Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 46. My Spirit
Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
46. My Spirit
By Thomas Traherne  (?1636–1674)
  MY naked simple Life was I;
  That Act so strongly shin’d
  Upon the earth, the sea, the sky,
  It was the substance of my mind;
    The sense itself was I.        5
I felt no dross nor matter in my soul,
No brims nor borders, such as in a bowl
We see. My essence was capacity,
    That felt all things;
    The thought that springs       10
Therefrom’s itself. It hath no other wings
  To spread abroad, nor eyes to see,
    Nor hands distinct to feel,
      Nor knees to kneel;
But being simple like the Deity       15
  In its own centre is a sphere
  Not shut up here, but everywhere.
  It acts not from a centre to
    Its object as remote,
  But present is when it doth view,       20
  Being with the Being it doth note
    Whatever it doth do.
It doth not by another engine work,
But by itself; which in the act doth lurk.
Its essence is transformed into a true       25
    And perfect act.
    And so exact
Hath God appeared in this mysterious fact,
  That ’tis all eye, all act, all sight,
    And what it please can be,       30
      Not only see,
Or do; for ’tis more voluble than light,
  Which can put on ten thousand forms,
  Being cloth’d with what itself adorns.
    This made me present evermore       35
    With whatsoe’er I saw.
  An object, if it were before
  My eye, was by Dame Nature’s law,
    Within my soul. Her store
Was all at once within me; all Her treasures       40
Were my immediate and internal pleasures,
Substantial joys, which did inform my mind.
    With all she wrought
    My soul was fraught,
And every object in my heart a thought       45
  Begot, or was; I could not tell,
    Whether the things did there
      Themselves appear,
Which in my Spirit truly seem’d to dwell;
  Or whether my conforming mind       50
  Were not even all that therein shin’d.
  But yet of this I was most sure,
    That at the utmost length.
  (So worthy was it to endure)
  My soul could best express its strength       55
    It was so quick and pure,
That all my mind was wholly everywhere,
Whate’er it saw, ’twas ever wholly there;
The sun ten thousand legions off, was nigh:
    The utmost star,       60
    Though seen from far,
Was present in the apple of my eye.
  There was my sight, my life, my sense,
    My substance, and my mind;
      My spirit shin’d       65
Even there, not by a transient influence:
  The act was immanent, yet there:
  The thing remote, yet felt even here.
    O Joy! O wonder and delight!
    O sacred mystery!       70
  My Soul a Spirit infinite!
  An image of the Deity!
    A pure substantial light!
That Being greatest which doth nothing seem!
Why, ’twas my all, I nothing did esteem       75
But that alone. A strange mysterious sphere!
    A deep abyss
    That sees and is
The only proper place of Heavenly Bliss.
  To its Creator ’tis so near       80
    In love and excellence,
      In life and sense,
In greatness, worth, and nature; and so dear,
  In it, without hyperbole,
  The Son and friend of God we see.       85
  A strange extended orb of Joy,
    Proceeding from within,
  Which did on every side, convey
  Itself, and being nigh of kin
    To God did every way       90
Dilate itself even in an instant, and
Like an indivisible centre stand,
At once surrounding all eternity.
    ’Twas not a sphere,
    Yet did appear,       95
One infinite. ’Twas somewhat every where,
  And though it had a power to see
    Far more, yet still it shin’d
      And was a mind
Exerted, for it saw Infinity.      100
  ’Twas not a sphere, but ’twas a might
  Invisible, and yet gave light.
    O wondrous Self! O sphere of light,
    O sphere of joy most fair
  O act, O power infinite;      105
  O subtile and unbounded air!
    O living orb of sight!
Thou which within me art, yet me! Thou eye,
And temple of His whole infinity!
  O what a world art Thou! A world within!      110
    All things appear,
    All objects are
Alive in Thee! Supersubstantial, rare,
  Above themselves, and nigh of kin
    To those pure things we find      115
      In His great mind
Who made the world! Tho’ now eclipsed by sin
  There they are useful and divine,
  Exalted there they ought to shine.



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