« Prev Notes and References Next »




     IT should perhaps be stated that though the original manuscript of this work is written in a clear and beautiful handwriting, it is in very small characters, and is in some places difficult to decipher, owing to interlineations, and to the fact that many words and passages have been crossed through for omission. Had the author lived to revise his work for publication, there can be little doubt that he would have altered or modified some parts of it. Little indulgence indeed is required for it on account of the want of revision; but naturally there are here and there oversights, redundancies, and repetitions which would not have been found if the author had lived to give the final touches to his work. These defects, however, are of little consequence, and such as affect only the expression, and not the substance of the author’s thought. Very few works which have not received the benefit of their author’s after-thoughts would bear the test of critical examination so well as the present.



     In printing this book the general principle which I have kept in view has been to endeavour to make its perusal as easy as possible for modern readers, while not departing in any essential point from the original text. I have indeed modernised the spelling throughout in all but a few cases, since I could not see that any advantage would be gained by retaining the old orthography. I have also modified very considerably Traherne’s punctuation, which is very peculiar, and would, if it had been retained, have placed many obstacles in the way of apprehending his meaning. I have only done this, however, where it seemed clearly necessary, and I have perhaps allowed the original punctuation to remain in some cases where it might have been altered with advantage. Mention should also be made of the fact that Traherne, like most writers of his time, made abundant use of capital letters in his works. These I have thought it best to suppress in most cases, in accordance with the modern practice. However, I have allowed a number of them to stand partly in order to preserve some traces of this characteristic, and partly because in a few cases it seemed expedient to retain them. These things, seeing that they affect only the unessential elements of style, I have thought it within my province to regulate; but otherwise I have kept strictly to the author’s text, without presuming in any way to alter or amend it.

     For many of the notes which follow I have to express my indebtedness to my friend, Mr. W. T. Brooke. To 331Mr. Thorn Drury also, who has read the proofs, I am under many obligations.



Notes on The First Century:


Page 1. Line 1. ‘An empty book is like an infant’s soul.’ Here Traherne may possibly have had in his mind a passage in Bishop Earle’s “Microcosmography.” In delineating the character of a child, Earle says: “His soul is yet a white paper unscribbled with observations of the world, wherewith at length it becomes a blurred note-book,”

Page 14. Line 25. The entrance of his words. This sentence is from Psalm cxix. 130.

Page 15. Last line of Med. 21. “Insatiableness.” This word in Traherne’s time was often used in a good sense, and not as now exclusively is a bad one.

Page 21. The quotation at the bottom of the page is from Genesis xxviii. 16. Traherne’s reading, however, differs somewhat from that of the Authorised Version. In this and in many other cases it looks as if he trusted to his memory only, and so was often untrue to the letter of his text, though never to its spirit.

Page 22. Line13. They walk on in darkness. This is from Psalm lxxxii. 5; as is also the quotation at the end of the Meditation.

Page 27. Line 1 of Med. 40. “Socrates was wont.” Traherne wrote first as follows: “Socrates the 332 glorious philosopher, was wont to say ‘They were most happy,’” & c. In substituting are for were he overlooked the fact that he was rendering the sentence ungrammatical.

Page 40. Line 3.Where the carcase is. Matthew xxiv. 28.

Page 41. Line 3 of Med. 59. It is an ensign. This sentence is from Isaiah xi. 10 and 12.

Page 57. Line 6. Sweeter to me. A quotation from Psalm xix. 70 and from cxix. 72.

Page 57. Line 17. As I have loved you— 1 John xiii. 34.

Pages 60-1. Med. 81. My goodness extendeth not, &c. Psalm xvi. 2-3.

Page 71. Line 14. Having eyes I see not, &c. The reference here is to Psalm cxxxv. 1,6‑17.

Page 71. Line 20. Visit me. . . Holy Hill. Psalm xliii. 3.

Page 72. Line 5 from bottom. ‘Of whom’ to end of sentence. Cf. Ephesians iii. 15‑19.

Page 73. Line 3. O Thou who ascendedst, &c. cf. Psalm lxviii. 18.

Page 75. Line 19. That I may dwell, &c. John xvii. 28.

Page 77. Line 6. We are the Sons of God, &c. Cf. 1 John iii. 2.

Page 77. Line 21. A chosen generation, &c. 1 Peter ii. 9.


Page 79. Line 7. Sing the song of Moses, &c. Revelation xv. 3.


Notes on the Second Century

Page 94. Line 9. The Book of —— The reference here is to the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon xiii. 1-5.

Page 104. Med. 33. As originally written this Meditation commenced thus: ‘Whether the sufferings of an. Angel would have been meritorious or no I will not dispute: but’—— And the following sentence, which comes after the first, has also been crossedout: ‘So that it was an honour and no injury to be called to it: And so great an honour that it was an ornament to God himself, and an honour even to the second Person in the Trinity.’ There are a good many passages in Traherne’s manuscript which are thus marked for omission; but in most cases they are of little importance, being only such redundancies of expression or needless repetitions as any author would expunge on reviewing his work. Therefore in these notes I mention only those omissions which seem to me to be of some importance.

