That Hour

From “The Lamp,” Silex Scintillans (1650)

Tis dead night round about; Horror doth creep

And move on with the shades; stars nod and sleep,

And through the dark air spin a fiery thread,

Such as doth gild the lazy glow-worm’s bed.

Yet burn’st thou here, a full day; while I spend

My rest in cares, and to the dark world lend

These flames, as thou dost thine to me; I watch

That hour, which must thy life and mine dispatch;

But still thou dost outgo me, I can see

Met in thy flames all acts of piety;

Thy light is charity; thy heat is zeal;

And thy aspiring, active fires reveal

Devotion still on wing; then, thou dost weep

Still as thou burn’st, and the warm droppings creep

To measure out thy length, as if thou’dst know

What stock, and how much time were left thee now

Nor dost thou spend one tear in vain, for still

As thou dissolv’st to them, and they distil,

They’re stor’d up in the socket, where they lie,

When all is spent, thy last and sure supply;

And such is true repentance; ev’ry breath

We spend in sighs is treasure after death.

Only one point escapes thee; that thy oil

Is still out with thy flame, and so both fail.

But whensoe’er I’m out, both shall be in.

And where thou mad’st an end, there I’ll begin.

Henry Vaughan (1621—1695) was a Welsh Anglican metaphysical poet, deeply influenced by George Herbert. He experienced a dramatic conversion as a student, and wrote several volumes of poems on Biblical and theological themes.


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