Table of contents
|Graham Hartill||‘Healing Wings’||9|
|Gwyneth Lewis||Melangell Variations||20|
|Peter W. Thomas||The Poisoned Grove||27|
|Robert Minhinnick||Roadkill Blues||45|
|John Killick||The Riderless Horse’||62|
|Fiona Sampson||Poems from ‘de Salmone’: i, ii, iv, v||66|
|Hilary Llewellyn-Williams||‘As Above, So Below’||69|
|Ric Hool||Untying the Knot of Gravity||77|
|The Knot and the Lake||78|
|Ruth Bidgood||Cwm Pennant 1-4||79|
|R. S. Thomas||The Flesh Made Word||83|
|Anne Cluysenaar||Rereading Henry Vaughan’s ‘Distraction’||93|
|Chris Torrance||December Meditation||113|
|David Crane||The Poetry of Alchemy and the Alchemy of Poetry||115|
|Joseph P. Clancy||Screens||123|
|Jeremy Hilton||The Room That Turned||125|
|Pennant Roberts||Associations and Confrontations||129|
|Sean Street||Above Newton Farm||132|
|John Powell Ward||Eros||133|
|Angela Morton||Thomas Beside the Vaporous Usk||134|
|Jean Earle||At the Mirror of Catherine Vaughan||135|
|Mercer Simpson||Henry Vaughan Visits His Grandfather at Tretower||137|
|Tony Curtis||Illustration & Poem XVII from ‘The Arches’||139|
|Catherine Fisher||The Thicket||140|
|Epiphany in Umbria||142|
|Glyn Pursglove||Henry Vaughan and the Energies of Rhyme||143|
|Kim Taplin||Reprinted from the ‘Transactions of the World’s End & District Field Club’||158|
|The August Thorn||160|
|Chandra Wickramasinghe||The Birch of a Cosmic World View||161|
Henry Vaughan and the Energies
BY GLYN PURSGLOVE
Some of the ways of thought which most thoroughly typify the writing of
Henry Vaughan have in common a fascination with resemblances, whole or
partial, and with the networks of connection which resemblance sets up. One
might think, for example, of his interest in magnetism. Even in his secular
poems, it is in terms of magnetism, or by analogy with magnetism, that he
defines love, for example, as in ‘To Amoret, of the Difference ‘Twixt Him, and
Other Lovers, and what True Love is’, that strange rewriting of Donne’s ‘A
Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’. Here is the last stanza:
Thus to the north the loadstones move
And thus to them the enamoured steel aspires:
I do affect;
And thus by winged beams, and mutual fire,
Spirits and stars conspire,
And this is LOVE. (1)
1: All quotations from the poetry of Henry Vaughan are taken from The Complete Poems,
ed. Alan Rudrum, Penguin, 1983.
In ‘To His Learned Friend and Loyal Fellow-Prisoner, Thomas Powell of Can
tref, Doctor of Divinity’ he reflects on how
‘Tis a kind soul in magnets, that atones
Such two hard things as iron are and stones,
And in their dumb compliance we learn more
Of love, than ever books could speak before.
The magnetism of love is frequent in the religious poems, too. One succinct
expression of the topos appears in ‘The Query’:
0 tell me whence that joy doth spring
Whose diet is divine and fair,
Which wears heaven, like a bridal ring,
And tramples on doubts and despair?
Whose eastern traffic deals in bright
And boundless empyrean themes,
Mountains of spice, day-stars and light,
Green trees of life, and living streams?
Tell me, 0 tell who did thee bring
And here, without my knowledge, placed,
Till thou didst grow and get a wing,
A wing with eyes, and eyes that taste?
Sure, holiness the magnet is,
And love the lure, that woos thee down;
Which makes the high transcendent bliss
Of knowing thee, so rarely known.
Vaughan’s employment of magnetic theory as one of his governing meta
phors has often been written about, and needn’t be discussed at length here.(2)
Its prominence in Vaughan’s poetry will serve as a convenient and familiar
illustration of Vaughan’s characteristic sense, common to Hermetic philosoph y,
of the cosmos as a network of correspondences and resemblances. This is how
his brother Thomas puts it, translating older Hermetic texts:
Heaven above, heaven beneath,
Stars above, stars beneath,
All that is above is also be)leath:
Understand this, and be happy: (3)
2: For a discussion of relevant studies, see A. V Chapman, ‘Henry Vaughan and the
Magnetic Philosophy’, Southern Review (Adelaide), 4, 1971, 215-226.
