'the clear unfallen world.'

Edwin Muir.jpg

The Transfiguration

by Edwin Muir


The Transfiguration

So from the ground we felt that virtue branch 
Through all our veins till we were whole, our wrists 
As fresh and pure as water from a well, 
Our hands made new to handle holy things, 
The source of all our seeing rinsed and cleansed 
Till earth and light and water entering there 
Gave back to us the clear unfallen world. 
We would have thrown our clothes away for lightness, 
But that even they, though sour and travel stained, 
Seemed, like our flesh, made of immortal substance, 
And the soiled flax and wool lay light upon us 
Like friendly wonders, flower and flock entwined 
As in a morning field. Was it a vision? 
Or did we see that day the unseeable 
One glory of the everlasting world 
Perpetually at work, though never seen 
Since Eden locked the gate that’s everywhere 
And nowhere? Was the change in us alone, 
And the enormous earth still left forlorn, 
An exile or a prisoner? Yet the world 
We saw that day made this unreal, for all 
Was in its place. The painted animals 
Assembled there in gentle congregations, 
Or sought apart their leafy oratories, 
Or walked in peace, the wild and tame together, 
As if, also for them, the day had come. 
The shepherds’ hovels shone, for underneath 
The soot we saw the stone clean at the heart 
As on the starting-day. The refuse heaps 
Were grained with that fine dust that made the world; 
For he had said, ‘To the pure all things are pure.’ 
And when we went into the town, he with us, 
The lurkers under doorways, murderers, 
With rags tied round their feet for silence, came 
Out of themselves to us and were with us, 
And those who hide within the labyrinth 
Of their own loneliness and greatness came, 
And those entangled in their own devices, 
The silent and the garrulous liars, all 
Stepped out of their dungeons and were free. 
Reality or vision, this we have seen. 
If it had lasted but another moment 
It might have held for ever! But the world 
Rolled back into its place, and we are here, 
And all that radiant kingdom lies forlorn, 
As if it had never stirred; no human voice 
Is heard among its meadows, but it speaks 
To itself alone, alone it flowers and shines 
And blossoms for itself while time runs on.

But he will come again, it’s said, though not 
Unwanted and unsummoned; for all things, 
Beasts of the field, and woods, and rocks, and seas, 
And all mankind from end to end of the earth 
Will call him with one voice. In our own time, 
Some say, or at a time when time is ripe. 
Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified, 
Christ the discrucified, his death undone, 
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled— 
Glad to be so—and the tormented wood 
Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree 
In a green springing corner of young Eden, 
And Judas damned take his long journey backward 
From darkness into light and be a child 
Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal 
Be quite undone and never more be done.

by Edwin Muir


Poem as Friend to Margaret

The Transfigurationby Edwin Muir

In this episode of our podcast, you will hear Margaret talking about the poem that has been a friend to her: ’The Transfiguration' by Edwin Muir.

Margaret visited The Poetry Exchange at The Chapel in St Chad's College as part of Durham Book Festival. We’re very grateful to Durham Book Festival, New Writing North and St Chad’s College for hosting The Poetry Exchange. Do visit them for further inspiration:


Margaret is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange team members, Fiona Lesley Bennett and Michael Shaeffer.

'The Transfiguration' is read by Fiona Lesley Bennett.


We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.

In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world. 


We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.