Here is "Wonder."
by Thomas Traherne (1636-1674)
How like an angel came I down!
How bright are all things here!
When first among his works I did appear,
O how their glory did me crown!
The world resembled his eternity,
In which my soul did walk,
And everything that I did see
Did with me talk.
The skies in their magnificence,
The lively, lovely air;
O how divine, how soft, how sweet, how fair!
The stars did entertain my sense,
And all the works of God so bright and pure,
So rich and great did seem,
As if they ever must endure,
In my esteem.
A native health and innocence
Within my bones did grow,
And while my God did all his glories show,
I felt a vigor in my sense
That was all SPIRIT. I within did flow
With seas of life like wine;
I nothing in the world did know
But 'twas divine.
Harsh ragged objects were concealed,
Oppression's tears and cries,
Sins, griefs, complaints, dissensions, weeping eyes.
Were hid; and only things revealed
Which heavenly spirits and the angels prize.
The state of innocence
And bliss, not trades and poverties,
Did fill my sense.
The streets were paved with golden stones,
The boys and girls were mine,
O how did all their lovely faces shine!
The sons of men were holy ones.
In joy and beauty then appeared to me
And everything which here I found
While like an angel I did see,
Adorned the ground.
Rich diamond and pearl and gold
In every place was seen;
Rare splendors, yellow, blue, red, white, and green,
Mine eyes did everywhere behold.
Great wonders clothed with glory did appear,
Amazement was my bliss.
That and my wealth was everywhere:
No joy to this!
Cursed and devised proprieties,
With envy, avarice,
And fraud, those fiends that spoil even paradise,
Fled from the splendor of mine eyes.
And so did hedges, ditches, limits, bounds,
I dreamed not aught of those,
But wandered over all men's grounds,
And found repose.
Proprieties themselves were mine,
And hedges ornaments;
Walls, boxes, coffers, and their rich contents
Did not divide my joys, but all combine.
Clothes, ribbons, jewels, laces, I esteemed
My joys by others worn;
For me they all to wear them seemed
When I was born.
*Donald Revell comments:
Written more than one hundred years before *Songs of Innocence* or
"Ode: Intimations of Immortality" and entirely unknown to either Blake or Wordsworth (and unknown to us as well, if the manuscript had not been rescued from a rubbish fire and published early in the 20th-century), Traherne's "Wonder" freely offers a source of pure clear energy to our defaced and disfiguring time. Here is a poem proposing INNOCENCE not as want of experience or as helplessness, but rather as an active Capacity to be filled, to be illuminated and then thereafter to shine with all the virtues of every blessed thing to which it does no harm. Imagine an economic theory based upon harmlessness; here it is - "my wealth was everywhere." Imagine an aggressive environmentalism based upon harmlessness; here it is - "I nothing in the world did know / But 'twas divine." Imagine a polity in which one's birth is the only passport, only credential needed for man or woman to walk freely upon earth; here it is. I read this poem, and I can hardly wait for Thomas Traherne to be born.
Poet, translator and critic DONALD REVELL is the author, most recently, of *Pennyweight Windows: New & Selected Poems*. His collection *My Mojave* won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. He is also author of two translations and a collection of essays. Two-time winner of the PEN Center USA Award in poetry, Revell has been awarded the Gertrude Stein Award, the Shestack Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as from the Ingram Merrill and Guggenheim Foundations. Presently, he is a Professor of English at the University of Utah and Poetry Editor of the Colorado Review.