My Spirit

by Thomas Traherne

Original Language English

     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.
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
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
     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,
     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
          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,
               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
          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
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
     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
     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
          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,
          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
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!
     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
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
          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.
     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
Dilate itself even in an instant, and
Like an indivisible centre stand,
At once surrounding all eternity.
          'Twas not a sphere,
          Yet did appear,
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.
     '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;
     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!
          All things appear,
               All objects are
Alive in Thee! Supersubstantial, rare,
     Above themselves, and nigh of kin
          To those pure things we find
               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.

-- from The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse, Edited by D. H. S. Nicholson / Edited by A. H. E. Lee

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My Spirit