Before I taught my tongue to wound
My Conscience with a sinfull sound,
Or had the black art to dispence
A sev'rall sinne to ev'ry sence,
But felt through all this fleshly dresse
Bright shootes of everlastingnesse.
The phrase 'first love', or 'early love', recurs with peculiar poignancy in different poems--Corruption, The Constellation, The Seed growing secretly--for man's relation with God. In the same way the idea of angels, walking and talking as man's familiars, is one of Vaughan's favourite symbols--as in Religion, Corruption, The Jews, Childe-hood and Retirement--to convey his conception of our lost Eden. A return to the state of mind, heart, and spirit known in childhood is, Vaughan believed, the way back to that original fullness of communion between man and his Creator:
Some men a forward motion love,
But I by backward steps would move,
And when this dust falls to the urn
In that state I came return.
Just over half a century ago two unsigned manuscript notebooks, one in prose, the other verse, were discovered on a London bookstall. First ascribed to Vaughan, because of certain resemblances to the style and spirit of his writing, they were finally established as the work of a contemporary, Thomas Traherne.
The original confusion of authorship was understandable. A strong vein of mysticism runs through the writing of both Vaughan and Traherne--one a Welshman, the other