3: Thomas is, in effect, translating from the so-called Tabula Smaragdina or Emerald
Tablet attributed to Hermes Trismegisms. Wayne Shumaker translates the relevant section
thus: “What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that which is
below, to accomplish the miracles of one thing” (The Occult Sciences in the Renaissance: A
Study of Intellectual Patterns, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1972, p.179).
Or, to take another equally fundamental structure of thought, there is the
prominence of typological thinking in Vaughan’s poetry. (4) At its simplest,
typology involves matching Old Testament types with New Testament anti
types; the Tree of the Garden interpreted as a type of the Cross, for examples,
or Moses as a type or figura of Christ. Typology is too rich and complex a
subject for it to be explored in detail here. For the present purposes it will
serve to quote John Weemes, writing a few years earlier than Vaughan and
talking of typology as a method of reading which allows us “to … see the
harmony and consent that is betwixt Old and New Testament” . (5)
Seeing the world as full of magnetic connections – literal and metaphorical;
seeing texts (above all the Bible) as full of ‘harmonies’ and ‘consents’: both
modes of thought suggest a particular sensitivity to patterns of echo and
resemblance, of relationships in which similarity and difference coexist, an
alertness to energies set up amongst objects and events by such networks of
likeness and unlikeness. In a poet such a sensibility, such a predisposition of
thought, we might reasonably expect to be registered not just in the content of
poems but in the structure of their language.
Given that Vaughan saw the world as full of energy – his is rarely a static
world – we might borrow, however inappropriate it might at first seem, some
ideas from Charles Olson’s Projective Verse, with its poetics based, ultimatel y,
on the model of physics and its definition of a poem as “energy transferred
from where the poet got it … by way of the poem itself to, all the way over to,
the reader”, seeing the poem as “a high energy construct and, at all points, an
energy-discharge”. (6) I’d like to combine that notion, that metaphor for the
writing (and reading) of the poem, with some further observations on
typology, or figura. I take them from a famous essay by Erich Auerbach, called
‘Figura’ and first published in 1944, where he writes that:
Figural interpretation establishes a connection between two events or
persons, the first of which signifies nor only itself but also the second,
while the second encompasses or fulfils the first. (7)
4: See, for example, Barbara K. Lewalski, Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century
Religious Lyric, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1979; Donald R Dickson, The
Fountain of Living Waters: The Typology of the Waters of Life in Herbert, Vaughan and
Traherne, Columbia, University of Missouri Press, 1987.
5: The Christian Synagogue, 4th edition, 1633, p. 60.
6: Quotations are taken from the text in Modern Poets on Modern Poetry, ed. James
Scully, London, Fontana/Collins, 1966, pp. 270-282.
7: Erich Auerbach, Scenes from the Drama of European Literature: Six Essays, New York,
Meridian Books, 1959, p. 53.
Both, I would suggest, have a relevance to the question of rhyme, which I want
to look at in Vaughan’s work. (8)
Rhyming is, after all, a matter of harmonies and consents – and a matter,
too, of energies both complementary and competitive. When two words
rhyme, we might say (to use, albeit inverted, an analogy from magnetism) char
– in the reader’s experience of the text – they are attracted by their similarity
of sound, while simultaneously being pushed apart, as it were, by their dif
ference in meaning. So two forces, two kinds of energy, are active concurrently
as we read. In every individual case the relative force of the two kinds of
energy will differ. Much will depend, for instance, on the presence or other
wise of what one might call a semantic or conceptual rhyme between the two
words which are phonological rhymes. A quotation from Byron might help
‘Kiss’ rhymes to ‘bliss’ in fact as well as verse. (9)
If we rhyme kiss and bliss then we reinforce the ‘attractive’ energy of their
similarity in sound by the additional presence of a kind of semantic rhyme.
