“Thanksgivings for the Body” by Thomas Traherne (excerpt)

Owunna, Mikael_Lébé and His Articulations
Mikael Owunna (Nigerian American, 1990–), Lébé and His Articulations, from the Infinite Essence series, 2019. Dye sublimation print, 60 × 40 in. (152.4 × 101.6 cm). Edition of 3 + 1AP. [for sale]

                                O Lord!
        Thou hast given me a body,
Wherein the glory of thy power shineth,
Wonderfully composed above the beasts,
Within distinguished into useful parts,
Beautified without with many ornaments.
        Limbs rarely poised,
                And made for heaven:
        Arteries filled
                With celestial spirits:
        Veins, wherein blood floweth,
                Refreshing all my flesh,
                                Like rivers.
        Sinews fraught with the mystery
            Of wonderful strength,
                Stability,
                Feeling.
        O blessed be thy glorious Name!
That thou hast made it
            A treasury of wonders,
                Fit for its several ages;
                    For dissections,
                    For sculptures in brass,
                    For draughts in anatomy,
        For the contemplation of the sages.
                Whole inward parts,
                        Enshrined in thy libraries,
        Are:
                The amazement of the learned,
                The admiration of kings and queens,
                The joy of angels,
                The organs of my soul,
                The wonder of cherubims.
        Those blinder parts of refined earth,
                        Beneath my skin,
            Are full of thy depths,
            For:
                        Many thousand uses,
                        Hidden operations,
                        Unsearchable offices.
        But for the diviner treasures wherewith thou hast endowed
            My brains,
            My heart,
            My tongue,
            Mine eyes,
            Mine ears,
            My hands,
O what praises are due unto thee,
        Who has made me
                    A living inhabitant
                            Of the great world,
                    And the centre of it!
        A sphere of sense,
                            And a mine of riches,
Which when bodies are dissected fly away.
        The spacious room
                    Which thou has hidden in mine eye;
        The chambers for sounds
                    Which thou has prepar’d in mine ear;
        The receptacles for smells
                    Concealed in my nose;
        The feeling of my hands;
                    The taste of my tongue.
        But above all, O Lord, the glory of speech,
whereby thy servant is enabled with praise to
celebrate thee.
                                    For
        All the beauties in heaven and earth,
        The melody of sounds,
        The sweet odours
                            Of thy dwelling-place.
        The delectable pleasures that gratify my sense,
                            That gratify the feeling of mankind.
        The light of history,
                            Admitted by the ear.
        The light of heaven,
                            Brought in by the eye.
        The volubility and liberty
                            Of my hands and members.
        Fitted by thee for all operations,
                            Which the fancy can imagine,
                            Or soul desire:
        From the framing of a needle’s eye,
                            To the building of a tower;
        From the squaring of trees,
                            To the polishing of kings’ crowns.
        For all the mysteries, engines, instruments, wherewith the world is filled, which we are able to frame and use to thy glory.
        For all the trades, variety of operations, cities, temples, streets, bridges, mariner’s compass, admirable pictures, sculpture, writing, printing, songs and music, wherewith the world is beautified and adorned.
        Much more for the regent Life,
            And power of perception,
                Which rules within.
        That secret depth of fathomless consideration
            That receives the information
                Of all our senses,
That makes our centre equal to the heavens,
    And comprehendeth in itself the magnitude of the world;
        The involved mysteries
                            Of our common sense;
        The inaccessible secret
                            Of perceptive fancy;
        The repository and treasury
                            Of things that are past;
        The presentation of things to come;
            Thy Name be glorified
                For evermore.
    For all the art which thou hast hidden
            In this little piece
                Of red clay,
    For the workmanship of thy hand,
        Who didst thyself form man
            Of the dust of the ground,
        And breathe into his nostrils
            The breath of life.
    For the high exaltation whereby thou hast glorified every body,
                Especially mine,
        As thou didst thy servant
                Adam’s in Eden.
    Thy works themselves speaking to me the same thing that was said unto him in the beginning,
                WE ARE ALL THINE.

This poem excerpt is from A Serious and Pathetical Contemplation of the Mercies of God, in Several Most Devout and Sublime Thanksgivings for the Same by Thomas Traherne, published posthumously in 1699. It is in the public domain.

Thomas Traherne (1636/37–1674) was a country priest from England whose devotional writings, both prose and verse, are remarkable for their spiritual intensity. He wrote rapturously about the goodness, love, and mercy of God and the glories of God’s creation. He is sometimes classed as a Metaphysical poet, though his poems read more like Walt Whitman, with their long catalogs and ebullient joy. Traherne is most celebrated for his Centuries of Meditations, a collection of theological reflections that wasn’t published until 1908.

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