Nox nocti indicat scientiam

WHEN I survey the bright
Cœlestiall spheare:
So rich with jewels hung, that night
Doth like an Æthiop bride appear,

My soule her wings doth spread
And heaven-ward flies,
Th’ Almighty’s Mysteries to read
In the large volumes of the skies.

For the bright firmament
Shootes 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,
Remov’d far from our human sight;

But if we stedfast looke
We shall discerne
In it as in some holy booke,
How man may heavenly knowledge learne.

It tells the Conqueror
That farre-stretcht power,
Which his proud dangers traffique for,
Is but the triumph of an houre.

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 sinne,
‘Till they shall equall him in vice.

And then they likewise shall
Their ruine have,
For as your selves your Empires fall,
And every Kingdome hath a grave.

Thus those Celestiall fires,
Though seeming mute,
The fallacie of our desires
And all the pride of life confute.

For they have watcht since first
The World had birth:
And found sinne in itselfe accurst,
And nothing permanent on Earth.


William Habington 1605-1654. I can find no surviving portrait of this English poet.
The title of the poem is taken from the Latin (Vulgate) version of Psalm 19, the first two lines of which are

Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei et opus manus eius adnuntiat firmamentum.
Dies diei eructat verbum et nox nocti indicat scientiam.

The King James Bible translates this as

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

Muslims will notice similar perspectives to be found in the Qur’an.

Categories: England, Poem, Qur'an, Recommended reading

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