But if we rhyme, say, kiss and miss then in all probability we increase the
repulsive energy (to talk again in magnetic terms) of semantic difference and
set it up in strong opposition to the attractional energy of the similarity of
sound. So, even considering only these two factors – sound and meaning – it is
clear, I hope, that the experience of rhymes within a poem can produce very
different kinds of effects on the reader. Of course other elements -such as the
parallelism or otherwise of syntactical structures – will alter (intensifying or
moderating) the kinds of force-fields set up by the rhymes. (10) The kiss/bliss
kind of rhyme might, perhaps a little fancifully, be related to the conceptual
rhymes of typology- its “harmonies” and “consents” (to quote Weemes again)
are intellectual as well as phonological, the first word – “kiss” – secs up an ex
pectation which is, to paraphrase Auerbach, ‘fulfilled’ by the second, “bliss”,
on levels both of sound and sense.
In considering Vaughan in the light of these suggestions, I shall employ two
somewhat simplified terms as a kind of shorthand, a crude way of talking
about the two kinds of rhyme effect, rhyme energy, discussed. The kiss/bliss
8: On some of the affinities between typology and rhyme see Eugene R. Cunnar,
‘Typological Rhyme in a Sequence by Adam of St. Victor’, Studies in Philology, 84, 1987,
9: Don Juan, VI. 59.
10: Such matters are well and helpfully discussed in William Harmon’s ‘Rhyme in English
Verse: History, Structures, Functions’, Studies in Philology, 84, 1987, 394-417.
rhyme – where a kind of semantic rhyme reinforces the phonetic rhyme, I’ll
call synonymic rhyme; the kiss/miss kind of rhyme, where a difference in
semantic force works against the phonetic rhyme, I’ll call antonymic rhyme. (11)
Something of the way this tends to work itself out in Vaughan’s poetry is
perhaps clear if we look at a single key word in his symbolic vocabulary –
light. Light, ultimately the Divine Light, is, of course, one of the key polarities
of Vaughan’s symbolic world. I make the assumption chat Vaughan would
have seen rhyme as more than merely decorative; that he would have seen
(heard?) it, rather, as one means of making his poems those kinds of “high
energy constructs” Olson talks of, and which Vaughan saw in the world around
him – his earth is always, it seems, in motion, in process. So let’s look at some
of the ways in which Vaughan uses light as a rhyme word. I say ‘some’ because
I’m not, of course, making the slightest pretence to exhaustiveness. It often
occurs in what I have called synonymic rhymes. Only a few examples are here
considered. The first is from ‘L’Envoy’, the poem which closes Part Two of
0 the new world’s new, quickening Sun!
Ever the same, and never done!
The seers of whose sacred light
Shall all be dressed in shining white …
The second from ‘Quickness’ (cf. the “quickening Sun” of the previous ex
Life is a fixed, discerning light,
A knowing joy;
No chance, or fit: but ever bright,
And calm and full, yet doth not cloy …
where the phonetic reassurance, as it were, of the rhyme, reinforced by the
semantic consonance, does much to give an irresistible force to the affirmation
being made. A third example I take from ‘The Query’ (again), where the topic
Whose eastern traffic deals in bright
And boundless empyrean themes,
Mountains of spice, day-stars and light,
Green trees of life, and living streams …
11: Harmon (art.cit) talks of ‘harmonic’ and ‘ironic’ rhyme. W. K. Wimsatt’s famous essay,
‘One Relation of Rhyme to Reason’, The Verbal Icon, Louisville, University of Kentucky
Press, 1954, pp. 153-166, should also be consulted on this matter.
A final example from ‘Jesus Weeping (II)’:
A grief so bright
‘Twill make the land of darkness light …
There in the rhyme on light and bright it is surely hard not to hear a third
unspoken rhyme word – night. ”A grief so bright/Twill make the land of
darkness light”. The sense is of darkness transformed (potentially) to light;
that sense is enacted by the elusion, as it were, of the rhyme on night which
“the land of darkness” seems to set up. It isn’t, of course, a rhyme which
Vaughan avoids elsewhere.
