The School Bag

Shadows in the Water

Thomas Traherne

In unexperienc’d Infancy
Many a sweet Mistake doth lye:
Mistake tho false, intending true;
A Seeming somewhat more than View;
         That doth instruct the Mind
         In Things that lye behind,
And many Secrets to us show
Which afterwards we com to know.

Thus did I by the Water’s brink
Another World beneath me think;
And while the lofty spacious Skies
Reversèd there, abus’d mine Eyes,
         I fancy’d other Feet
         Came mine to touch or meet;
As by som Puddle I did play
Another World within it lay.

Beneath the Water People drown’d,
Yet with another Hev’n crown’d,
In spacious Regions seem’d 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 thro a little watry 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 call’d them oft, but call’d 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, tho they were so plainly seen,
A Film kept off that stood between.
By walking Men’s reversèd Feet
I chanc’d another World to meet;
Tho it did not to View exceed
A Phantasm, ’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 Hev’ns fair,
Great Tracts of Land there may be found
Enricht with Fields and fertil Ground;
         Where many num’rous 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, thro’ 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 Hevens hurl’d
         ’Bout your inferior World?
Are ye the Representatives
Of other People’s distant Lives?

Of all the Play-mates 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.    

early 17th century