February 23rd, 2011

A Thomas Traherne Treasure

Thomas Traherne was an Anglican priest who died in obscurity in 1674.  221 years later two manuscripts turned up in a bin in a London bookstore.  Their titles were Poetical Works and Centuries of Meditation.  No authorship was claimed for these works.   The editor and critic Bertram Dorbell was able to trace them to Traherne and they were published in 1901 and 1908 respectively,    I found this quotation in Steven Mitchell's The Enlightened Mind.

"Certainly Adam in Paradise had no more sweet and curious apprehensions of the world than I when I was a child.  All appeared new, and strange at the first, inexpressibly rare, and delightful, and beautiful.  I was a little stranger, which at my entrance into the world was saluted and surrounded with innumerable joys.  My knowledge was divine.  I knew by intuition those things which since my apostasy I collected again, by the highest reason.  My very ignorance was advantageous.   I seemed as one brought into the estate of innocence.  All things were spotless and pure and glorious; yea, and infinitely mine, and joyful and precious.  I knew not that there were any sins, or complaints, or laws.  I dreamed not of poverties, contentions, or vices.  All tears and quarrels were hidden from my eyes.  Everything was at rest, free, and immortal.  I knew nothing of sickness or death, nor exaction; in the absence of these I was entertained like an angel with the works of God in their splendor and glory'.  I saw all in the peace of Eden, heaven and earth did sing my Creator's praises, and could not make more melody to Adam than to me.  All time was eternity, and a perpetual sabbath.  Is it not strange that an infant should be heir of the world, and see those mysteries which the books of the learned never unfold?

"The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped, nor was ever sown.  I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting.  The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold.  The gates were at first the end of the world,  The green trees, when I saw them first through one of the gates, transported and ravished me; their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap. and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things,  The men!  O what venerable and reverend creatures did the aged seem!  Immortal cherubim!    And young men glittering and sparkling angels, and maids strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty!  Boys and girls tumbling in the street, and playing, were moving jewels.  I knew not that they were born and should die.  But all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places.  Eternity was manifest in the light of the day and something infinite behind everything appeared: which tallied with my expectation and moved my desire.  The city seemed to stand in Eden, or to be built in heaven.  The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people were mine, their clothes and gold and silver were mine, as much as their sparkling eyes. fair skin, and ruddy faces.  The skies were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the world was mine, and I the only spectator of it.   I knew no churlish properties, nor bounds nor divisions; but all properties and divisions were mine.  All treasures and possessions of them.

"So that with much ado i was corrupted; and made to learn the dirty devices of this world

"Which now I unlearn, and become as it were a little child again, that I may enter into the kingdom of God."

                                     --Thomas Traherne 1637-1674,