What are the main ideas of Thomas Traherne's The Salutation?

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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This poem is about the awesomeness of Life. In the poem, Thomas Traherne seems to speak as a person who "though once was blind, now can see" to quote the hymn. It is also reminiscent of the story from the bible where Jesus causes the scales to fall from the blind man's eyes and he sees everything with a new freshness and joy. This poem has the same sense of celebration.  First the poet wonders why the perfection of his body stayed hidden so long and mentions the parts, although he wants to know about the bit he can't see - his soul.  He realizes that in terms of Time itself, he has always existed - it is just only now can he see that.  Although that existence was in nothingness (chaos) he now can appreciate life's experiences through his senses - treasures.  He moves on to accept that these joys are gifts from God and that God must therefore appreciate and value him - perhaps as a likeness or heir.  The poem ends with the realization that there is no reason for God to do all this - except out of love for him.

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Thomas Traherne's (1636 or 1637 - 1674) "The Salutation" is a 'metaphysical poem.' After getting his M.A. from Oxford he took holy orders and served the Anglican Church faithfully till his death. He was a very humble and self effacing person whose literary worth was not recognized in his own life time. His poems were published only in 1903 in the "Poetical Works" and in 1910 in "Poems of Felicity."

The theme of his religious metaphysical poem "The Salutation" is about the life cycle of a Christian believer's soul.

Chronologically, the poem begins in the sixth stanza. Traherne tells us that God had created this earth long before he was born and prepared it for him by making it inhabitable and adorned it in a splendid manner. Traherne acknowledges his relationship with God as a true Christian believer by stating that he is "His son and heir."

The previous stanza, that is, the fifth describes what happens to his soul after his death. Since he is a true Christian believer his soul reaches heaven,

From dust I rise, And out of nothing now awake; These brighter regions which salute mine eyes, A gift from God I take.

As soon as he dies and is buried  his body becomes dust but, because of his Christian faith his soul goes to heaven and his eyes are "saluted" that is 'greeted' with the glorious sight of the  "brighter regions" that is 'heaven.' Salvation is a "gift" from God. It is Traherne's reward for his faith in Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world:

From dust I rise, And out of nothing now awake; These brighter regions which salute mine eyes, A gift from God I take.

Real enjoyment of the mundane beauties of this world  is only possible if a person values and longs to reach the "brighter regions" of heaven:

The earth, the seas, the light, the day, the skies, The sun and stars are mine if those I prize.

"Those" refers to the "brighter regions" of heaven.

Stanzas 2, 3, and 4 describe his rapturous joy and amazement at Jesus Christ's grace and mercy in resurrecting his dead body at his Second Coming and taking him with Him to heaven to enjoy the glorious treasures there:

New burnished joys, Which yellow gold and pearls excel!

He reiterates this in the last stanza which describes the status of his soul in heaven by saying that he is simply amazed and awed by the mysterious plan of Christ's salvation for his soul:

A stranger here Strange things doth meet, strange glories see; That strangest is of all, yet brought to pass. Strange treasures lodged in this fair world appear, Strange all and new to me; But that they mine should be, who nothing was,

Traherne's amazement and awe are foregrounded by his repeated use of the word "strange" and the 'play' in the word "stranger."

The first stanza is based on Jesus Christ's declaration, that one cannot enter heaven till he becomes a little child. The first stanza describes Traherne's wonder and amazement at being transformed into a small child in heaven:

These little limbsThese eyes and hands which here I find, These rosy cheeks wherewith my life begins, Where have ye been? behind What curtain were ye from me hid so long? Where was, in what abyss, my speaking tongue?

In the first stanza Traherne asks a series of rhetorical questions the answer to which is found in the middle of the fourth stanza:

Such sacred treasures are the limbs in boys, In which a soul doth dwell; Their organizèd joints and azure veins More wealth include than all the world contains.

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