They Are All Gone into the World of Light!

by Henry Vaughan

They Are All Gone into the World of Light! Summary

Overview (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

“They Are All Gone into the World of Light!” considered one of English poet Henry Vaughan’s best poems, consists of ten stanzas of quatrains altering lines of iambic pentameter and iambic trimeter. The poem deals with Vaughan’s mystical revelations concerning such Christian topics as death, eternal life, faith, God as Father/Creator. An important feature of the poem is a traditional Christian contrast between a better “other world” and this life as a “vale of tears.”

The poem begins as a lament: “They” have departed the poet’s world for a “world of light,” presumably the Christian heaven, while the poet remains, abandoned and unable to join those whom he desperately wishes to join. During the course of the poem, the poet’s lament over this separation (from whom, specifically, is never stated) shifts to contemplation about what that other world must be like (“What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust/ Could man outlook that mark!”) and ultimately a plea to the “Father of eternal life” to “Resume [his] spirit from this world of thrall/ Into true liberty.” As befits the theme of separation and departure, the entire poem is studded with contrasts that mark the division between the poet in his dark, befogged world and the departed’s world of light. Intellectual inquiry and wonder over the mystery of the holy realm contrast with frustration in the final stanzas, where the poet demands that God either answer his doubts or take him to where he can find out for himself.

Despite his fleeting visions of the departed “walking in an air of glory,” the poet craves certainty as to what happens to people after death. The first four verses of the poem contrast his momentary vision of the dead in a “world of light” with his own earthly existence, which is “at best but dull and hoary.” The poet speculates that he may have been allowed these heavenly glimpses to...

(The entire section is 786 words.)