Friday, July 29, 2011

`Your Work Is Quick, Direct, Exact and Keen'

“Homage to Thomas Traherne” (Timely Issues, 2001) by the late Elizabeth Jennings:

“Your prose could hardly be more close to verse.
It soars, it sings, and God is your great theme,
Your paeans to Him never seem to cease,
He filled each waking moment and, in dream,

“God surely must have faced you gladly with
All his graces shining, sweet and clear.
You never needed to have fear of death
Yet your contrition was not hard to hear.

 “Your Centuries are noble, rich, serene,
Leaping with love and dancing with delight
And it is clear exactly what you mean.

“Traherne, you’ve lighted up my blackest night.
Your work is quick, direct, exact and keen
And everywhere I read I come on light.” 

Jennings refers to Traherne’s Centuries of Meditations, surely among the most beautiful books in the language:

“The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold: the gates were at first the end of the world. The green trees when I saw them first through one of the gates transported and ravished me, their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things.”

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