Poem Criticism: EDEN by Thomas Traherne (1636-1674)

Written by: SYAYID SANDI SUKANDI BP. 03185014 


Poem is a piece of creative writing in verse, especially one expressing deep feeling (Hornby, 1995:890). The feeling of a poet is directly or implicitly can be viewed in a poem. In this paper, there will be a poem analysis. Reaske (1997:7) states that interpreting a poem is sometime a matter of ‘intuition; and imaginative interpretation. This is why there is a statement that analysing a poem is an enjoyable and provocative mental exercise.
The exercise, as intuitionally to get the meaning of a poem, is what the critics did. Meanwhile, in interpreting a poem, there is a value. One of the values that a poem has is an aesthetic value (Reaske, 1996:59). As the introduction, the main consideration of this paper is focused on an indefinable aesthetic value. It is in the ‘Silence Faith Imagery’. A data from Reaske (1996:57) says that every of us respond to certain descriptions in poetry in ways that we do not understand or even always try to understand. In this case, the respond is in the religious atmosphere of the word ‘faith’.

In this writing, the poem will be analysed is ‘Eden’ written by Thomas Traherne (1636-1674). As an introduction about the author, there is some data about Traherne. He is a poet in the seventeenth century. According to Quennel (1973:140), Traherne is not really known for his life. But soon, after he produced Centuries of Meditation, Roman Forgeries, and Christian Ethics, he became a quiet famous poet. Blake and Wordsworth’s works influences him. Traherne put his poem as a religious one. Then, he is stated as a religious poet for the whole years until today. 

Eden by Thomas Taherne (1636-1674)
A learned an a happy ignorance
Divided me
From all the vanity
From all the sloth, care, pain, and sorrow that advance
The madness and the misery
Of men. No error, no distraction I
Saw soil the earth or overloud the sky
Unwelcome penitence was the unknown
Vain costly toys
Swearing and roaring boys
Shops, markets, taverns, coaches, were unshown;
So all things were that drowned my joys
No thorns choked up my path, nor hid the face
Of bliss and beauty, nor eclipsed the place
Only what Adam in his first estate
Did I behold
Hard silver and dry gold
As yet lay under ground; my blessed fate
Was more acquainted with the old
And innocent delights which he did see In his original simplicity
Those things which first his Eden did adorn
My infancy
Did crown. Simplicity
Was my protection when I first was born
Mine eyes those treasures first did see
Which God first made.
The first effects of love
My first enjoyments upon earthy did prove
(Quennell, 1973:141-142) 


According to Alexander (1963:15), one of the structural devices in analysing a poem is illustration. Illustration takes the form of a vivid picture by which a poet may make an idea clear. By using this device, I am able to get the main idea as expressed by Traherne in Eden. 

In line with a statement that interpreting a poem is an imaginative interpretation, it leads us to use our mental. It means that in understanding the message of a poem needs a mental process inside. The process in here is the religion. The process of a faith expressed by the poet. Images are the sensory contents of a work, whether literal or figurative (Barnet, 2003:212). It means that whatever in a poem appeals to any of our senses is an image. 

The illustration of the ‘silence faith imagery’ in this poem can be explored by analysing the words used so that the image is clear and by analysing the aesthetic value it contains after reading it as a whole. The words used determine the atmosphere of the poem. As Blake and Wordsworth atmosphere, Traherne have the religious one. Meanwhile, the aesthetic value is more personal. 

This statement is supported by Barnet (2003:57). She states:
Every reader presumed to have some kind of aesthetic need; though generally indefinable, aesthetic need is combined from various personal appreciation for beautiful and, to some extent, sensually appealing abject, scenes […]
It means that the aesthetic value is subjective. It depends on the feedback of the reader. In this case, it is the beautiful religious personal appreciation and the description of Silence Faith Imagery. 


The meaning of Silence Faith Imagery can be concluded from the meaning of the word ‘silence’, ‘faith’, and ‘imagery’. ‘Silence’ means the condition of being quiet or silent; the absent of sound (Hornby, 1995:1101), ‘Faith’ means strong religious belief (Hornby, 1995:417), and ‘Imagery’ means imaginative language that produces pictures in the minds of people reading (Hornby, 1995:592). So, it can be concluded that the meaning of Silence Faith Imagery is the image of strong religious feeling that is expressed by no sound with imaginative language as its’ medium in delivering the religious expression. 

Firstly, the imagery is found in the words used. As the poem is written in the four stanzas, each of the stanzas has words that indicate the silence faith imagery. In the first stanza, there are ‘vanity’ and ‘misery’. I concern that in the first stanza, the poet expresses his feeling about ‘ignorance’ of all ‘vanity’ and continued by ‘sloth, care, pain, and sorrow’. All this words are expressions. The poet address them to something ‘overloud the sky’. There is purpose in it. The purpose is the expression delivered. Meanwhile, the word ‘misery’ is also an expression, which is also purposed to the ‘something’ in the sky as it is found on the last line of the first stanza.
In the second stanza, there is a word ‘penitence’. It is also an expression. The poet addresses his expression through the stanza. All lines are expressions but they are different as the first stanza because there is no purpose statement at all, even in the last line. All of the expressions are a state. Then, they are expressed in the third stanza. 

