Alternate Author Name(s)

Norman Burns

Document Type


Date of Award



Thomas Traherne, English poetry, 17th century, Criticism and interpretation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

Arthur L. Clements

Second Advisor

Elias Schwartz


It is my hope in this work to demonstrate the ways in which the poetic language of the Dobell Folio poems incorporates these inter-related theories. The next chapter therefore explores the conceptual background of the style. First, I shall investigate the theme of communication in relation to the doctrine of circulation. Second, I shall discuss language as a specific form of communication--one which is an appropriate background for a stylistic analysis of the poetry. While such a separation between these theories of communication and language is convenient, it is necessary to point out that they are aspects of the same vision of the universe given more or less specificity, and the same geometrical image of the infinite sphere unites them and represents their single, underlying structure.

In Chapters Three and Four, I shall examine the stylistic manifestations of these principles. I have also made a somewhat artificial distinction between the style of the Folio considered as a whole (in Chapter III) and a specific stylistic device, the catalogue (discussed in Chapter IV), which appears in individual poems throughout the Folio. The analysis of the stylistic features of the whole Folio necessitates the analysis of the styles of individual poems and of different devices in them, for the larger structure is perceivable as consisting of sections in which poems exhibit related stylistic features. By examining catalogues as a characteristic form which Traherne's language takes, and by analyzing them in relation to their contexts, the poems in which they occur, we can discover that Traherne creates a poetic grammar of his own in order to embody and communicate his sense of the eternal and infinite, and that grammar manifests those same structural principles which generate the style of the Folio as a whole.

Nonetheless, I believe that it is finally impossible to make anyone like Traherne's poetry unless he is in temperament and taste receptive to it or unless the poetry itself is successful in creating a positive response in the reader. It is my purpose to enhance the reader's ability to appreciate Traherne's work and to increase his understanding of it. I expect that Traherne would consider as the one valid criterion for judging his poetry the effect it has upon the reader, whether or not it brings about his enlightenment, since the basic principle of communication is the transmission of one's own bliss to "other men." I do not have the same intent in writing this analysis that Traherne had in creating his poetry and prose. It is difficult enough to make more available to the modern reader the poetry of a man from a period that is alien to him, whose works remained in the dusty obscurity of someone's library for two hundred years.