William Habington

(1605 - 1654 / England)

Nox Nocti Indicat Scientiam


WHEN I survey the bright
   Celestial sphere;
So rich with jewels hung, that Night
   Doth like an Ethiop bride appear:

   My soul her wings doth spread
   And heavenward flies,
Th' Almighty's mysteries to read
   In the large volumes of the skies.

   For the bright firmament
   Shoots forth no flame
So silent, but is eloquent
   In speaking the Creator's name.

   No unregarded star
   Contracts its light
Into so small a character,
   Removed far from our human sight,

   But if we steadfast look
   We shall discern
In it, as in some holy book,
   How man may heavenly knowledge learn.

   It tells the conqueror
   That far-stretch'd power,
Which his proud dangers traffic for,
   Is but the triumph of an hour:

   That from the farthest North,
   Some nation may,
Yet undiscover'd, issue forth,
   And o'er his new-got conquest sway:

   Some nation yet shut in
   With hills of ice
May be let out to scourge his sin,
   Till they shall equal him in vice.

   And then they likewise shall
   Their ruin have;
For as yourselves your empires fall,
   And every kingdom hath a grave.

   Thus those celestial fires,
   Though seeming mute,
The fallacy of our desires
   And all the pride of life confute:--

   For they have watch'd since first
   The World had birth:
And found sin in itself accurst,
   And nothing permanent on Earth.

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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  • Steven Calascione (9/30/2013 8:20:00 AM)

    [i]Nox Nocti Indicat Scientiam[/i] (Castara: The Third Part,1640) . In chronological terms this follows Habington's poem [i]Against them who lay unchastity to the sex of Women[/i] (Castara: The Second Part,1635) written in response to John Donne's [i]Goe, and catch a falling starre[i]. (Report) Reply

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