There’s something about the seventeenth-century poet Henry Vaughan (1621-95) which smacks more of the later Romantic movement than of the metaphysical ‘school’ to which he belonged. This poem, describing the natural beauty of the waterfall, is a fine demonstration of how Vaughan anticipated Romanticism by over a century.
With what deep murmurs through time’s silent stealth
Doth thy transparent, cool, and wat’ry wealth
Here flowing fall,
And chide, and call,
As if his liquid, loose retinue stay’d
Ling’ring, and were of this steep place afraid;
The common pass
Where, clear as glass,
All must descend
Not to an end,
But quicken’d by this deep and rocky grave,
Rise to a longer course more bright and brave.
Dear stream! dear bank, where often I
Have sate and pleas’d my pensive eye,
Why, since each drop of thy quick store
Runs thither whence it flow’d before,
Should poor souls fear a shade or night,
Who came, sure, from a sea of light?
Or since those drops are all sent back
So sure to thee, that none doth lack,
Why should frail flesh doubt any more
That what God takes, he’ll not restore?
O useful element and clear!
My sacred wash and cleanser here,
My first consigner unto those
Fountains of life where the Lamb goes!
What sublime truths and wholesome themes
Lodge in thy mystical deep streams!
Such as dull man can never find
Unless that Spirit lead his mind
Which first upon thy face did move,
And hatch’d all with his quick’ning love.
As this loud brook’s incessant fall
In streaming rings restagnates all,
Which reach by course the bank, and then
Are no more seen, just so pass men.
O my invisible estate,
My glorious liberty, still late!
Thou art the channel my soul seeks,
Not this with cataracts and creeks.
If you enjoyed ‘The Waterfall’, we can also recommend Vaughan’s fine poem ‘The Retreat’.