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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger
Several lines in this poem show the same alchemical thinking that also influenced his brother.
There is the alchemical notion that one must discover the secrets held by the natural world, secrets protected by mystical seals:
I summon'd Nature ; pierc'd through all her store;
Broke up some seals, which none had touch'd before...
But, after seeing into the essence of natural forces and creatures, he recognizes that the most important secret is contained within himself, that it IS himself: "...came at last / To search my self..."
Doing this deeply, profoundly, Vaughan enters a state described by mystics throughout the world. He experiences a "mighty spring," and a fundamental sound he describes as "echoes beaten from th' eternal hills." And he witnesses a glimmering of ineffable light that is like a soft dawn or moonlight:
Weak beams and fires flash'd to my sight,
Like a young East, or moonshine night.
Basking in this light, his awareness expands, revealing scattered truths, showing him "...hieroglyphics quite dismember'd, / And broken letters scarce remember'd."
He also expresses the alchemical instinct to gather the results of the Work and join them together:
I took them up, and -- much joy'd -- went about
T' unite those pieces, hoping to find out
These disparate "pieces" are, in truth, the fragments of awareness, and it is the job of the Hermetic philosopher to refine them and draw them together into the ultimate conjunction or unity that is, at the same time, union with the Divine. But he admits that this task was "ne'er done," and the his elevated perception dissipates. The "veils" once more "eclipse" his eyes. But he redoubles his determination to attain this ultimate divine vision by making himself utterly naked to Reality ("I'll disapparel") and completely drop the ego ("and to buy / But one half-glance, most gladly die."). This complete surrender of the self is final ingredient needed in the alchemical compound that leads to completion of the Work.
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2002 - 2011 by Ivan M. Granger.
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