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Poem by Francis Thompson


To the Dead Cardinal of Westminster


I will not perturbate
Thy Paradisal state
         With praise
   Of thy dead days;

To the new-heavened say,
Spirit, thou wert fine clay:
         This do,
   Thy praise who knew.

Therefore my spirit clings
Heavens porter by the wings,
         And holds
   Its gated golds

Apart, with thee to press
A private business;
         Whence,
   Deign me audience.

Anchorite, who didst dwell
With all the world for cell
         My soul
   Round me doth roll

A sequestration bare.
Too far alike we were,
         Too far
   Dissimilar.

For its burning fruitage I
Do climb the tree o the sky;
         Do prize
   Some human eyes.

You smelt the Heaven-blossoms,
And all the sweet embosoms
         The dear
   Uranian year.

Those Eyes my weak gaze shuns,
Which to the suns are Suns.
         Did
   Not affray your lid.

The carpet was let down
(With golden mouldings strown)
         For you
   Of the angels blue.

But I, ex-Paradised,
The shoulder of your Christ
         Find high
   To lean thereby.

So flaps my helpless sail,
Bellying with neither gale,
         Of Heaven
   Nor Orcus even.

Life is a coquetry
Of Death, which wearies me,
         Too sure
   Of the amour;

A tiring-room where I
Deaths divers garments try,
         Till fit
   Some fashion sit.

It seemeth me too much
I do rehearse for such
         A mean
   And single scene.

The sandy glass hence bear
Antique remembrancer;
         My veins
   Do spare its pains.

With secret sympathy
My thoughts repeat in me
         Infirm
   The turn o the worm

Beneath my appointed sod:
The grave is in my blood;
         I shake
   To winds that take

Its grasses by the top;
The rains thereon that drop
         Perturb
   With drip acerb

My subtly answering soul;
The feet across its knoll
         Do jar
   Me from afar.

As sap foretastes the spring;
As Earth ere blossoming
         Thrills
   With far daffodils,

And feels her breast turn sweet
With the unconceivèd wheat;
         So doth
   My flesh foreloathe

The abhorrèd spring of Dis,
With seething presciences
         Affirm
   The preparate worm.

I have no thought that I,
When at the last I die,
         Shall reach
   To gain your speech.

But you, should that be so,
May very well, I know,
         May well
   To me in hell

With recognising eyes
Look from your Paradise
         God bless
   Thy hopelessness!

Call, holy soul, O call
The hosts angelical,
         And say,
   See, far away

Lies one I saw on earth;
One stricken from his birth
         With curse
   Of destinate verse.

What place doth He ye serve
For such sad spirit reserve,
         Given,
   In dark lieu of Heaven,

The impitiable Dæmon,
Beauty, to adore and dream on,
         To be
   Perpetually

Hers, but she never his?
He reapeth miseries,
         Foreknows
   His wages woes;

He lives detachèd days;
He serveth not for praise;
         For gold
   He is not sold;

Deaf is he to worlds tongue;
He scorneth for his song
         The loud
   Shouts of the crowd;

He asketh not worlds eyes;
Not to worlds ears he cries;
         Saith,These
   Shut, if ye please;

He measureth worlds pleasure,
Worlds ease as Saints might measure;
         For hire
   Just love entire

He asks, not grudging pain;
And knows his asking vain,
         And cries
   Love! Love! and dies;

In guerdon of long duty,
Unowned by Love or Beauty;
         And goes
   Tell, tell, who knows!

Aliens from Heavens worth,
Fine beasts who nose i the earth,
         Do there
   Reward prepare.

But are his great desires
Food but for nether fires?
         Ah me,
   A mystery!

Can it be his alone,
To find when all is known,
         That what
   He solely sought

Is lost, and thereto lost
All that its seeking cost?
         That he
   Must finally,

Through sacrificial tears,
And anchoretic years,
         Tryst
   With the sensualist?

So ask; and if they tell
The secret terrible,
         Good friend,
   I pray thee send

Some high gold embassage
To teach my unripe age.
         Tell!
   Lest my feet walk hell.



Francis Thompson


Francis Thompson's other poems:
  1. Epilogue to the Poet's Sitter
  2. Scala Jacobi Portaque Eburnea
  3. A Fallen Yew
  4. A Judgment in Heaven
  5. Any Saint


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