I’m setting my sites on a steady pathway through Thomas Traherne’s Centuries. It seems that no one who reads Traherne comes away disappointed or unaffected. I hope not to be the sole exception. I did love this paragraph from Hilda Vaughan’s Introduction:
But so cruel can be the knowledge of our waste, our self-deprivation, that we wonder why mediaeval man felt a need to invent gloating devils and everlasting tortures. It is hell enough to guess what our contrition may be in the brief, interminable instant of death, should we see, like a trampled map spread below us, the fair, God-given life we spoiled. Traherne would save us from this by persuading us to look upon the beauty of our gift until we grow ashamed to spoil it. In our arid seasons, too, he refreshes our spirits, as our bodies are refreshed after long drought by the sound, sight, touch, and taste of clean, running water. Unlike most mystics, after he regained the vision of his infancy, he himself seems never to have suffered from droughts of the soul, but so to have trusted the Shepherd of his green pastures as not to have strayed beyond reach of the living waters. Yet it is pity, not impatience, which he feels when he finds that most men thirst because they will not drink.
I know the cruelty of such knowledge, but I’m not yet as confirmed as Traherne in so saving a vision of the beauty of our gift as to shake off the hellish regret and contrition of my waste and self-deprivation. I’m all ears, though, Traherene. Talk to me.
To walk abroad is, not with Eys,
But Thoughts, the Fields to see and prize;
Els may the silent Feet,
Like Logs of Wood,
Mov up and down, and see no Good,
Nor Joy nor Glory meet.
Ev’n Carts and Wheels their place do change,
But cannot see; tho very strange
The Glory that is by:
Dead Puppets may
Mov in the bright and glorious Day,
Yet not behold the Sky.
And are not Men than they more blind,
Who having Eys yet never find
The Bliss in which they mov:
Like Statues dead
They up and down are carried,
Yet neither see nor lov.
To walk is by a thought to go;
To mov in Spirit to and fro;
To mind the Good we see;
To taste the Sweet;
Observing all the things we meet.
How choice and rich they be.