The Welsh metaphysical poet Henry Vaughan (1621-95) is best known for his 1650 collection, Silex Scintillans (‘Sparks from the Flint’), which established him as one of the great devotional poets in English literature. ‘They Are All Gone into the World of Light’ is about death, God, and the afterlife, and the poet’s desire to pass over into the next life – the ‘World of Light’ – to join those whom he has lost.
They Are All Gone into the World of Light
They are all gone into the world of light!
And I alone sit ling’ring here;
Their very memory is fair and bright,
And my sad thoughts doth clear.
It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast,
Like stars upon some gloomy grove, Read the rest of this entry
Glow-worms, shooting stars, and elves: all can be found in ‘The Night Piece: To Julia’, a charming poem by the seventeenth-century poet Robert Herrick (and that’s just the first three lines). The last line invites a sexual reading, a sign of the thinly-veiled eroticism that pervades Herrick’s Julia poems. (Though here we might add foot-fetishism as well.)
The Night Piece: To Julia
Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee,
The shooting stars attend thee;
And the elves also,
Whose little eyes glow
Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee.
No Will-o’-th’-Wisp mis-light thee,
Nor snake or slow-worm bite thee; Read the rest of this entry
‘Fra Lippo Lippi’ sees the titular friar being accosted by some guards one night, and ending up drunkenly telling them – and us – about his whole life. In a poem like ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’ one can clearly see why Ezra Pound was influenced by Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue, with their plainness of speech and the bluff, no-nonsense manner of Browning’s characters.
Fra Lippo Lippi