Monday, April 07, 2008

Poem of the Week 4/7/2008: The Third Century

The Third Century

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 Cherubims !    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 or 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 talked with my
expectation and moved my desire.  The city seemed
to stand in Eden, or to be built in Heaven. The 
street 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 skins 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 and enjoyer of it.
I knew no churlish properties, nor bounds, nor
divisions : but all properties and divisions were
mine : all treasures and the possessors 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, from Centuries of Meditation

Though technically "prose," this work by Thomas Traherne stands in my "Poetry is right language" category. For it is certainly some of the most marvelous and remarkable language I have ever come across, at once simple and shining, as hard cut and as glittering as a gem. I steal that image from this "century." A Metaphysical poet, Traherne was most primarily a pastor and member of several holy orders in England in the mid to late 17th Century. I suppose it is unnecessary to write too much about this passage, for it stands as something to be slowly savored and tasted. However, it might be fruitful to think about the way the state of childhood works in this poem, and how it might open up into a much greater redemptive state; what is childhood, and why is it connected with the divine, the infinite? How is Traherne entering the Kingdom of Heaven now, though this childlike state? Happy reading.

1 comment:

Cirila said...

Good words.