Wednesday, 22 April 2015
'A stranger to the shining skies, / Lost as a dying flame'
Is better far
Than many precious stones;
One sun, which is by its own lustre seen,
Is worth ten thousand golden thrones;
A juicy herb, or spire of grass,
In useful virtue, native green,
An em'rald doth surpass,
Hath in 't more value, though less seen.
Nor mortal jars,
Nor bloody feuds, nor coin,
Nor griefs which those occasions, saw I then;
Nor wicked thieves which this purloin;
I had not thoughts that were impure;
Esteeming both women and men
God's work, I was secure,
And reckoned peace my choicest gem.
I did believe
Myself in Eden set,
Affecting neither gold nor ermined crowns,
Nor aught else that I need forget;
No mud did foul my limpid streams,
Nor mist eclipsed my sun with frowns;
Set off with heav'nly beams,
My joys were meadows, fields, and towns.
Did not at first behold
Among God's works, which Adam did not see --
As robes, and stones enchased in gold,
Rich cabinets, and such-like fine
Inventions -- could not ravish me;
I thought not bowls of wine
Needful for my felicity.
Consists in this,
To do as Adam did,
And not to know those superficial joys
Which were from him in Eden hid,
Those little new-invented things,
Fine lace and silks, such childish toys
As ribands are and rings,
Or worldly pelf that us destroys.
Both great and good,
The seeds of melancholy
Created not, but only foolish men,
Grown mad with customary folly
Which doth increase their wants, so dote
As when they elder grow they then
Such baubles chiefly note;
More fools at twenty years than ten.
I know not why,
Did learn among them too,
At length; and when I once with blemished eyes
Began their pence and toys to view,
Drowned in their customs, I became
A stranger to the shining skies,
Lost as a dying flame,
And hobby-horses brought to prize.
And moon forgone
As if unmade, appear
No more to me; to God and heaven dead
I was, as though they never were;
Upon some useless gaudy book,
When what I knew of God was fled,
The child being taught to look,
His soul was quickly murthered.
O most divine!
O brave! they cried; and showed
Some tinsel thing whose glittering did amaze,
And to their cries its beauty owed;
Thus I on riches, by degrees,
Of a new stamp did learn to gaze,
While all the world for these
I lost, my joy turned to a blaze.
As part of the burgeoning social media empire with which I daily attempt to entertain and educate a grateful public, I run a Twitter account of quotations from the works of Thomas Traherne. (Yes, I know - but people do seem to like it.) Pithy Traherne is eminently tweetable, and I take comfort in the thought that when I can't write anything worth reading, I can at least share other people's wisdom. I'm currently tweeting my way through this poem, 'The Apostasy'. If nothing else, it's good for me to get a daily dose of Traherne's philosophy; it puts everything else into a healthier perspective - as this poem did for me today.