Henry Vaughan (1650) Included in Henry Vaughan's religious poetry collection Silex Scintillans, "Silence, and Stealth of Days!" expresses the poet's grief after the death of his brother, William, in the civil wars. Critics note it is one of the few poems by Vaughan that contain its own internal dating, as he writes, "'tis now / Since thou art gone, / Twelve hundred hours." This means 50 days had passed since William Vaughan's death, dating the poem during the first week of September 1648. After the time reference Vaughan incorporates light and dark imagery, as the speaker notes that "clouds hang on," but like one in a cave "Locked from the light" who "Fixeth a solitary lamp, / To brave the night," he retreats back into time, "unto that hour / Which showed thee last." This second reference to time involves a flashback, as "that hour" has defeated his brother's "light, and power."
360 "SINCE SHE WHOME I LOVED, HATH PAID HER LAST DEBT"
vaughan attempts to recall his brother's existence by having his speaker imagine him still alive. The speaker eventually understands the futility of such an approach and instead turns for comfort to a new spiritual awareness. vaughan extends the light metaphor, referring to the deceased as composed of "Those beams" that have been snuffed. He who dies may suffer "That dark," and death "sleeps in its known, / And common urn," where the term urn refers to a coffin or burial container. However, he introduces a note of hope for believers in God through redemption, writing, "But those fled to their Maker's throne / There shine, and burn." The image of humans' burning remains positive, playing on the previous metaphor of light and fire as equal. His own soul "tracks" that of his brother, allowing the two to remain united for all time. While the allusion to souls' tracking one another was not original to vaughan, his application proved stronger than that of other poets who employed it:
O could I track them! But souls must
Track one the other. And now the spirit, not the dust Must be thy brother.
vaughan concludes with positive imagery, writing,
Yet I have one pearl by whose light
All things I see, And in the heart of earth, and night Find Heaven, and thee.
Critics disagree over the meaning of, "one pearl by whose light / All things I see." The pearl may refer to vaughan's first wife, or it may refer to the Bible, in which "light" commonly suggested knowledge through spiritual awakening and symbolized Christ.
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