Meditations by Thomas Traherne

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Thomas Traherne was born in 1637 in Hereford, England.  He went to Oxford University, and was ordained as an Anglican clergyman in 1660.  He first served in a parish near Credenhill, and later became the chaplain to Sir Orlando Bridgeman, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal.  Traherne died in 1674 (age 37) and was buried in Teddington, under the reading desk in St. Mary’s church where he had served.  Traherne led a humble, devout and largely–unnoticed–life.  In fact, he was a poet ahead of his time. Themes he covered – the glory of creation and love for the natural world–predate Romantic poets  William Blake, Walt Whitman, and Gerard Manley Hopkins by two centuries.

That we have his poetry at all is a mix of luck, chance and providence.

The majority of Thomas Traherne’s poetry remained unknown until 1896, when two of his manuscripts were discovered in a London bookstall. Poetical Works was first published in 1903; it was followed in 1908 by Centuries of Meditations. A manuscript found  a few years later in the British Museum was published as Traherne’s Poems of Felicity . In 1967 the weirdest rescue occurred – a poetry manuscript attributed to Traherne was discovered on fire in a refuse dump near Lancashire by a man in search of spare auto parts. The manuscript was published as Commentaries of Heaven: The Poems in 1989.

Here is a link to an interesting video–an animation of Thomas Traherne reading his poetry.

For more information, a link to The Traherne Association.

One thought on “Meditations by Thomas Traherne

  1. Thomas Traherne was one of the greatest poets in English literature. And he is still underrepresented. Notice his absence in the Norton Anthology. He was part of the so called Metaphysical poets along with Donne, Herbert and others. His poems are suffused with great beauty, lyricism, wonder and awe. His songs of innocence predate Blake’s similar subject matter by two hundred years and are in no way inferior. Read “The Salutation”. which depicts the voice and mind, the awe and wonder of a child entering this world at his birth. It is as stunning a poem as I have ever read. Listen also to Gerald Finzi’s gorgeous setting of this poem to music. And tell me you aren’t deeply moved.

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