Page 105. Line 8. For which cause, &c. This sentence is an adaptation from some verses in Philippians ii. 5-9.

Page 106. Line 15. Counted all things but dross, & c. Philippians iii. 8.

Page 106. Line 3. For the redemption, 334 &c. Traherne is here quoting from Psalm xlix. 7-8; but he has rather obscured the meaning by giving the verses in inverted order. What is to cease for ever is man’s attempt to redeem man, a task which only a God could accomplish. The meaning indeed is not very clear in the Authorised Version; the Prayer Book version is more perspicuous‑°But no man may deliver his brother, nor make agreement to God for him: for it cost more to redeem their souls, so that he must let that alone for ever.’

Page 107. Med. 36. After the first sentence of this Meditation, the following passage (which is marked for omission in the original MS.) occurs: ‘It was not convenient that the Righteousness of the Judge Himself should be accepted for ours, but the Righteousness of another, who on our behalf should appear before our Judge. For which cause it was necessary that another and not the Judge should be Righteous in our stead: and that in suffering as well as doing. Now no Angel could be Righteous in suffering, because, though by Almighty power sustaining, he might be upheld to suffer infinite punishments, yet by his own strength he could not suffer infinite punishments, at least not so as to be virtuous and 335meritorious in suffering them for us. For to suffer virtuously and meritoriously is so to suffer as to love the Inflicter in the midst of sufferings. Which no Angel under infinite torments, by his own strength was able to do, being hated of God.’

Page 108. Line 12. He through the Eternal Spirit, &c. Hebrews v. 7.

Page 122. Med. 60. Between the first and second sentences of this Meditation the following crossed out passage occurs: ‘Who more prizeth our naked love than temples full of gold: Whose naked Love is more delightful to us than all worlds; and Whose greatest gifts and treasures are living souls and friends and lovers. Who, as He hath manifested His love by giving us His Son, hath manifested it also by giving us all his sons and servants: commanding them to love us with the precious love wherewith they do themselves.’

Page 126. Med. 67. This Meditation is singularly Blake-like in thought; and the Poet-Artist would have been delighted with it had he known it: Let the reader compare it with Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence:”

To see a world in a grain of sand,

And a heav’n in a wild flower,



Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,

And eternity in an hour.

God appears and God is light

To those poor souls who dwell in night;

But does a human form display

To those who dwell in realms of day.

Pages 130-1. After this . . . to the Lamb. Revelation vii. 9-10.

Page 131. Lines 5-12. Revelation v. 8. 10.

Page 131. Line 12-20. Revelation, v. 11‑13.

Page 142 Lines 4,5. Appear before God in Sion, &c. Pg. lxxxiv. 7.

Page 153. Romans viii. 38‑9.


Notes on the Third Century


Page 161. Line 1. He must be born again, &c. This is a compound citation from John iii. 3, and Mark x. 15, in the order named.

Page 182. Line 17. For all things should work together, &c. See Romans viii. 28.

Page 184. Lines 10-11. Being Satan is able, &c. 2 Corinthians xi. 14.

Page 184. Last line. Like a sparrow, &c. Psalm cii.

Page 187. Line 1. Mechanisms. This word is, in the original MS., ‘mechanicismes.’

Page 187. Line 7. Like the King’s daughter, &c. Psalm xlv. 14.

Page 188. Med. 39. The best of all possible ends, &c. Traherne is here thinking of the Shorter Catechism, 1645: ‘What is the chief end of 337 Man? To glorify God: and enjoy Him for ever.’

Page 191. Med. 43. first sentence. This is slightly obscure, and it looks as if the word ‘are’ had been accidentally omitted after ’outgoings.’ If we read the sentence, after the first clause, as follows, the meaning becomes quite clear: “because we are with Him whose outgoings are everlasting: our duty being to contemplate God, and to walk with Him in all His ways: and therefore to be entertained with everything He has created, since He is the fountain, governor, and end of them.’

Page 203. Last line. Acts xvii. 23.

Page 204. Line 24. Alienated from the life of God, &c. Ephesians iv. 18.

Page 210. Med. 67. Blessing the Lord . . . and fullness thereof. Deuteronomy xxxiii. 13‑16.

Page 211. Line 6. All these will I give thee, &c. Genesis xiii. 15.

Page 212. Med. 69. This poem in many ways anticipates Christopher Smarts “Song to David,” and should be compared with it. Of course Smart could have known nothing of it.

Page 218. Med. 73. Quoted from Psalm xxii. 23‑31.

Page 219. The Earth is the lord’s, &c. Psalm xxiv. 1.

Page 219. Because they regard not, & c. Psalm xxxviii. 5.

Page 219. Med. 75. The passage here quoted is from Psalm xxxiii. 6‑9.


Page 220. All my bones shall say, &c. Psalm xxxv. 10.

Page 220. Thy mercy, O Lord, etc. Psalm xxxvi. 5‑9.

Page 220. Med. 77. The quotation here is from Psalm xlv. 10, 13‑16.

