Burial Of An Infant The Henry

Vaughan (1650) Because he believed so strongly in the possibility of human regeneration through faith, Henry Vaughan did not fear death. It served as a topic for many of his poems, which often grew from his grief over his personal losses and those resulting from war. In observing part of the ritual of death in the burial of a baby, Vaughan turns to one of his occasional themes, that childhood represented a divine state. As did Thomas Traherne, he believed that all infants are born into the sinless state enjoyed by Adam, prior to his fall from grace and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. This may be seen in the opening stanza in which Vaughan adopts figurative language (figure of speech) to compare the "Blest infant" to a fragile blossom, its life only long enough for it to "look about, and fall / Wearied out in a harmless strife." The speaker makes clear that the world's problems may not be blamed on an innocent baby. The infant's expiration was done "Sweetly," as its "soul / Flew home unstained by his new kin," again emphasizing the baby's blameless state with the characterization "unstained." He remained untouched by sin during his brief stay with the "kin," or humans, who supplied no support for his soul. Before the child's soul "knew'st how to be foul / Death weened thee from the world and sin." Vaughan's use of the term weened emphasizes this person's infant state, as babies are weaned, or separated from dependence upon their mother's breast milk. In this instance the weaning was from human existence in a state of sin. The infant's remains are termed virgin crumbs, the adjective virgin again making clear the infant's innocence.

Those crumbs, all that will remain of the earthly body, anticipate arrival of "thy Savior" to "undress them, and unswaddle death." The concluding image of Christ unwrapping death, or revealing its visage and freeing the infant body, remains a strong reminder that unlike adults infants die in a state of grace and may expect salvation.

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