Thomas Traherne

Thomas Traherne Biography

He was born in Hereford, son of a shoemaker, and educated at Hereford Cathedral School and Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1652, achieving an MA in arts and divinity nine years later. After receiving his degree in 1656 he took holy orders and worked for ten years as a parish priest in Credenhill, near Hereford. In 1667 he became minister at Teddington and private chaplain to Sir Orlando Bridgeman, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal to Charles II. He died at Bridgeman's house at Teddington on or about 27 September 1674 and is buried in St Mary's Church under the reading desk.

Works

Traherne was an inconsequential literary figure during his life, whose works were unappreciated until long after his death. He led a humble, devout life, largely sheltered from the literary community. Only one of his works, Roman Forgeries (1673), was published in his lifetime. Christian Ethicks (1675) followed soon after his death, and later A Serious and Patheticall Contemplation of the Mercies of God (1699); but after that much of his finest work was lost, corrupted or misattributed to other writers.

His poems have a curious history. They were left in manuscript and presumably passed with the rest of his library into the hands of his brother Philip. They then apparently passed into the possession of the Skipps family of Ledbury, Herefordshire. When the property of this family was dispersed in 1888 the value of the manuscripts was unrecognised, for in 1896 or 1897 they were discovered by W. T. Brooke on a street bookstall. Alexander Grosart bought them, and proposed to include them in his edition of the works of Henry Vaughan, to whom he was convinced the writings belonged. He left this task uncompleted, and Bertram Dobell, who eventually secured the manuscripts, discerned that the author had attended Oxford University. He was then able to establish the authorship of Thomas Traherne.

The Best Poem Of Thomas Traherne

The Apostasy

One star
Is better far
Than many precious stones;
One sun, which is by its own luster 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.

No wars,
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.

As Eve,
I did believe
Myself in Eden set,
Affecting neither gold nor ermined crowns,
Nor aught else that I need foget;
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.

Those things
Which cherubins
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.

All bliss
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.

For God,
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.

But I,
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.

The sun
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 murtherëd.

O fine!
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.

Thomas Traherne Comments

Daphne 13 April 2019

Thank you for an introduction - I am now going to read some of is poems - all new t erritory for me

0 1 Reply
Rafiqa Darr 14 May 2011

I love Thomas Traherne and all his works, not just his poetry but also his prose called Centuries of Meditations. I got the book (Centuries of Meditations) recently and it overwhelmed me completely, it is the best book I have ever read and the best thing I own. If you want to feel good about yourself - read Traherne's works, especially Centuries of Meditations. Does anybody know of the poem called Thanksgivings for the Body and can they post it, so I could read it?

6 4 Reply
S M 05 May 2022

Try gutenberg.org and search for his collections.

0 0 Reply

Thomas Traherne Quotes

It is of the nobility of man's soul that he is insatiable: for he hath a benefactor so prone to give, that he delighteth in us for asking. Do not your inclinations tell you that the WORLD is yours?

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.

A little grit in the eye destroyeth the sight of the very heavens, and a little malice or envy a world of joys. One wry principle in the mind is of infinite consequence.

This moment exhibits infinite space, but there is a space also wherein all moments are infinitely exhibited, and the everlasting duration of infinite space is another region and room of joys.

An empty book is like an infant's soul, in which anything may be written. It is capable of all things, but containeth nothing. I have a mind to fill this with profitable wonders.

I will not by the noise of bloody wars and the dethroning of kings advance you to glory: but by the gentle ways of peace and love.

You never know yourself till you know more than your body.

The soul is made for action, and cannot rest till it be employed. Idleness is its rust. Unless it will up and think and taste and see, all is in vain.

More company increases happiness, but does not lighten or diminish misery.

To love one person with a private love is poor and miserable: to love all is glorious.

Had we not loved ourselves at all, we could never have been obliged to love anything. So that self-love is the basis of all love.

Happiness was not made to be boasted, but enjoyed. Therefore tho' others count me miserable, I will not believe them if I know and feel myself to be happy; nor fear them.

Is it not strange, that an infant should be heir of the whole world, and see those mysteries which the books of the learned never unfold?

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