It might reasonably be argued that the fundamental polarities in Vaughan’s
symbolism (and in the Christian-NeoPlatonic-Hermetic traditions from which
so much of it comes) are light and darkness. (12) A poet interested in the energies
of rhyme would, naturally, be intrigued by the rhyme on light and night,
obviously a perfect example (on one level) of what I’ve caJl.ed antonymic
rhyme – where the attractive force which the similarity of sound exerts exists
in a kind of beautiful tension with the pushing-apart created by the presence
of starkly antonymic meanings. (13) (I am, of course, reversing the polarities of
physical magnetism, by talking of likeness of sound attracting, and unlikeness
of meaning repelling. To do so seems to me to be truer to the experience of
reading). Let us turn to some examples of the more complex rhyming energies
set up by the light/night pair.
My first example is not very dissimilar from my quotation from ‘Jesus
Weeping’, in that it too is concerned with the transformation of light into
dark; it is from the closing lines of ‘Rules and Lessons’:
0 lose it nor’ look up, wilt change those lights
For chains of darkness, and eternal nights?
Elsewhere the semantic opposition between light and night is not only held
in check by the similarity of rhyme, bur also integrated into other intriguing
verbal patterns. Take, for example, these lines from ‘Palm-Sunday’:
12: Within such a tradition of thought there is, of course, a deeper sense in which such an
apparent polarity is merely superficial.
13: One of the fragments of Heraclitus has a particular aptness here: “Things taken
together are wholes and not wholes, something which is being brought together and
brought apart, which is in rune and out of rune; out of all things there comes a unity, and
out of a unity all things” (G. S. Kirk, J. E. Raven, M. Schofield, The Presocratic Philo
sophers, 2nd edition, Cambridge, 1983, p. 190.
Dear feast of palms, of flowers and dew!
Whose fruitful dawn sheds hopes and lights;
Thy bright solemnities did show,
The third glad day through two sad nights.
The numbers in the last line here – leaving aside their other kinds of
significance – relate to the phrasing in the previous lines, to the trio of “palms
… flowers … and dew”, and the duo of “hopes and lights”. I mention this
only so as to make it clear that I’m not suggesting that it is ever rhyme alone
which articulates the structural and semantic energies of a passage. The lines
also draw, of course, on another kind of energy – that of the earth’s natural
fruitfulness, through words such as “feast”, “palms”, “flowers” and “dew”.
Another passage from ‘Abel’s Blood’:
Almighty Judge …
……………. 0 accept
Of his vowed heart, whom thou hast kept
From bloody men! and grant, I may
That sworn memorial duly pay
To thy bright arm, which was my light
And leader through thick death and night!
Here the rhyme on light and night, in the last couplet, is supplemented by
the internal rhyme on bright and light, and the alliteration which links light
and leader. Bright, light and leader are thus given a kind of combined force
which enacts the final couplet’s claim of the power that the middle term in the
chain – light – has over death and night. Those who doubt Vaughan’s crafts
manship might like to consider this couplet further and the way, for example,
the movement changes with the heavy consonants of “through thick death”.
The same adjective, thick, and the same supportive alliteration on the letter
‘1 ‘, are prominent in another instance of the light-night rhyme, from ‘Silence,
and stealth of days’:
As he that in some cave’s thick damp
Locked from the light,
Fixeth a solitary lamp,
To brave the night …
Here Vaughan’s main point is contrast. “Thick damp” (cf. “thick death”)
stands against the light – “locked from the light! [and the] solitary lamp”. And
it is worth noticing that both the rhymes here, damp/lamp and light/night are
antonymic. The pattern is made more intriguingly complex by being, effec
tivel y, a kind of chiasmus – while damp precedes lamp, night succeeds light.
Translating the ‘meanings’ of the rhyme words gives us the patterns: darkness
-light -light -darkness. Compare this with the pattern in the next example,
from the same poem, ‘Silence, and stealth of days’:
Yet I have one pearl by whose light
All things I see,
And in the heart of earth, and night
Find Heaven, and thee.
