Traherne Questions

ENGL 520

Dr. Fike


  1. On pages 1083-86 you will find numbered excerpts from Traherne’s Centuries.  Use the relationship between the prose texts and the poem in section 4 (“That childish thoughts such joys inspire”) to evaluate the view that Traherne’s poems are “little more than shortened versions of his prose” (DLB).  Obviously, there is an intertextual relationship between the prose and the poem (be able to discuss this), but does the poem add anything to the prose text?  You will need to chart parallels and then see if anything new emerges in the poem.  Do you find any evidence here that Traherne’s prose is superior to his poetry?  Does the poem, as poetry, add anything to the prose statements?


  1. In section 7 (page 1086), what things contribute, in Traherne’s opinion, to the fall out of innocence and into experience?  Make a list and then take the matter a step further:  What does Traherne say about Adam, paradise, and the relationship between the fall and “custom” (page 1086, right column)?  Have a look at “Innocence,” stanza 4, as you consider the fall and add this poem’s insights to your answer.


  1. How might the categories that William Blake establishes—innocence, experience, and organized innocence—help us process Traherne’s statements about the soul’s journey (especially his statements in his prose excerpts)?  Along with these categories, Blake talks about seeing not with but through the eye ("Auguries of Innocence"), especially in the statement from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell quoted in the note on page 1090.:  “If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear as it is:  infinite.”  How does this statement illuminate today’s reading assignment?


  1. In “The Preparative” Traherne develops his concept of childhood innocence.  What does he say about it in this poem?  You will find that stanza 6 is quite difficult but very important:  how does his argument develop sentence by sentence?  What is he saying there about the perceptual process?  (Note:  It may help you to read “loath” as a verb rhyming with “clothe” three lines later.  Also, “The Instruction” on page 1090 will help you figure out Traherne’s position on perception.)


  1. “The Demonstration” is not so much Romantic as it is Platonic.  What is the main point that Traherne is making here about perception?  In other words, how does the poem further our understanding of his take on the perceptual process?  How is that take particularly Platonic here?  See if you can sum up the poem’s main point in a sentence of two.  And one other question:  What is the poem saying about the relationship between human beings and God?


  1. The last poem, “The Anticipation,” is quite difficult because it is “philosophical” and uses terms that need definition.  First, as note 1 suggests, see the poem as a development of something in “The Demonstration”:  what might that something be?  Second, get straight on the distinction between efficient cause, means, and final cause.  Try to sum up the poem in a few sentences or a short paragraph.  You may find some insight in the following website: