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Short poem

Thomas Traherne (1637-1674)


              1A learned and a happy ignorance
              2       Divided me
              3    From all the vanity,
              4From all the sloth, care, pain, and sorrow that advance
              5    The madness and the misery
              6Of men. No error, no distraction I
              7Saw soil the earth, or overcloud the sky.

              8  I knew not that there was a serpent's sting,
              9       Whose poison shed
            10    On men, did overspread
            11The world; nor did I dream of such a thing
            12    As sin, in which mankind lay dead.
            13They all were brisk and living wights to me,
            14Yea, pure and full of immortality.

            15  Joy, pleasure, beauty, kindness, glory, love,
            16       Sleep, day, life, light,
            17    Peace, melody, my sight,
            18My ears and heart did fill and freely move.
            19    All that I saw did me delight.
            20The Universe was then a world of treasure,
            21To me an universal world of pleasure.

            22  Unwelcome penitence was then unknown,
            23       Vain costly toys,
            24    Swearing and roaring boys,
            25Shops, markets, taverns, coaches, were unshown;
            26    So all things were that drown'd my joys:
            27No thorns chok'd up my path, nor hid the face
            28Of bliss and beauty, nor eclips'd the place.

            29  Only what Adam in his first estate,
            30       Did I behold;
            31    Hard silver and dry gold
            32As yet lay under ground; my blessed fate
            33    Was more acquainted with the old
            34And innocent delights which he did see
            35In his original simplicity.

            36  Those things which first his Eden did adorn,
            37       My infancy
            38    Did crown. Simplicity
            39Was my protection when I first was born.
            40    Mine eyes those treasures first did see
            41Which God first made. The first effects of love
            42My first enjoyments upon earth did prove;

            43  And were so great, and so divine, so pure;
            44       So fair and sweet,
            45    So true; when I did meet
            46Them here at first, they did my soul allure,
            47    And drew away my infant feet
            48Quite from the works of men; that I might see
            49The glorious wonders of the Deity.


1] Traherne here emphasizes the innocence of childhood rather than its "gleams of past existence", but elsewhere we have such affirmations as "My knowledge was Divine; I knew by intuition those things which since my apostacy I collected again by the highest reason" (Centuries of Meditations, 111).

24] roaring boys: roisterers.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Thomas Traherne, Poetical Works, ed. Bertram Dobell (London: published by the editor, 1903). PR 3736 T71903 Victoria College Library
First publication date: 1903
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.474; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/8

Rhyme: abbabcc

Other poems by Thomas Traherne