Monday, December 25, 2017

More or Less a Christmas Poem by Cousin Henry Vaughan

A little historical and literary context here for my distant cousin, Henry Vaughan (1621-1695). He came from a conservative corner of Wales that was mostly loyal to the King in the English Civil War. He did not like Puritanism and his allegiance to the King was both religious and political. This poem gives feeling to the sentiment of the old church (High Anglican wasn't much different from Catholicism out where he was) that was passing away. He was a religious purist sometimes admonishing the excesses of the conservative church and sometimes the harsh, judgmental heresies of Cromwell's Commonwealth governed by Puritanical values.

There is a Christmas sentiment here: The Shepherds seeking a new Christ Child for restoration of the True Christian Religion. And what is this about "westward hence thy course will hold?" There is the obvious astronomical reality of the light or sun setting in the west, but the New World was discovered and inhabited by Europeans before the time Henry Vaughan lived. Could he have been holding out hope that a new revelation or restoration could come there away from corrupt Europe and England? Maybe so.

The problem is that current political and religious power in the United States leaves me in the same despairing worry as Vaughan.

Maybe somewhere in the West there will be a new Nativity of True Christianity.

Cochiti Pueblo Nativity by Louise Suina


Farewell, thou true and tried reflectionOf the still poor, and meek election:Farewell, soul's joy, the quick'ning healthOf spirits, and their secret wealth!Farewell, my morning-star, the brightAnd dawning looks of the True Light!O blessed shiner, tell me whitherThou wilt be gone, when night comes hither!A seër that observ'd thee inThy course, and watch'd the growth of sin,Hath giv'n his judgment, and foretold,That westward hence thy course will hold;And when the day with us is done,There fix, and shine a glorious sun.O hated shades and darkness! whenYou have got here the sway again,And like unwholesome fogs withstoodThe light, and blasted all that's good,Who shall the happy shepherds be,To watch the next nativityOf truth and brightness, and make wayFor the returning, rising day?O what year will bring back our bliss?Or who shall live, when God doth this?
Thou Rock of Ages! and the RestOf all, that for Thee are oppress'd!Send down the Spirit of Thy truth,That Spirit, which the tender youth,And first growths of Thy Spouse did spreadThrough all the world, from one small head!Then if to blood we must resist,Let Thy mild Dove, and our High-Priest,Help us, when man proves false or frowns,To bear the Cross, and save our crowns.O honour those that honour Thee!Make babes to still the enemy!And teach an infant of few daysTo perfect by his death Thy praise!Let none defile what Thou didst wed,Nor tear the garland from her head!But chaste and cheerful let her die,And precious in the Bridegroom's eyeSo to Thy glory and her praise,These last shall be her brightest days.
Revel[ation] chap. last, vers. 17."The Spirit and the Bride say, Come."

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