'The World' by Henry Vaughan

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1I saw Eternity the other night,
2Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
3All calm, as it was bright;
4And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
5Driv'n by the spheres
6Like a vast shadow mov'd; in which the world
7And all her train were hurl'd.
8The doting lover in his quaintest strain
9Did there complain;
10Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights,
11Wit's sour delights,
12With gloves, and knots, the silly snares of pleasure,
13Yet his dear treasure
14All scatter'd lay, while he his eyes did pour
15Upon a flow'r.

16The darksome statesman hung with weights and woe,
17Like a thick midnight-fog mov'd there so slow,
18He did not stay, nor go;
19Condemning thoughts (like sad eclipses) scowl
20Upon his soul,
21And clouds of crying witnesses without
22Pursued him with one shout.
23Yet digg'd the mole, and lest his ways be found,
24Work'd under ground,
25Where he did clutch his prey; but one did see
26That policy;
27Churches and altars fed him; perjuries
28Were gnats and flies;
29It rain'd about him blood and tears, but he
30Drank them as free.

31The fearful miser on a heap of rust
32Sate pining all his life there, did scarce trust
33His own hands with the dust,
34Yet would not place one piece above, but lives
35In fear of thieves;
36Thousands there were as frantic as himself,
37And hugg'd each one his pelf;
38The downright epicure plac'd heav'n in sense,
39And scorn'd pretence,
40While others, slipp'd into a wide excess,
41Said little less;
42The weaker sort slight, trivial wares enslave,
43Who think them brave;
44And poor despised Truth sate counting by
45Their victory.

46Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
47And sing, and weep, soar'd up into the ring;
48But most would use no wing.
49O fools (said I) thus to prefer dark night
50Before true light,
51To live in grots and caves, and hate the day
52Because it shews the way,
53The way, which from this dead and dark abode
54Leads up to God,
55A way where you might tread the sun, and be
56More bright than he.
57But as I did their madness so discuss
58One whisper'd thus,
59"This ring the Bridegroom did for none provide,
60But for his bride."

Editor 1 Interpretation


Henry Vaughan's "The World" is a classic piece of poetry that has continued to attract the attention of many literary enthusiasts across the world. The poem is a reflection of the poet's views on the world around him, particularly in relation to spiritual and metaphysical concepts. This literary criticism and interpretation will explore the themes and motifs in the poem, including its use of imagery, structure, and language.


Henry Vaughan was a Welsh poet who lived between 1621 and 1695. He was known for his religious and metaphysical poetry, which explored themes of spirituality, nature, and mortality. Vaughan's poetry was heavily influenced by the works of John Donne, George Herbert, and other Metaphysical poets of the 17th century.

"The World" is one of Vaughan's best-known poems. It was first published in his collection of poems, "Silex Scintillans," in 1650. The poem is a reflection of Vaughan's views on the world as a corrupt and fallen place, in need of spiritual redemption.

Themes and Motifs

One of the major themes in "The World" is the corruption and transience of the material world. Vaughan portrays the world as a place of sin and decay, where nothing is permanent or lasting. He uses vivid and powerful imagery to convey this idea. For example, in the opening lines of the poem, Vaughan describes the world as a "great inn" where people come and go, leaving behind nothing but "dust and smoke."

Another important theme in the poem is the idea of spiritual redemption. Vaughan suggests that the only way to escape the corruption of the world is to turn to God and seek his grace. He uses religious imagery and language to convey this idea. For example, he describes the soul as a "spark" of divine light, which can only be rekindled through faith and prayer.

The motif of time is also central to the poem. Vaughan suggests that time is a fleeting and ephemeral concept, which cannot be grasped or controlled. He uses images of seasonal change and natural cycles to convey this idea. For example, he describes the passing of time as the "rolling year," which brings both "blossom and decay."


Vaughan's use of imagery in "The World" is both powerful and evocative. He uses vivid and sensory language to create a sense of the world as a dark and foreboding place. For example, he describes the world as a "great inn" where people come and go, leaving behind nothing but "dust and smoke." This image conveys a sense of impermanence and decay.

