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Henry Charles Beeching, ed. (1859–1919). Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse. 1903.

By Thomas Traherne (1637?–1674)

The Ways of Wisdom

THESE 1 sweeter far than lilies are,
No roses may with these compare:
        How these excel
        No tongue can tell,
Which he that well and truly knows        5
        With praise and joy he goes!
How great and happy’s he that knows his ways
        To be divine and heavenly joys;
        To whom each city is more brave
Than walls of pearl, and streets which gold doth pave;        10
        Whose open eyes
        Behold the skies,
Who loves their wealth and beauty more
        Than kings love golden ore!
Who sees the heavenly ancient ways        15
Of God the Lord, with joy and praise
        More than the skies;
        With open eyes
Doth prize them all; yea, more than gems,
        And regal diadems;        20
That more esteemeth mountains, as they are,
        Than if they gold and silver were:
        To whom the sun more pleasure brings,
Than crowns, and thrones, and palaces to kings;
        That knows his ways        25
        To be the joys
And way of God. These things who knows
        With joy and praise he goes!
Note 1. The “Ways of Blessedness” was printed in the former edition of this book among anonymous poems; but Mr Dobell has traced the authorship to Traherne. The second piece is an extract from a much longer poem entitled “The Recovery.” Traherne’s poetry has some remarkable qualities, suggesting on one side Vaughan, on another Blake, and on another Norris of Bemerton. He plainly wrote with ease, and he writes at great length; but he repeats his thoughts and his rhymes again and again. His central idea is that the whole universe was created for man’s delight, and fails of its purpose if man is not delighted with it. Several of his poems describe the joys of life, especially in innocent childhood, sometimes with quaint particularity. Thus:

    New burnisht joys
  Which yellow gold and pearls excel!
Such sacred treasure are the limbs in boys
  In which a soul doth dwell!
Their organised joints and azure veins
More wealth include than all the world contains.
Or, again:
    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 they appeared to me,
  And everything which here I found,
While like an angel I did see,
  Adorned the ground.
Cursed and devised proprieties,
  With envy, avarice,
And frauds, those frauds that spoil e’en Paradise,
  Fled from the splendour of mine eyes;
And so did hedges, ditches, limits, bounds,
  I dreamed not ought of those,
But wandered over all men’s grounds,
  And found repose.