UMILTA WEBSITE || OLIVELEAF WEBSITE || JULIAN OF NORWICH, TEXT AND CONTEXTS, WEBSITE || BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN, REVELATIONES, WEBSITE || CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY || FLORIN WEBSITE 1997-2010 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY
 
 

FRANCIS THOMPSON

THE HOUND OF HEAVEN
 
 
 

{ho was he? A brilliant addicted poet, a tortured soul, writing of the genius, the Godstuff, in us all. We can quest God or negate Him. Job, Jonah, Psalm 139 and Julian share this. The happiness is in the seeking, the misery in the denial. We are Prodigal Sons and Daughters of God, awaiting the Wedding Feast of Parables . . .


{ fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
(For, though I knew His love Who followed,
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)

But, if one little casement parted wide,

Across the margent of the world I fled,
And silvern chatter the pale ports o' the moon.

{ said to Dawn: Be sudden - to Eve: Be soon;

Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
My own betrayal in their constancy,

In faith to Him their fickleness to me,

To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o' their feet:-
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
'Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.'

{ sought not more after that which I strayed

But still within the little children's eyes
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

Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.

'{ome then, ye other children, Nature's - share

With me (said I) 'your delicate fellowship;

Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring'.
I in their delicate fellowship was one -

Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies.

Of mine own moods, or wailful divine;
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine:

Against the red throb of its sunset-heart

But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.

In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek.

For ah! we know not what each other says,

Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.

Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;

Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
Never did any milk of hers once bless
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
'Lo! naught contents thee, who content'st not Me.'

{aked I wait Thy love's uplifted stroke!

My harness piece by piece Thou has hewn from me,

And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.

In the rash lustihead of my young powers,

And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,

I stand amidst the dust o' the mounded years -

My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.

My days have cracked and gone up in smoke,

Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.

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.

A weed, albeit an amarinthine weed,

Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?

Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?

My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust;

And now my heart is as a broken fount,

Wherein tear-drippins stagnate, spilt down ever

Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
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-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again.

With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;

His name I know and what his trumpet saith.

Whether man's heart or life it be which yields

That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?

Seeing none but I makes much of naught' (He said),

'And human love needs human meriting:

Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot?
How little worthy of any love thou art!

Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,

All which I took from thee I did but take,
But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.'


G.K. Chesterton wrote:

{hat is the primary point of the work of Francis Thompson; even before its many-coloured pageant of images and words. The awakening of the Domini canes, the Dogs of God, meant that the hunt was up once more; the hunt for the souls of men; and that religion of that realistic sort was anything but dead . . . . In any case, it was an event of history, as much as an event of literature, when personal religion returned suddenly with something of the power of Dante or the Dies Irae, after a century in which such religion had seemed to grow more weak and provincial, and more and more impersaonl religions appeared to possess the future. And those who best understand the world know that the world is changed; and that the hunt will continue until the world turns to bay.

The Spanish Chapel fresco, the 'Via Veritatis', in the Dominicans' Santa Maria Novella, Florence, jokes upon 'Domini cani' 'dogs of the Lord', with sheep dogs guarding sheep, in this political and religious allegory. Dante had had his Commedia's allegory speak of a great Hound who would come and chase away the sins of the Three Beasts, Leopard, Lion, Wolf, the sins of Lechery, Pride, Avarice, of Youth, Prime, and Age.  I remember a Native American Chief , named Leonard Crow Dog, who spoke of his name as 'God Work ', spelled backwards. He guided his people, the women setting the pace for their Walk for Survival, to the Capitol and the United Nations to say nuclear weapons' making is evil. My son, my students, my Quaker Meeting, fed them for three days, and my son continued on their Walk to New York.


His Biography from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Francis Thompson

Poet, b. at Preston, Lancashire, 18 Dec., 1859; d. in London, 13 Nov., 1907. He came from the middle classes, the classes great in imaginative poetry. His father was a provincial doctor; two paternal uncles dabbled in literature; he himself referred his heredity chiefly to his mother, who died in his boyhood. His parents being Catholics, he was educated at Ushaw , the college that had in former years Lingard, Waterton, and Wiseman as pupils. There he was noticeable for love of literature and neglect of games, though as spectator he always cared for cricket, and in later years remembered the players of his day with something like personal love. After seven years he went to Owens College to study medicine. He hated this proposed profession more than he would confess to his father; he evaded rather than rebelled, and finally disappeared. No blame, or attribution of hardships or neglect should attach to his father's memory; every careful father knows his own anxieties. Francis Thompson went to London, and there endured three years of destitution that left him in a state of incipient disease. He was employed as bookselling agent, and at a shoemaker's, but very briefly, and became a wanderer in London streets, earning a few pence by selling matches and calling cabs, often famished, often cold, receiving occasional alms; on one great day finding a sovereign on the footway, he was requested to come no more to a public library because he was too ragged. He was nevertheless able to compose a little -- "Dream-Tryst", written in memory of a child, and "Paganism Old and New", with a few other pieces of verse and prose.