Here see and thee are effectively a synonymic rhyme, while light and night
are antonymic. See is, for obvious reasons, cognate with light and so is thee
(God as the divine light). Thus the four lines’ rhymes give us, this time, the
pattern: light – light – darkness -light. In the first passage two ‘light’ rhymes
balance two ‘dark’ rhymes; in the second three ‘light’ rhymes dominate a
single ‘night’ rhyme. The difference is not an accident. In the first passage,
near the beginning of the poem Vaughan’s subject is wholly earthly, the mun
dane struggle against literal darkness. His image is of a lamp fighting against
encompassing darkness. Let me put the lines back into context:
Silence, and stealth of days! ’tis now
Since thou art gone,
Twelve hundred hours, and not a brow
But clouds hang on.
As he that in some cave’s thick damp
Locked from the light,
Fixeth a solitary lamp,
To brave the night
And walking from his sun, when past
That glimmering ray
Cuts through the heavy mists in haste
Back to his day.
The best we can do is to hold off darkness, to create an area of light within
the surrounding darkness. The rhymes, as we have seen, enact this precarious
balance-dark [damp] – light-light [lamp] – dark [night]. The other quatrain
comes, on the other hand, from the end of the poem, there Vaughan’s subject
is not the battle against literal darkness, fought with a man-made lamp. Now
the subject is the light of heaven and the protagonists’s means to its discovery
is not a lamp, but a pearl (the Bible, presumably):
Yet I have one pearl by whose light
All things I see,
And in the heart of earth, and night
Find Heaven, and thee.
The quatrain is the poem’s affirmative conclusion; heavenly light defeats
darkness, and that triumph is, again, acted out by the rhymes – three ‘light’
rhymes now contain and overcome the single rhyme night.
A few more examples of the light/night rhyme deserve discussion. In ‘The
Bird’, for instance, the rhyme – implicit and explicity – comes close to struc
turing the poem. Here’s the opening:
Hither thou com’st: the busy wind all night
Blew through thy lodging, where thy own warm wing
Thy pillow was. Many a sullen storm
(For which course man seems much the fitter born,)
Rained on thy bed
And harmless head.
And now as fresh and cheerful as the light
Thy little heart in early hymns doth sing
Unto that Providence, whose unseen arm
Curbed them, and clothed thee well and warm.
All things that be, praise him; and had
Their lesson taught them, when first made.
The rhyming, obviously, is carried across the two stanzas – abccdd abccdd.
The a rhyme and the b rhymes, that is, are the ones that link the two stanzas –
night and light, wing and sing. One pair of antonymic rhymes – night/light,
one pair of synonymic rhymes – wing/sing. I call these last synonymic because
both of them belong to the bird – symbol, here and elsewhere, of spiritual
responsiveness. I suspect Vaughan would have agreed with Richard of St.
Victor in saying: “Watch birds to understand how spiritual things move,
animals to understand physical motion”. (14) So much so that another im
mensely fertile rhyme pair in Vaughan’s poems is that of “light” and “flight”.
But to return to ‘The Bird’ for a moment. The antithesis of light and night,
14: Translated by Ezra Pound, ‘Quotations from Richard of St. Victor’, Ezra Pound,
Selected Prose 1909-1965, ed. W. Cookson, London, Faber and Faber, 1973 p. 73 (In avibus
intellige studia spiritualia, in animalibus exercita corporalia).
which is central to the poem’s meaning and which is drawn to our attention by
their structural significance as rhymes in these first two stanzas, is further
reinforced later in the poem, in two quatrains beginning at line 19:
For each inclosed spirit is a star
Enlightening his own little sphere,
Whose light, though fetched and borrowed from far,
Both mornings makes, and evenings there.
But as these birds of light make a land glad,
Chirping their solemn Matins on each tree:
So in the shades of night some dark fowls be,
Whose heavy notes make all that hear them, sad.
In the first quatrain enlightening and light set up one obvious internal
rhyme; in the second the familiar light and night reappear. Lines 1 and 4 of
the quatrain offer as end rhymes an antonymic rhyme on glad and sad; the
internal rhyme on light and night in lines 1 and 3, constitutes a kind of counter
point to it. Each occurs on the sixth syllable of its respective line; each is the
noun in a possessive phrase (“birds of light”, “shades of night”); there is noth
ing merely fortuitous about this carefully constructed scheme. Actually, that
kind of carefully structured internal rhyme is relatively common in Vaughan.
