In this last week I have attended a funeral and a memorial. I have expressed condolences to two grieving families. Tears have flowed. And I am not the one who has mourning as intensely: they are not my family.
The older poets knew this.
However, there is something deeper here. Vaughan was an Anglo-Catholic living in a time of Puritan rigour. He is mourning not as much a person, but the church and sacraments then shunned by those who turned a theological movement into a noxious theological virtue spiral.
When I was a young man I was taught by my English teachers that the Puritans were the progressives, and the Royalists and Catholics the party of regression. I think that is untrue: Cromwell wanted limited reform. The English rejected the Presbyterianism of the (Scottish) Covenanters.
And by the end of the civil war, this poem resonated with men of conscience on both sides.
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,
Or those faint beams in which this hill is drest,
After the sun’s remove.
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.
O holy Hope! and high Humility,
High as the heavens above!
These are your walks, and you have show’d them me
To kindle my cold love.
Dear, beauteous Death! the jewel of the just,
Shining nowhere, but in the dark;
What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust
Could man outlook that mark!
He that hath found some fledg’d bird’s nest, may know
At first sight, if the bird be flown;
But what fair well or grove he sings in now,
That is to him unknown.
And yet as angels in some brighter dreams
Call to the soul, when man doth sleep:
So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted themes
And into glory peep.
If a star were confin’d into a tomb,
Her captive flames must needs burn there;
But when the hand that lock’d her up, gives room,
She’ll shine through all the sphere.
O Father of eternal life, and all
Created glories under thee!
Resume thy spirit from this world of thrall
Into true liberty.
Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill
My perspective still as they pass,
Or else remove me hence unto that hill,
Where I shall need no glass.
We are in a time of crisis. The arguments are getting stronger, and more vicious. Many want to be seen to have a political or theological correctness that is not quite human.
We need to continue to see the person, even those who hate us. For they are best pitied, and ignored. Unless we want to live in a world of slavery, and pray for freedom, while the cadre try to change our very thoughts.