Having seen some numbers of a new Catholic magazine, "Merry England", he sent these poems to the editor, Mr. Wilfrid Meynell, in 1888, giving his address at a post-office. The manuscripts were pigeonholed for a short time, but when Mr. Meynell read them he lost no time in writing to the sender a welcoming letter which was returned from the post-office. The only way then to reach him was to publish the essay and the poem, so that the author might see them and disclose himself. He did see them, and wrote to the editor giving his address at a chemist's shop. Thither Mr. Meynell went, and was told that the poet owed a certain sum for opium, and was to be found hard by, selling matches. Having settled matters between the druggist and his client, Mr. Meynell wrote a pressing invitation to Thompson to call upon him. That day was the last of the poet's destitution. He was never again friendless or without food, clothing, shelter, or fire. The first step was to restore him to better health and to overcome the opium habit. A doctor's care, and some months at Storrington, Sussex, where he lived as a boarder at the Premonstratensian monastery, gave him a new hold upon life. It was there, entirely free temporarily from opium, that he began in earnest to write poetry. "Daisy" and the magnificent "Ode to the Setting Sun" were the first fruits. Mr. Meynell, finding him in better health but suffering from the loneliness of his life, brought him to London and established him near himself. Thenceforward with some changes to country air, he was either an inmate or a constant visitor until his death nineteen years later.

In the years from 1889 to 1896 Thompson wrote the poems contained in the three volumes, "Poems", "Sister Songs", and "New Poems". In "Sister Songs" he celebrated his affection for the two elder of the little daughters of his host and more than brother; "Love in Dian's Lap" was written in honour of Mrs. Meynell, and expressed the great attachment of his life; and in the same book "The Making of Viola" was composed for a younger child. At Mr. Meynell's house Thompson met Mr. Garvin and Coventry Patmore, who soon became his friends, and whose great poetic and spiritual influence was thenceforth pre- eminent in all his writings, and Mrs. Meynell introduced him at Box Hill to George Meredith. Besides these his friendships were few. In the last weeks of his life he received great kindness from Mr. Wilfrid Blunt, in Sussex. During all these years Mr. Meynell encouraged him to practise journalism and to write essays, chiefly as a remedy for occasional melancholy. The essay on Shelley, published twenty years later and immediately famous, was amongst the earliest of these writings; "The Life of St. Ignatius" and "Health and Holiness" were produced subsequently.

Did Francis Thompson, unanimously hailed on the morrow of his death as a great poet, receive no full recognition during life? It was not altogether absent. Patmore, Traill, Mr. Garvin, and Mr. William Archer wrote, in the leading reviews, profoundly admiring studies of his poems. Public attention was not yet aroused. But that his greatness received no stinted praise, then and since, may be seen in a few citations following. Mr. Meynell, who perceived the quality of his genius when no other was aware of it, has written of him as "a poet of high thinking, of `celestial vision', and of imaginings that found literary images of answering splendour"; Mr. Chesterton acclaimed him as "a great poet", Mr. Fraill as "a poet of the first order"; Mr. William Archer, "It is no minor Caroline simper that he recalls, but the Jacobean Shakespeare"; Mr. Garvin, "the Hound of Heaven seems to us the most wonderful lyric in our language"; Burne-Jones, "Since Gabriel's [Rossetti's] `Blessed Damozel' no mystical words have so touched me"; George Meredith, "A true poet, one of a small band"; Coventry Patmore, "the `Hound of Heaven' is one of the very few great odes of which the language can boast". Of the essays on Shelley (Dublin Review) a journalist wrote truly, "London is ringing with it". Francis Thompson died, after receiving all the sacraments, in the excellent care of the Sisters of St. John and St. Elizabeth, aged forty-eight.

In my now-lost convent library at Holmhurst St Mary we had all the published writings of Francis Thompson and Alice Meynell as Alice Meynell was a friend of our Mother Foundress Agnes Mason, and we often heard lectures given at the school on Alice Meynell's poetry.
 
 

UMILTA WEBSITE || OLIVELEAF WEBSITE || JULIAN OF NORWICH, TEXT AND CONTEXTS, WEBSITE || BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN, REVELATIONES, WEBSITE || CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY || FLORIN WEBSITE 1997-2010 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY

Blessed Olive Branch, Kenyan olive-
wood bowl, William Morris Print