Another striking example occurs in one of the pilcrowed poems, beginning
“fair and young light'”:
Fair and young light! my guide to holy
Grief and soul-curing melancholy;
Whom living here I did still shun
As sullen night-ravens do the sun …
Again it is not, I suggest mere chance that light and night fall on the fourth
syllables of lines 1 and 4. Metrical emphasis functions to draw the rhyme –
with all its implications – to our notice.
A final example of this particular rhyme, which combines synonymic and
antonymic rhymes to achieve a quiet climax of visionary certitude contributes
much to the famous opening lines of ‘The World (I)’:
I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright ….
More might be said of this particular rhyme pair, but let us turn, instead, to
some of the ways Vaughan employs what I have been calling the energies of
rhyme. In contexts of assurance, or intense happiness, he frequently piles
up synonymic rhymes as a means of emphasis. Consider, for example, these
stanzas from ‘The Feast’:
0 what high joys,
The turtle’s voice
And songs I hear! 0 quickening showers
Of my Lord’s blood
You make rocks bud
And crown dry hills with wells & flowers!
For this true ease
This healing peace,
For this taste of living glory,
My soul and all,
Kneel down and fall
And sing his sad victorious story.
The correspondences of showers and fl.owers, of blood and bud, of ease
and peace don’t, I think, need explication. Here, in several places, semantic
and phonetic rhymes are further reinforced by syntactical rhymes, if I may call
them that. In the first stanza, for example, the initial Ands of the long third
and sixth lines; in the second the ands of lines four and five, and the parallel
adjective-noun phrases which close lines three and six (“living glory”/”victor
ious story”). Of course synonymic rhymes can also function as means to
emphasise moods of a very different kind. A favourite rhyme of Vaughan’s,
for example, is on cloud and shroud – a kind of thematic opposite of the
rhymes on light and bright or light and flight. So, in ‘The Morning-Watch’, he
the still shrouds,
Of sleep, and clouds
and interweaves this rhyme, later in the same poem, with the familiar pair
light and night:
The pious soul by night
Is like a clouded star, whose beams though said
To shed their light
Under some cloud
Yet are above,
And shine, and move
Beyond that misty shroud.
There are interesting examples in, for instance, ‘The Rain-bow’ and ‘The
Dwelling-Place’, but I’ll quote just one more, from ‘The Storm’:
Lord, then round me with weeping clouds,
And let my mind
In quick blasts sigh beneath those shrouds
A spirit-wind …
The rhyme pair mind and wind also occurs a number of times, and takes us
close to the heart of Vaughan’s spiritual meteorology, with “wind” having all
kinds of affinities with words such as breath and spirit.
Most of these can, at the cost of some simplification, be described as syn
onymic rhymes. The more startling single effect, the greater energy, is generally
produced, however, by what I’ve called antonymic rhymes. Take, for example,
the extraordinary moment early in the poem ‘Peace’, where the rhyme on
danger and manger startles the reader, as it holds phonetic similarity and
semantic dissimilarity in perfect equipoise:
My soul, there is a country
Far beyond the stars,
Where stands a winged sentry
All skilful in the wars,
There above noise, and danger
Sweet peace sits crowned with smiles,
And one born in a manger
Commands the beauteous files …
It is worth noting that in the passage I have just quoted, the two relevant lines
are the only ones not endstopped; it’s almost as if Vaughan avoids that par
ticular additional form of emphasis so as to keep the impact of this startling
rhyme within reasonable bounds.
Only a few other anconymical rhymes can be considered here. In one of the
most famous elegies, ‘They are all gone into the world of light!’ occur the
I see them walking in an air of glory,
Whose light doth trample on my days:
My days, which are at best but dull and hoary,
Mere glimmering and decays.
Glory and hoary make a marvellously discordant pair; the poetic energy of
the stanza derives, in part, from the friction between their phonetic affinity, on
the one hand, and their semantic antipathy on the other. Such a controlled
contrast cooperates with the splendid unexpectedness of a verb like trample in
the line between them.
