Thomas Traherne -“Centuries of Meditation” (excerpt), “Wonder”

Thomas Traherne published very little in his lifetime and it was not until the late 19th c. when the private collection holding his manuscripts was liquidated, when they resurfaced and were found by chance in a London bookstall, initially mistaken for the poetry of Henry Vaughan. The text from The Third Century of Meditation is an example of his prose poems. The short text is an ecstatic vision of Heaven (as far as I can tell): the miraculous field of wheat, never sown and never to be reaped, the Heavenly City whose all inhabitants, regardless of age and sex, are radiantly beautiful and its streets are covered with jewels. Here everything belongs to the speaker and property laws do not bind him. Do I hear the echoes of Levellers’ Christian communism here?

“Wonder” is basically the same thing, just put in a (very loose) verse, except that now Traherne is clearer he means this world and the way he perceived it in his angelic innocence. Again he is amazed by the beauty of the world, nature, people and their cities. And also his body is full both of youthful energy and Holy Spirit – he seems to conflate the two. All the things that people invented to separate “mine” from “yours” – “hedges, ditches, limits, bounds… walls, boxes, coffers” are non-existent, because admiring rich clothes worn by others gives him the same joy as if they were his, and all clothes seem to exquisite in his eyes.

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