the large volume of the skies.

For the bright firmament

Shoots forth no flame

So silent, but is eloquent

In speaking the Creator’s name.

No unregarded star

Contracts its light

Into so small a character,

Removed far from our human sight,

But if we steadfast look

We shall discern

In it, as in some holy book,

Haw man may heavenly knowledge learn.

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,

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

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,

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:—

For they have watch’d since first

The World had birth:

And found sin in itself accurst,

And nothing permanent on Earth.