In the third stanza, there is: Only what Adam in his first estate Did I behold It means, all the expressions are purposed to Adam. In line with the first stanza, we can see that the expressions of ‘vanity’, ‘misery’, and ‘penitence’. Next, there is: Hard silver and dry gold As yet lay under ground; my blessed fate Was more acquainted with the old And innocent delights which he did see In his original simplicity This part is the end of all expressions. But, the poet describe that Adam see ‘someone’. It is Eve. Eve is a woman. She is illustrated as ‘innocent delights’ and seen in ‘original simplicity’ by Adam. 

Then, we come to the fourth stanza. In this stanza, all the expressions are in their last goal. Te poet writes: Those things which first his Eden did adorn My infancy Did crown. Simplicity It means that the ‘those things’ as they have been mentioned in the first until the third stanza are the statement of Eden adornment. Adam and Eve were what adorn by the Eden. This statements lead into an atmosphere of ‘faith’. It is the ‘faith’ of Adam and Eve. 

Was my protection when I first was born
Mine eyes those treasures first did see
Which God first made.
The first effects of love
My first enjoyments upon earthy did prove
The word ‘love’ is the highest level of this poem. Love is what Adam and Eve has when they were in Eden. Love is symbolized as a sacred thing in this poem. ‘Was my protection’ gives the reader that it is the poet’s strength when he was born to this earth. The poet was in ‘Eden’ before he was born to the earth. In addition, the poet try to express his feeling toward the imaginative words such as ‘saw soil’ in the first stanza, ‘Did I behold’ in the third stanza, and ‘mine eyes’ in the fourth stanza. 

After all analysis or the stanzas, it can be concluded that the ‘Eden’ expresses the feeling of a poet in terms of Adam and Eve. They are the first one who has ‘love’ and it was so beautiful to be seen and felt. At the end, it becomes ‘enjoyments’ in the earth expressed by the poet in the last line of the fourth stanza. Besides the use of words, ‘Eden’ can be analysed also based on the aesthetic value. As the aesthetic value is a subjective one, I would state that the value is about the beauty of Eden. The beauty is the ‘love’. Specifically, it is the love of Adam and Eve. This love is a sacred thing. Since ‘Eden’ is a paradise place, it means an image because the poet writes his poem as if he is in the ‘Eden’. This thing leads our mind to the faith in a religion. The religion can be Christian r Islam as well. The reason is that in all Christian or Islam, Adam and Eve were the first human created by the God. At that time, they have ‘love’ before they were thrown from the heaven. So, it is the silence faith imagery. There is no sound to be voiced. It was just a feeling of faith to Adam and Eve in which the poet through imaginative words images them. Nevertheless, it depends on the readers. 


The silence faith imagery is the faith of the poet to Adam and Eve in this poem. It can be viewed form the words used. They give an aesthetic value. The image of silence faith is what the illustration device illustrates to the readers. 


Alexander, L.G. 1963. Poetry and Prose Appreciation for Overseas Students. London; Longman Group Limited.
Barnet, Sylvan. 2003. A Short Guide to Writing about Literature. Ninth edition. New York; Longman.
Hornby, A.S. 1995. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English. Oxford; Oxford University Press.
Quennel, Peter. 1973. A History of English Literature. Great Britain; G & C Merriam Company, Publishers.
Reaske, Christopher Russell. 1966. How to Analyze Poetry. United States of America; Monarch Press.
Thank you for your comments guys…

Author: Syayid

Syayid Sandi Sukandi is a person who is just like you. He loves to meet new people. He likes to learn new things and opens his horizon to understand how this world works. He is happy to help you when he can. His personal blog is Sparkling Silent Silhouette (https://www.syayidss.com/). He can be contacted at e-mails: syayid@gmail.com or said_sandi@hotmail.com. He has a YouTube channel @Mr.Syayid's Corner. He is active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You may follow and subscribe to his creativity and works there. Enjoy different perspective and insightful ideas!

2 thoughts on “Poem Criticism: EDEN by Thomas Traherne (1636-1674)”

  1. this analysis is garbage. you aren’t actually reading into the poem, its like you’re showing the theory behind analysis without ever analyzing. you should give this a new title, something less misleading.


    1. Thanks, Notaznasia. I kind of appreciate your feedback. I wrote this long before I knew how to write effectively. I apologized for that, but reading your comment makes me wondering, is it really that “garbage”? That is so mean, after all. 🙂


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