Antonymic rhyme, as I have called it, contributes to the effect – the marvel
lous effect – of the mystical oxymorons of ‘The Night’. A poem which cele
brates the “dazzling darkness” of God in its last stanza, gets there via rhymes
such as noon and moon, Light and night (twice), and peep and sleep.
In ‘The Hidden Treasure’ Vaughan’s most familiar pair of antithetical rhymes
is strikingly employed in the first few lines of the poem:
What can the man do that succeeds the King?
Even what was done before, and no new thing.
Who shows me but one grain of sincere light?
False stars and fire-drakes, the deceits of night
Set forth to fool and foil thee, do not boast;
Such coal-flames show but kitchen-rooms at most.
The careful placement of sincere and deceits ensures that Vaughan’s reader
experiences the full energy of the antithesis between light and night, reinforced
as such energy is by the patterns of alliteration and internal rhyme.
This brief – and tentative – exploration may be brought towards a close by
a glance at a few other instances of Vaughan’s purposeful use of rhyme.
Sometimes the rhymes function as part of the larger scheme of thought ‘in a
way beyond either of my simplistic categories. Take, for example, the short
poem ‘Trinity-Sunday’. The poem is built, explicitly and implicity, around two
numbers: 3 – for the trinity, and 2- for the typological pair of which the poem
0 holy, blessed, glorious three,
Eternal witnesses that be
In heaven, One God in trinity!
As here on earth (when men withstood,)
The Spirit, Water, and the Blood,
Make my Lord’s Incarnation good:
So let the Anti-types in me
Elected, bought and sealed for free,
Be owned, saved, Sainted by you three!
‘Trinity-Sunday’ is a beautiful and shapely poem, with its symmetrical
rhyme scheme of aaa bbb aaa. The symmetry is reinforced by the presence of
‘three’ as the rhyme word of first and last lines. The pattern of threes
everywhere informs the syntax and word-order – the three adjectives of the
first line – “hol y, blessed, glorious”; the three nouns of line 5 – “Spirit, Water,
and … Blood”; the three verbs of line 8 – “elected, bought and sealed”; the
climactic three verbs of the last line – “owned, saved, Sainted” – or, to quote
the last line in full, “Be owned, saved, Sainted by you three!” We may also note
the symmetrically framing internal rhyme on the first and last syllables of the
A great many more examples and instances might be offered; but I hope to
have shown that in his use of rhyme Vaughan is far from being the careless
craftsman of too many accounts; to have shown, too, that for Vaughan rhym
ing was a means of and to poetic energy, a verbal equivalent to the energies of
correspondence Vaughan found in the world around him (15) and which he
sought to articulate in the smaller worlds of his poems. Attraction and energy
are intimately related phenomena in Vaughan’s world-view, and in the verbal
texture of his poems. In the opening lines of ‘The Star’, the star’s attraction to
something below, a kind of cosmic rhyme, produces a flurry of verbs:
What ever ’tis, whose beauty here below
Attracts thee thus & makes thee stream & flow,
And wind and curl, and wink and smile,
Shifting thy gate and guile …
In representing, verbally, a world of correspondences and attractions Vaughan
turned naturally and with conscious artistry to the ‘attractions’ of rhyme (and
to the energies of alliteration), and they are central to the streaming and
flowing, the winding and curling or, to borrow words from ‘Cock-Crowing’,
the shining and singing of Vaughan’s verse. Indeed, the first two stanzas of
that poem will serve as a closing exemplum of Vaughan’s exactness and power
as a maker of rhymes:
Father of lights! what sunny seed,
What glance of day hast thou confined
Into this bird? To all the breed
This busy ray thou hast assigned;
Their magnetism works all night,
And dreams of Paradise and light.
Their eyes watch for the morning hue,
Their little grain expelling night
So shines and sings, as if it knew
The path unto the house of light.
It seems their candle, howe’r done,
Was tinned and lighted at the sun.
15: He would surely have been pleased to find modern scientists using the concept of
rhyme as part of their image of the world; see, for example, the fascinating article ‘Rhyme
like Repetitions in Songs of Humpback Whales’ by Linda N. Guinee and Katharine B.
Payne, Ethology, 79, 1988, 295-306.