I Walk’d the Other Day, Henry Vaughan, Analysis & Summary

This study guide provides a detailed analysis of the poem "I Walk'd the Other Day" by Henry Vaughan. It includes a stanza-wise summary, an exploration of major themes, critical analysis of the poem, examination of symbols, language, structure, and sound devices used, as well as an exploration of the attitudes and feelings portrayed in the poem. Additionally, it suggests similar poems and how they relate to Vaughan's work.

The Poem

I walk’d the other day, to spend my hour,
Into a field,
Where I sometimes had seen the soil to yield
A gallant flow’r;
But winter now had ruffled all the bow’r
And curious store
I knew there heretofore.

Yet I, whose search lov’d not to peep and peer
I’ th’ face of things,
Thought with my self, there might be other springs
Besides this here,
Which, like cold friends, sees us but once a year;
And so the flow’r
Might have some other bow’r.

Then taking up what I could nearest spy,
I digg’d about
That place where I had seen him to grow out;
And by and by
I saw the warm recluse alone to lie,
Where fresh and green
He liv’d of us unseen.

Many a question intricate and rare
Did I there strow;
But all I could extort was, that he now
Did there repair
Such losses as befell him in this air,
And would ere long
Come forth most fair and young.

This past, I threw the clothes quite o’er his head;
And stung with fear
Of my own frailty dropp’d down many a tear
Upon his bed;
Then sighing whisper’d, “happy are the dead!
What peace doth now
Rock him asleep below!”

And yet, how few believe such doctrine springs
From a poor root,
Which all the winter sleeps here under foot,
And hath no wings
To raise it to the truth and light of things;
But is still trod
By ev’ry wand’ring clod.

O Thou! whose spirit did at first inflame
And warm the dead,
And by a sacred incubation fed
With life this frame,
Which once had neither being, form, nor name;
Grant I may so
Thy steps track here below,

That in these masques and shadows I may see
Thy sacred way;
And by those hid ascents climb to that day,
Which breaks from Thee,
Who art in all things, though invisibly!
Shew me thy peace,
Thy mercy, love, and ease,

And from this care, where dreams and sorrows reign,
Lead me above,
Where light, joy, leisure, and true comforts move
Without all pain;
There, hid in thee, shew me his life again,
At whose dumb urn
Thus all the year I mourn.

Summary

- Stanza 1: The speaker walks into a field where a beautiful flower used to bloom, but winter has taken its toll. The speaker reflects on the possibility of other springs and flowers in different places.
- Stanza 2: The speaker starts digging near where the flower used to grow and eventually finds it hidden and protected, living unseen.
- Stanza 3: The speaker poses intricate questions to the flower but receives no direct answers. Instead, the flower implies that it is replenishing itself in seclusion and will soon emerge beautiful and young.
- Stanza 4: Overcome with a sense of mortality, the speaker covers the flower's head, sheds tears, and muses on the peace of the dead.
- Stanza 5: The speaker contemplates the difficulty in convincing others that life can emerge from a dormant root. The flower, though trodden upon by everyone, possesses the potential for growth and enlightenment.
- Stanza 6: The speaker addresses a divine entity, acknowledging its role in giving life and seeking guidance to follow its footsteps.
- Stanza 7: The speaker expresses a desire to witness the sacred path and ascend towards the day of enlightenment and truth.
- Stanza 8: The speaker acknowledges the presence of the divine in all things, even though it remains invisible, and requests to be shown peace, mercy, love, and ease.
- Stanza 9: The speaker longs to transcend the cares and sorrows of the earthly realm and ascend to a realm of light, joy, leisure, and true comforts. They mourn the passing of someone and hope to see their life again.

Major Themes

- Cycle of Life: The poem explores the cyclical nature of life, with winter representing a dormant period and spring symbolizing renewal and growth.
- Seeking Meaning: The speaker engages in a search for deeper significance beyond what is immediately visible. This theme underscores the exploration of hidden truths and the desire for spiritual enlightenment.
- Mortality and Transience: The speaker contemplates the fleeting nature of life and the peace found in death. There is a longing for permanence and a yearning for a connection to something eternal.

Critical Analysis

Symbols:

- Flower: Represents beauty, renewal, and the potential for growth.
- Winter: Symbolizes dormancy, hardships, and the passing of time.
- Hidden Place: Signifies a secluded and protected space where spiritual growth and rejuvenation occur.

Language:

- The language used in the poem is contemplative and introspective, exploring deep philosophical questions about life, death, and spirituality.
- Metaphors and imagery are employed to convey abstract concepts and evoke emotional responses.

Structure:

- The poem consists of nine stanzas, each comprising six lines and following an AABBCC rhyme scheme.
- The regular structure provides a sense of order and balance, enhancing the poem's contemplative tone.

Sound devices:

- Alliteration: "ruffled all the bow’r," "warm recluse
," "loses as befell."
- Assonance: "besides this here," "raise it to the truth," "thus all the year."
- Rhyme: The poem follows an AABBCC rhyme scheme, creating a harmonious and musical quality.

Attitudes/feelings

- Curiosity: The speaker's curiosity drives them to seek hidden truths beyond what is readily visible.
- Contemplation: The speaker reflects on the transient nature of life, the peace found in death, and the longing for spiritual connection.
- Awe: The speaker is in awe of the potential for growth and rejuvenation found in hidden places.

Similar Poems

- "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time" by Robert Herrick: Both poems explore the themes of the transient nature of life and the importance of seizing the present moment. They emphasize the need to appreciate beauty and make the most of one's time on earth.
"Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats: Both poems delve into themes of transience and mortality. They contemplate the fleeting nature of life and the desire to escape the sorrows and cares of the world. Both poets express a longing for a transcendent experience that offers solace and a connection to something beyond the earthly realm.
"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost: While this poem differs in theme from Vaughan's work, it shares a similar contemplative and introspective tone. Both poems explore the concept of choices and their impact on one's life. "The Road Not Taken" reflects on the roads we choose to take or not take, while "I Walk'd the Other Day" reflects on the paths of life and the search for deeper meaning.

These poems, though different in content, resonate with Vaughan's exploration of life's complexities, choices, and the desire for spiritual fulfillment.
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