The Night

John 3.2

Through that pure virgin shrine,
That sacred veil drawn o’er Thy glorious noon,
That men might look and live, as glowworms shine,
And face the moon,
Wise Nicodemus saw such light
As made him know his God by night.

Most blest believer he!
Who in that land of darkness and blind eyes
Thy long-expected healing wings could see,
When Thou didst rise!
And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the Sun!

O who will tell me where
He found Thee at that dead and silent hour?
What hallowed solitary ground did bear
So rare a flower,
Within whose sacred leaves did lie
The fulness of the Deity?

No mercy-seat of gold,
No dead and dusty cherub, nor carved stone,
But His own living works did my Lord hold
And lodge alone;
Where trees and herbs did watch and peep
And wonder, while the Jews did sleep.

Dear night! this world’s defeat;
The stop to busy fools; care’s check and curb;
The day of spirits; my soul’s calm retreat
Which none disturb!
Christ’s progress, and His prayer time;
The hours to which high heaven doth chime;

God’s silent, searching flight;
When my Lord’s head is filled with dew, and all
His locks are wet with the clear drops of night;
His still, soft call;
His knocking time; the soul’s dumb watch,
When spirits their fair kindred catch.

Were all my loud, evil days
Calm and unhaunted as is thy dark tent,
Whose peace but by some angel’s wing or voice
Is seldom rent,
Then I in heaven all the long year
Would keep, and never wander here.

But living where the sun
Doth all things wake, and where all mix and tire
Themselves and others, I consent and run
To every mire,
And by this world’s ill-guiding light,
Err more than I can do by night.

There is in God, some say,
A deep but dazzling darkness, as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear.
O for that night! where I in Him
Might live invisible and dim!

-Henry Vaughan

3 thoughts on “The Night

  1. Wow! I was unfamiliar with Vaughan until I read this. Thank you for posting it. Now I must reread, and reread some more, ponder and digest.

  2. In Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the 17th c., ed. Herbert J. C. Grierson (Oxford, The Clarendon press, 1921;, 1999); on Bartleby at [accessed 18 MAR 2017].

    For information on the author see Poetry Foundation at [accessed 18 MAR 2017]; Luminarium at [accessed 18 MAR 2017]; at [accessed 18 MAR 2017]; Encyclopaedia Britannica at [accessed 18 MAR 2017]; and Wikipedia at [accessed 18 MAR 2017].

    John 3:2 – “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”
    This reference with the title was originally published by Vaughan as John 2:3. That is the reference that appears on at the link above. “Vaughan’s reference to John 2:3, heading “The Night,” should read John 3:2. The Fourth Gospel is, according to Dean Inge, the charter of Christian mysticism, and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in chapter 3 is among those Johannine passages most valued by mystics…” Source: Arthur L. Clements, Poetry of Contemplation: John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, and the Modern Period (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), pp. 130-131. Jn. 2:3 certainly does not appear to have any connection to the content of Vaughan’s poem:
    “And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.”

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