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Poem by Francis Thompson


The Hound of Heaven


I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
   I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
   Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
               Up vistaed hopes, I sped;
               And shot, precipitated
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
   From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
               But with unhurrying chase,
               And unperturbéd pace,
      Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
               They beatand a Voice beat
               More instant than the Feet
      All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.

               I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
   Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followéd,
               p. 49Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
   The gust of His approach would clash it to
   Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
   And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
   Smiting for shelter on their changèd bars;
               Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o the moon.
I said to dawn: Be suddento eve: Be soon;
   With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
               From this tremendous Lover!
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
   I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
   Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
   Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
         But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
      The long savannahs of the blue;
               Or whether, Thunder-driven,
         They clanged his chariot thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o their feet:
   Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
         Still with unhurrying chase,
         And unperturbèd pace,
   Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
            p. 50Came on the following Feet,
            And a Voice above their beat
      Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.

I sought no more that, after which I strayed,
      In face of man or maid;
But still within the little childrens eyes
      Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
      With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
Come then, ye other children, Naturesshare
With me (said I) your delicate fellowship;
      Let me greet you lip to lip,
      Let me twine with you caresses,
            Wantoning
      With our Lady-Mothers vagrant tresses,
            Banqueting
      With her in her wind-walled palace,
      Underneath her azured daïs,
      Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
            From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.
            So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one
Drew the bolt of Natures secrecies.
      I knew all the swift importings
      On the wilful face of skies;
      p. 51I knew how the clouds arise
      Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings;
            All thats born or dies
      Rose and drooped withmade them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine
      With them joyed and was bereaven.
      I was heavy with the even,
      When she lit her glimmering tapers
      Round the days dead sanctities.
      I laughed in the mornings eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
      Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
            I laid my own to beat,
            And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heavens grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
      These things and I; in sound I speak
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
      Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
      The breasts o her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
               My thirsting mouth.
               Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
               With unperturbèd pace,
      Deliberate speed majestic instancy
               p. 52And past those noisèd Feet
               A voice comes yet more fleet
   Lo! naught contents thee, who contentst not Me.

Naked I wait Thy loves uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
               And smitten me to my knee;
      I am defenceless utterly,
      I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
      I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amid the dust o the mounded years
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
      Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist;
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
      Ah! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
      Ah! must
      Designer infinite!
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?
p. 53My freshness spent its wavering shower i the dust;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
      From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
      Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity,
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsèd turrets slowly wash again;
      But not ere him who summoneth
      I first have seen, enwound
With grooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether mans heart or life it be which yields
      Thee harvest, must Thy harvest fields
      Be dunged with rotten death?
            Now of that long pursuit
            Comes on at hand the bruit;
      That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
            And is thy earth so marred,
            Shattered in shard on shard?
      Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!

      Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught (He said),
And human love needs human meriting:
      p. 54How hast thou merited
Of all mans clotted clay the dingiest clot?
      Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
      Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
      Not for thy harms,
But just that thou mightst seek it in My arms.
      All which thy childs mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
      Rise, clasp My hand, and come.

            Halts by me that footfall:
            Is my gloom, after all,
      Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
            Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
            I am He Whom thou seekest!
      Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.



Francis Thompson


Francis Thompson's other poems:
  1. Epilogue to the Poet's Sitter
  2. A Fallen Yew
  3. A Judgment in Heaven
  4. To My Godchild, Francis M.W.M.
  5. Any Saint


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