Vaughan also uses religious and spiritual imagery to convey his ideas about redemption and salvation. He describes the soul as a "spark" of divine light, which can only be rekindled through faith and prayer. This image conveys a sense of hope and optimism in the face of the world's darkness and corruption.


The structure of "The World" is also significant. The poem consists of three stanzas, each with eight lines. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABABCCDD, which creates a sense of symmetry and balance. This structure reinforces the idea of the world as a cyclical and repetitive place, where nothing is truly new or original.

The use of repetition is also significant in the poem. Vaughan repeats certain phrases and images throughout the poem, creating a sense of continuity and coherence. For example, he repeats the image of the "great inn" in the first and third stanzas, reinforcing the idea of the world as a transient and temporary place.


Vaughan's use of language in "The World" is both poetic and profound. He uses a range of poetic devices, including metaphor, simile, and personification, to convey his ideas about the world and spirituality.

One of the most striking aspects of Vaughan's language is his use of paradox. He often juxtaposes seemingly contradictory concepts, such as light and darkness, life and death, to create a sense of tension and ambiguity. For example, he describes the soul as a "spark" of divine light, even though it exists in a world of darkness and sin.

Vaughan also uses religious language and terminology to convey his ideas about spirituality. He uses words such as "grace," "redemption," and "salvation" to suggest that the only way to escape the corruption of the world is through faith and prayer.


In conclusion, "The World" is a classic piece of poetry that continues to resonate with readers today. Vaughan's use of imagery, structure, and language creates a powerful and evocative portrait of the world as a dark and foreboding place, in need of spiritual redemption. The poem is a testament to Vaughan's skill as a poet and his ability to convey complex ideas about spirituality and the human condition in a concise and poetic manner.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry The World: A Masterpiece of Henry Vaughan

Henry Vaughan, a Welsh metaphysical poet, is known for his spiritual and religious poetry. His works are characterized by their deep contemplation of the divine and the natural world. One of his most famous poems, "Poetry The World," is a masterpiece that captures the essence of his poetic style and philosophy.

The poem begins with a declaration that poetry is the world, and the world is poetry. This statement sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which explores the relationship between poetry and the natural world. Vaughan believes that poetry is not just a form of artistic expression but a way of understanding and connecting with the world around us.

In the second stanza, Vaughan describes the beauty of nature and how it inspires him to write poetry. He uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of the natural world, from the "green fields" to the "azure skies." He also mentions the "melodious birds" and the "gentle streams," which are all sources of inspiration for his poetry.

Vaughan's love for nature is evident throughout the poem. He sees the natural world as a reflection of the divine and believes that by immersing himself in nature, he can connect with God. This idea is expressed in the third stanza, where Vaughan writes, "In all the fair displays of light and shade, / Softness and sweet variety are made; / And in the lovely features we can trace / The image of the great Creator's face."

The fourth stanza is perhaps the most powerful in the poem. Here, Vaughan describes the transformative power of poetry. He believes that poetry has the ability to transport us to another world, where we can experience the divine in a way that is not possible in our everyday lives. He writes, "Poetry can make / A paradise of earth, and earth a hell / When she's not there." This line suggests that without poetry, the world is a bleak and desolate place.

Vaughan's belief in the power of poetry is further emphasized in the fifth stanza. Here, he writes, "Poetry can raise / Our minds and spirits up to heaven's high place." He sees poetry as a means of elevating our consciousness and connecting with the divine. This idea is echoed in the final stanza, where Vaughan writes, "Thus poetry, divine and human, joins / Heaven and earth, and mortal things with mines." Here, he suggests that poetry has the power to bridge the gap between the physical and spiritual worlds.

In conclusion, "Poetry The World" is a masterpiece of Henry Vaughan's poetic style and philosophy. Through vivid imagery and powerful language, Vaughan explores the relationship between poetry and the natural world. He sees poetry as a means of connecting with the divine and elevating our consciousness. His belief in the transformative power of poetry is evident throughout the poem, and he suggests that without poetry, the world is a bleak and desolate place. Overall, "Poetry The World" is a testament to Vaughan's deep spiritual and poetic insight and remains a timeless masterpiece of English literature.

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