Shadows in the Water
In unexperienced infancy Many a sweet mistake doth lie: Mistake though false, intending true; A seeming somewhat more than view; That doth instruct the mind In things that lie behind, And many secrets to us show Which afterwards we come to know. Thus did I by the water's brink Another world beneath me think; And while the lofty spacious skies Reversèd there, abused mine eyes, I fancied other feet Came mine to touch or meet; As by some puddle I did play Another world within it lay. Beneath the water people drowned, Yet with another heaven crowned, In spacious regions seemed to go As freely moving to and fro: In bright and open space I saw their very face; Eyes, hands, and feet they had like mine; Another sun did with them shine. 'Twas strange that people there should walk, And yet I could not hear them talk: That through a little watery chink, Which one dry ox or horse might drink, We other worlds should see, Yet not admitted be; And other confines there behold Of light and darkness, heat and cold. I called them oft, but called in vain; No speeches we could entertain: Yet did I there expect to find Some other world, to please my mind. I plainly saw by these A new antipodes, Whom, though they were so plainly seen, A film kept off that stood between. By walking men's reversèd feet I chanced another world to meet; Though it did not to view exceed A phantom, 'tis a world indeed; Where skies beneath us shine, And earth by art divine Another face presents below, Where people's feet against ours go. Within the regions of the air, Compassed about with heavens fair, Great tracts of land there may be found Enriched with fields and fertile ground; Where many numerous hosts In those far distant coasts, For other great and glorious ends Inhabit, my yet unknown friends. O ye that stand upon the brink, Whom I so near me through the chink With wonder see: what faces there, Whose feet, whose bodies, do ye wear? I my companions see In you another me. They seemèd others, but are we; Our second selves these shadows be. Look how far off those lower skies Extend themselves! scarce with mine eyes I can them reach. O ye my friends, What secret borders on those ends? Are lofty heavens hurled 'Bout your inferior world? Are yet the representatives Of other peoples' distant lives? Of all the playmates which I knew That here I do the image view In other selves, what can it mean? But that below the purling stream Some unknown joys there be Laid up in store for me; To which I shall, when that thin skin Is broken, be admitted in.
This poem is in the public domain.
Born in 1637, Thomas Traherne is often considered as the last of the Metaphysical poets
Date Published: 1910-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/shadows-water