Page 220. Med. 78. The quotations here are from Psalm xlvi. 4 and 8.

Page 222. Med. 79. The quotations here are from Psalm xlviii. 2, 3, and 12-14.

Page 222. Med. 80. By “this following” in the second line Traherne means Psalm xlix., he having quoted from Psalm xlviii. in the previous Meditation.

Page 222. They that trust in their wealth, &c. This quotation is from Psalm xlix. 6, 7, 8, 10, I1, 13, 14, and 20.

Page 223. Med. 81. The quotation here is from Psalm 1. 7‑I5.

Page 225. Med. 83. The quotation here is from Hebrews x. 5, itself a quotation from Psalm xl. 6, altered.

Page 226. Thou desirest not sacrifice, &c. Psalm li. 16 and 17.

Page 226. Med. 84. Converting to Him, &c. “Converting” is here used, as was then not uncommon, in the sense of °’ being converted.”

Page 227. Med. 85. The quotations here are from Psalms lviii. 10 and lix. 16.

Page 227. Med. 86. The quotations here are from Psalms lxiii. 1‑5 and lxv. 2‑4.


Page 228. Med. 87. The quotation here is from Psalm lxvi. 1-5.

Page 229. Med. 88. The quotation here is from Psalm lxxxiv. 12-14.

Page 230. Med. 91. The quotation here is from Psalm lxxxvi. 8-10.

Page 231. Line 2 from bottom. Whoso considereth these things, &c. Psalm cvii. 43.


Notes on the Fourth Century


Page 238. Med. 1. In the wording of this meditation, and of several other passages in the Fourth Century, it seems as though Traherne is speaking not of himself, but of, a friend and teacher of his. He did this, no doubt, in order that he might not lay himself open to the charge of over-egotism. Yet that he is throughout relating his own experiences is proved by the fact that this Meditation, as first written, contains passages which the author afterwards marked for omission. In its original form it began thus: “Since the author in the last century hath spoken so much concerning his entrance and progress into the study of Felicity, and all he hath there said pertaineth only to the contemplative part of it, I will in this Century speak of the principles with which he endued himself to enjoy it.” This seems conclusive, though there are later on in this “Century” passages in which the author appears to be speaking not of his own experiences, but of that of 340 a friend who had communicated them to him.

Page 240. Line 22. In him are hid, &c. Colossians ii. 3.

Page 243. Line 13. We must dig for her, &c. Proverbs ii. 4.

Page 243. Line 17. Wisdom is the principal thing, &c. Proverbs iv. 7-9.

Page 246. Line 2. Ye are not straitened, &c. 2 Corinthians xxiv. 20.

Page 248. Med. 13. Line 4. Alone like a sparrow, &c. Psalm cii. 6 and 7.

Page 252. Med. 18. Line 6. For it is more blessed, &c. Acts xx. 35.

Page 253. Med. 20. Compare this Meditation with the poem “Of Meekness,” which is to be found on page 145 of Traherne’s “Poetical Works.”

Page 259. Line 10. Inasmuch as ye have done it, &c. Matthew xxv. 40.

Page 265. Line 25. In all thy keeping, &c. Proverbs iv. 23.

Page 269. Line 13. It is more blessed, &c. Acts xx. 35.

Page 281. Line 5. What ye do to him, &c. Matthew xxv. 40.

Page 292-3. The Alpha and Omega, the first and the last &c. Revelation i. 11 and 18.

Page 293. Line 2. The Glory which Thou last given me &c. John xvii. 22.


Page 293. Line 4. In Him the fulness of the Godhead, &c. Colossians ii. 19.

Page 293. Line 6. His Church is the fulness, &c. Ephesians i. 22.

Page 294. Line 10. How precious are thy Thoughts, &c. Psalm cxxxix. 17, 18.

Page 304. Line 10. My love is a spring, &c. Song of Solomon iv. 12.


Notes on The Fifth Century


Page 327. Med. 10. Here the manuscript ends. That the author intended to continue his work there can be no doubt, and we may therefore conclude that he was prevented from finishing it by his too early death. It is a loss to us that it is thus incomplete: yet in the work as it stands we have perhaps a sufficiently full statement of the main points of the author’s religion and philosophy. Like all other creeds it will perhaps only appeal to those minds which are prepared to receive it; but it is one, nevertheless; which must command the respect even of those who are least inclined to accept its teachings. It presents Christianity (or at least Protestant Christianity) in its most favourable aspect; nor is it likely that as an eloquent and persuasive exposition of its leading doctrines it will ever be surpassed or superseded: There are no doubt some few things in it which even devout believers will no longer 342 hold themselves bound to accept as necessary to salvation; but on the whole, if the Christian faith is not to undergo an entire transformation at the hands of its modern apologists, it must be expounded as Traherne expounds it, not as a collection of soulless dogmas embodied in formal confessions of faith, but as a great reality, which is of the deepest concernment to all men, and without which the life of man is an inexplicable enigma.


Printed by BALLANTYNE & CO. LIMITED Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London





« Prev Notes and References Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |