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Poem by Francis Thompson


A Corymbus for Autumn


      Hearken my chant, tis
As a Bacchantes,
A grape-spurt, a vine-splash, a tossed tress, flown vaunt tis!
      Suffer my singing,
Gipsy of Seasons, ere thou go winging;
      Ere Winter throws
      His slaking snows
In thy feasting-flagons impurpurate glows!
The sopped suntoper as ever drank hard
      Stares foolish, hazed,
      Rubicund, dazed,
Totty with thine October tankard.
Tanned maiden! with cheeks like apples russet,
   And breast a brown agaric faint-flushing at tip,
And a mouth too red for the moon to buss it,
   But her cheek unvow its vestalship;
      Thy mists enclip
Her steel-clear circuit illuminous,
      Until it crust
      Rubiginous
With the glorious gules of a glowing rust.
Far other saw we, other indeed,
      The crescent moon, in the May-days dead,
      Fly up with its slender white wings spread
Out of its nest in the seas waved mead!
How are the veins of thee, Autumn, laden?
            Umbered juices,
            And pulpèd oozes
   Pappy out of the cherry-bruises,
Froth the veins of thee, wild, wild maiden!
            With hair that musters
            In globèd clusters,
   In tumbling clusters, like swarthy grapes,
Round thy brow and thine ears oershaden;
With the burning darkness of eyes like pansies,
            Like velvet pansies
            Wherethrough escapes
The splendid might of thy conflagrate fancies;
   With robe gold-tawny not hiding the shapes
            Of the feet whereunto it falleth down,
         Thy naked feet unsandallèd;
With robe gold-tawny that does not veil
         Feet where the red
         Is meshed in the brown,
Like a rubied sun in a Venice-sail.

The wassailous heart of the Year is thine!
His Bacchic fingers disentwine
         His coronal
         At thy festival;
His revelling fingers disentwine
         Leaf, flower, and all,
         And let them fall
Blossom and all in thy wavering wine.
The Summer looks out from her brazen tower,
   Through the flashing bars of July,
Waiting thy ripened golden shower;
   Whereof there cometh, with sandals fleet,
         The North-west flying viewlessly,
   With a sword to sheer, and untameable feet,
         And the gorgon-head of the Winter shown
         To stiffen the gazing earth as stone.

   In crystal Heavens magic sphere
         Poised in the palm of thy fervid hand,
   Thou seest the enchanted shows appear
   That stain Favonian firmament;
   Richer than ever the Occident
         Gave up to bygone Summers wand.
Days dying dragon lies drooping his crest,
Panting red pants into the West.
Or the butterfly sunset claps its wings
   With flitter alit on the swinging blossom,
The gusty blossom, that tosses and swings,
   Of the sea with its blown and ruffled bosom;
Its ruffled bosom wherethrough the wind sings
Till the crispèd petals are loosened and strown
         Overblown, on the sand;
         Shed, curling as dead
      Rose-leaves curl, on the fleckèd strand.
Or higher, holier, saintlier when, as now,
All nature sacerdotal seems, and thou.
      The calm hour strikes on yon golden gong,
         In tones of floating and mellow light
      A spreading summons to even-song:
         See how there
         The cowlèd night
      Kneels on the Eastern sanctuary-stair.
What is this feel of incense everywhere?
   Clings it round folds of the blanch-amiced clouds,
Upwafted by the solemn thurifer,
            The mighty spirit unknown,
That swingeth the slow earth before the embannered Throne?
   Or ist the Season under all these shrouds
Of light, and sense, and silence, makes her known
         A presence everywhere,
         An inarticulate prayer,
A hand on the soothed tresses of the air?
         But there is one hour scant
Of this Titanian, primal liturgy;
         As there is but one hour for me and thee,
   Autumn, for thee and thine hierophant,
         Of this grave ending chant.
         Round the earth still and stark
Heavens death-lights kindle, yellow spark by spark,
Beneath the dreadful catafalque of the dark.

         And I had ended there:
But a great wind blew all the stars to flare,
And cried, I sweep the path before the moon!
Tarry ye now the coming of the moon,
         For she is coming soon;
Then died before the coming of the moon.
And she came forth upon the trepidant air,
         In vesture unimagined-fair,
         Woven as woof of flag-lilies;
         And curdled as of flag-lilies
         The vapour at the feet of her,
And a haze about her tinged in fainter wise.
   As if she had trodden the stars in press,
   Till the gold wine spurted over her dress,
   Till the gold wine gushed out round her feet;
         Spouted over her stainèd wear,
   And bubbled in golden froth at her feet,
         And hung like a whirlpools mist round her.
   Still, mighty Season, do I seet,
   Thy sway is still majestical!
   Thou holdst of God, by title sure,
Thine indefeasible investiture,
   And that right round thy locks are native to;
The heavens upon thy brow imperial,
         This huge terrene thy ball,
And oer thy shoulders thrown wide airs depending pall.
   What if thine earth be blear and bleak of hue?
         Still, still the skies are sweet!
   Still, Season, still thou hast thy triumphs there!
         How have I, unaware,
Forgetful of my strain inaugural,
   Cleft the great rondure of thy reign complete,
Yielding thee half, who hast indeed the all?
      I will not think thy sovereignty begun
         But with the shepherd sun
      That washes in the sea the stars gold fleeces
         Or that with day it ceases,
      Who sets his burning lips to the salt brine,
         And purples it to wine;
      While I behold how ermined Artemis
         Ordainèd weed must wear,
         And toil thy business;
         Who witness am of her,
      Her too in autumn turned a vintager;
      And, laden with its lampèd clusters bright,
      The fiery-fruited vineyard of this night.



Francis Thompson


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


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