Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
Dumbness
By Thomas Traherne (1637?–1674)
 
SURE 1 Man was born to meditate on things,
And to contemplate the eternal springs
Of God and Nature, glory, bliss, and pleasure;
That life and love might be his Heavenly treasure;
And therefore speechless made at first, that He        5
Might in himself profoundly busied be:
And not vent out, before he hath ta’en in
Those antidotes that guard his soul from sin.
  Wise Nature made him deaf, too, that He might
Not be disturbed, while he doth take delight        10
In inward things, nor be deprav’d with tongues,
Nor injured by the errors and the wrongs
That mortal words convey. For sin and death
Are most infused by accursèd breath,
That flowing from corrupted entrails, bear        15
Those hidden plagues which souls may justly fear.
  This, my dear friends, this was my blessed case;
For nothing spoke to me but the fair face
Of Heaven and Earth, before myself could speak,
I then my Bliss did, when my silence, break.        20
My non-intelligence of human words
Ten thousand pleasures unto me affords;
For while I knew not what they to me said,
Before their souls were into mine convey’d,
Before that living vehicle of wind        25
Could breathe into me their infected mind,
Before my thoughts were leaven’d with theirs, before
There any mixture was; the Holy Door,
Or gate of souls was close, and mine being one
Within itself to me alone was known.        30
Then did I dwell within a world of light,
Distinct and separate from all men’s sight,
Where I did feel strange thoughts, and such things see
That were, or seem’d, only reveal’d to me,
There I saw all the world enjoyed by one;        35
There I was in the world myself alone;
No business serious seemed but one; no work
But one was found; and that in me did lurk.
  D’ye ask me what? It was with clearer eyes
To see all creatures full of Deities;        40
Especially one’s self: And to admire
The satisfaction of all true desire:
’Twas to be pleased with all that God hath done;
’Twas to enjoy even all beneath the sun:
’Twas with a steady and immediate sense        45
To feel and measure all the excellence
Of things; ’twas to inherit endless treasure,
And to be filled with everlasting pleasure:
To reign in silence, and to sing alone,
To see, love, covet, have, enjoy and praise, in one:        50
To prize and to be ravish’d; to be true,
Sincere and single in a blessed view
Of all His gifts. Thus was I pent within
A fort, impregnable to any sin:
Until the avenues being open laid        55
Whole legions entered, and the forts betrayed:
Before which time a pulpit in my mind,
A temple and a teacher I did find,
With a large text to comment on. No ear
But eyes themselves were all the hearers there,        60
And every stone, and every star a tongue,
And every gale of wind a curious song.
The Heavens were an oracle, and spake
Divinity: the Earth did undertake
The office of a priest; and I being dumb        65
(Nothing besides was dumb), all things did come
With voices and instructions; but when I
Had gained a tongue, their power began to die.
Mine ears let other noises in, not theirs,
A noise disturbing all my songs and prayers.        70
My foes pulled down the temple to the ground;
They my adoring soul did deeply wound
And casting that into a swoon, destroyed
The Oracle, and all I there enjoyed:
And having once inspired me with a sense        75
Of foreign vanities, they march out thence
In troops that cover and despoil my coasts,
Being the invisible, most hurtful hosts.
  Yet the first words mine infancy did hear
The things which in my dumbness did appear,        80
Preventing all the rest, got such a root
Within my heart, and stick so close unto ’t,
It may be trampled on, but still will grow
And nutriment to soil itself will owe.
The first Impressions are Immortal all,        85
And let mine enemies hoop, cry, roar, or call,
Yet these will whisper if I will but hear,
And penetrate the heart, if not the ear.
 
Note 1. From the Poetical Works of Thomas Traherne, ed. by Bertram Dobell, London, 1903. [back]
 
 
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