Poem about Traherne, by Robert Siegel

It never fails to surprise me when I come across another noted author or poet whose vision of the world was influenced by Thomas Traherne. I recently happened upon this poem by Robert Siegel (1939-2012), an American poet and novelist. It is certainly worth sharing. Enjoy!


     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.
               — Centuries


In God’s green camp you sit in a silk tent,
flowers springing under your feet, intent upon
marigolds, goldenrod—sweet ragweed—
Ferdinand forgetful of the fly
which shakes the air with its small news of war.
The ramparts of the camp unwatched, you think:

Let Charles the Martyre go and Cromwell come,
turning his ear to horn inside the coach
while George Fox running beside it shouts for peace—
still at the still point Thy Kingdom comes.

We marvel how an angel like you came—
when precious stones were smoothed for every sling
that flickered at Goliath in the clouds—
to gather ordinary stones from the road
and wash them till they shone in a sluice of light.


The smallest grain of wheat would light the ground
like the sun or perhaps the moon gorging
on the summer air—
                                        each drop of dew,
a world lying spendthrift in the grass,
and the sky dreaming between wheel-ruts
an image of the soul.
                                        In the best sense simple,
each word is a single drop in a still pool,
a leaf turned up by the barest stitch of wind,
accommodating as the edge of a lake and yet
resting at its own level.

                    To read your prose we need a kind
of smoked glass. Each sentence flashes like gold
dredged from the sea’s grave—the absolutely
real, from which we startle like fish
streaking to hide in a thick net of dreams.


Suppose a river, a drop of water, an apple, or a sand.
Suppose the object in the patina of being,
cushioned on the infinitude of God, a light shifting
like a rainbow on the lake’s sandy bottom.

Here is the promised rest—a motion and a rest—
the soul, Ezekiel’s wheel full of eyes,
wings unfurling candescent Beatrice
while red and white and green dancers shift their ground.

Suppose a curious and fair woman, like this one
tense with the lineaments of fire,
busy about the two infernal refugees
dragged from the pit.
                                        The poet turns to his guide,
the film through which everything might be borne—
gone, nothing now but fire beating air.


Copyright 2006 by Robert Siegel
Published in Pentecost of Finches: New and Selected Poems (Paraclete Press)

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Poem about Traherne, by Robert Siegel

  1. Jennifer Hampton says:

    Thank you for donating a copy of Waking Up in Heaven, to the Wheaton College Bookstore. There is a Conference, which every year requests from us the book, Centuries of Meditations for the book table. I would be interested in providing them with Waking Up in Heaven as an alternative, but I can’t easily find it. Can you point me in the right direction?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s