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Poem by Francis Thompson
The Mistress of Vision
I Secret was the garden; Set i' the pathless awe Where no star its breath can draw. Life, that is its warden, Sits behind the fosse of death. Mine eyes saw not, and I saw. II It was a mazeful wonder; Thrice three times it was enwalled With an emerald-- Seal-ed so asunder. All its birds in middle air hung a-dream, their music thralled. III The Lady of fair weeping, At the garden's core, Sang a song of sweet and sore And the after-sleeping; In the land of Luthany, and the tracts of Elenore. IV With sweet-panged singing, Sang she through a dream-night's day; That the bowers might stay, Birds bate their winging, Nor the wall of emerald float in wreath-ed haze away. V The lily kept its gleaming, In her tears (divine conservers!) Wash-ed with sad art; And the flowers of dreaming Pal-ed not their fervours, For her blood flowed through their nervures; And the roses were most red, for she dipt them in her heart. VI There was never moon, Save the white sufficing woman: Light most heavenly-human-- Like the unseen form of sound, Sensed invisibly in tune,-- With a sun-deriv-ed stole Did inaureole All her lovely body round; Lovelily her lucid body with that light was inter- strewn. VII The sun which lit that garden wholly, Low and vibrant visible, Tempered glory woke; And it seem-ed solely Like a silver thurible Solemnly swung, slowly, Fuming clouds of golden fire, for a cloud of incense- smoke. VIII But woe's me, and woe's me, For the secrets of her eyes! In my visions fearfully They are ever shown to be As fring-ed pools, whereof each lies Pallid-dark beneath the skies Of a night that is But one blear necropolis. And her eyes a little tremble, in the wind of her own sighs. IX Many changes rise on Their phantasmal mysteries. They grow to an horizon Where earth and heaven meet; And like a wing that dies on The vague twilight-verges, Many a sinking dream doth fleet Lessening down their secrecies. And, as dusk with day converges, Their orbs are troublously Over-gloomed and over-glowed with hope and fear of things to be. X There is a peak on Himalay, And on the peak undeluged snow, And on the snow not eagles stray; There if your strong feet could go,-- Looking over tow'rd Cathay From the never-deluged snow-- Farthest ken might not survey Where the peoples underground dwell whom antique fables know. XI East, ah, east of Himalay, Dwell the nations underground; Hiding from the shock of Day, For the sun's uprising-sound: Dare not issue from the ground At the tumults of the Day, So fearfully the sun doth sound Clanging up beyond Cathay; For the great earthquaking sunrise rolling up beyond Cathay. XII Lend me, O lend me The terrors of that sound, That its music may attend me. Wrap my chant in thunders round; While I tell the ancient secrets in that Lady's singing found. XIII On Ararat there grew a vine, When Asia from her bathing rose; Our first sailor made a twine Thereof for his prefiguring brows. Canst divine Where, upon our dusty earth, of that vine a cluster grows? XIV On Golgotha there grew a thorn Round the long-prefigured Brows. Mourn, O mourn! For the vine have we the spine? Is this all the Heaven allows? XV On Calvary was shook a spear; Press the point into thy heart-- Joy and fear! All the spines upon the thorn into curling tendrils start. XVI O, dismay! I, a wingless mortal, sporting With the tresses of the sun? I, that dare my hand to lay On the thunder in its snorting? Ere begun, Falls my singed song down the sky, even the old Icarian way. XVII From the fall precipitant These dim snatches of her chant Only have remain-ed mine;-- That from spear and thorn alone May be grown For the front of saint or singer any divinizing twine. XVIII Her song said that no springing Paradise but evermore Hangeth on a singing That has chords of weeping, And that sings the after-sleeping To souls which wake too sore. 'But woe the singer, woe!' she said; 'beyond the dead his singing-lore, All its art of sweet and sore, He learns, in Elenore!' XIX Where is the land of Luthany, Where is the tract of Elenore? I am bound therefor. XX 'Pierce thy heart to find the key; With thee take Only what none else would keep; Learn to dream when thou dost wake, Learn to wake when thou dost sleep. Learn to water joy with tears, Learn from fears to vanquish fears; To hope, for thou dar'st not despair, Exult, for that thou dar'st not grieve; Plough thou the rock until it bear; Know, for thou else couldst not believe; Lose, that the lost thou may'st receive; Die, for none other way canst live. When earth and heaven lay down their veil, And that apocalypse turns thee pale; When thy seeing blindeth thee To what thy fellow-mortals see; When their sight to thee is sightless; Their living, death; their light, most light- less; Search no more-- Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.' XXI Where is the land of Luthany, And where the region Elenore? I do faint therefor. 'When to the new eyes of thee All things by immortal power, Near or far, Hiddenly To each other link-ed are, That thou canst not stir a flower Without troubling of a star; When thy song is shield and mirror To the fair snake-curl-ed Pain, Where thou dar'st affront her terror That on her thou may'st attain Persean conquest; seek no more, O seek no more! Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.' XXII So sang she, so wept she, Through a dream-night's day; And with her magic singing kept she-- Mystical in music-- That garden of enchanting In visionary May; Swayless for my spirit's haunting, Thrice-threefold walled with emerald from our mor- tal mornings grey. XXIII And as a necromancer Raises from the rose-ash The ghost of the rose; My heart so made answer To her voice's silver plash,-- Stirred in reddening flash, And from out its mortal ruins the purpureal phantom blows. XXIV Her tears made dulcet fretting, Her voice had no word, More than thunder or the bird. Yet, unforgetting, The ravished soul her meanings knew. Mine ears heard not, and I heard. XXV When she shall unwind All those wiles she wound about me, Tears shall break from out me, That I cannot find Music in the holy poets to my wistful want, I doubt me!
Francis Thompson's other poems:
English Poetry. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org