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    aerial view of farmland on a frosty morning

    How Dreadful Is This Place

    A seventeenth-century priest pens an exuberant manifesto of thanksgiving and delight in the created world.

    By Thomas Traherne

    November 23, 2023

    Your enjoyment of the world is never right till every morning you awake in heaven; see yourself in your Father’s palace; and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as celestial joys: having such a reverend esteem of all, as if you were among the angels. The bride of a monarch in her husband’s chamber, hath no such causes of delight as you.

    aerial view of farmland on a frosty morning

    Photograph by weise_maxim.

    You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars; and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.

    Till your spirit filleth the whole world, and the stars are your jewels; till you are as familiar with the ways of God in all ages as with your walk and table; till you are intimately acquainted with that shady nothing out of which the world was made; till you love men so as to desire their happiness with a thirst equal to the zeal of your own; till you delight in God for being good to all; you never enjoy the world. Till you more feel it than your private estate, and are more present in the hemisphere, considering the glories and the beauties there, than in your own house; till you remember how lately you were made, and how wonderful it was when you came into it; and more rejoice in the palace of your glory than if it had been made but today morning.

    Till you can sing and delight in God as misers do in gold, you never enjoy the world.

    Yet further, you never enjoyed the world aright, till you so love the beauty of enjoying it that you are covetous and earnest to persuade others to enjoy it. And so perfectly hate the abominable corruption of men in despising it, that you had rather suffer the flames of hell than willingly be guilty of their error. There is so much blindness, and ingratitude, and damned folly in it. The world is a mirror of infinite beauty, yet no man sees it. It is a temple of majesty, yet no man regards it. It is a region of light and peace, did not men disquiet it. It is the paradise of God. It is more to man since he is fallen, than it was before. It is the place of angels, and the gate of heaven. When Jacob awaked out of his dream, he said, God is here, and I wist it not. How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven.

    Source: Thomas Traherne, Centuries of Meditations (London: Bertram Dobell, Ed., 1908) 20–21.

    Contributed By ThomasTraherne Thomas Traherne

    Thomas Traherne (1637–1674) was an English-Anglican clergyman known for his mystical poetry and his joy and appreciation of the natural world.

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