To A Child – Francis Thompson

Whenas my life shall time with funeral tread

The  heavy death-drum of the beaten hours,

Following, sole mourner, mine own manhood dead,

Poor forgot corse, where not a maid strows flowers;

When I you love am no more I you love,

But go with unsubservient feet, behold

Your dear face through changed eyes, all grim change prove;–

A new man, mock-ed with misname of old;

When shamed Love keep his ruined lodging, elf!

When, ceremented in mouldering memory,

Myself is hears-ed underneath myself,

And I am but the monument of me:-

O to that tomb be tender then, which bears

Only the name of him it sepulchres! 

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To a Poet Breaking Silence – Francis Thompson

Too wearily had we and song

Been left to look and left to long,

Yea, song and we to long and look,

Since thine acquainted feet forsook

The mountain where the Muses hymn

For Sinai and the Seraphim.

Now in both the mountains’ shine

Dress thy countenance, twice divine!

From Moses and the Muses draw

The Tables of thy double Law!

His rod-born fount and Castaly

Let the one rock bring forth for thee,

Renewing so from either spring

The songs which both thy countries sing:

Or we shall fear lest, heavened thus long,

Thou should’st forget thy native song,

And mar thy mortal melodies

With broken stammer of the skies.
Ah! let the sweet birds of the Lord

With earth’s waters make accord;

Teach how the crucifix may be

Carven from the laurel-tree,

Fruit of the Hesperides

Burnish take on Eden-trees,

The Muses’ sacred grove be wet

With the red dew of Olivet,

And Sappho lay her burning brows

In white Cecilia’s lap of snows!
Thy childhood must have felt the stings

Of too divine o’ershadowings;

Its odorous heart have been a blossom

That in darkness did unbosom,

Those fire-flies of God to invite,

Burning spirits, which by night

What Shall I Your True Love Tell – Francis Thompson 

What shall I your true love tell, 

Earth forsaking maid? 

What shall I your true love tell 

When life’s spectre’s laid? 

“Tell him that, our side the grave, 

Maid may not believe 

Life should be so sad to have, 

That’s so sad to leave!” 

What shall I your true love tell 

When I come to him? 

What shall I your true love tell 

Eyes growing dim? 

“Tell him this, when you shall part 

From a maiden pined; 

That I see him with my heart, 

Now my eyes are blind.” 

What shall I your true love tell 

Speaking while is scant? 

What shall I your true love tell 

Death’s white postulant? 

“Tell him love, with speech at strife, 

For last utterance saith: 

`I who loved with all my life, 

Loved with all my death.'” 

To a Snowflake – Francis Thompson

What heart could have thought you?

 — Past our devisal 

(O filigree petal!) 

Fashioned so purely, 

Fragilely, surely, 

From what Paradisal 

Imagineless metal, 

Too costly for cost? 

Who hammered you, wrought you, 

From argentine vapor? — 

“God was my shaper. 

Passing surmisal, 

He hammered, He wrought me, 

From curled silver vapor, 

To lust of His mind — 

Thou could’st not have thought me! 

So purely, so palely, 

Tinily, surely, 

Mightily, frailly, 

Insculped and embossed, 

With His hammer of wind, 

And His graver of frost.” 

The Hound of Heaven – Francis Thompson

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 midst of tears

I hid from him, and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated

Adown titanic glooms of chasme d hears

From those strong feet that followed, followed after

But with unhurrying chase and unperturbe d pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

They beat, and 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 inter-twining charities,

For though I knew His love who followe d,

Yet was I sore adread, lest having Him,

I should have nought 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 clange d bars,

Fretted to dulcet jars and silvern chatter

The pale ports of the moon.
I said to Dawn — be sudden, to 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 of their feet,

Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.

Still with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

Came on the following feet, and a Voice above their beat:

Nought 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.

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, Nature’s

Share with me, said I, your delicate fellowship.

Let me greet you lip to lip,

Let me twine with you caresses,

Wantoning with our Lady Mother’s vagrant tresses,

Banqueting with her in her wind walled palace,

Underneath her azured dai:s,

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 Nature’s secrecies,

I knew all the swift importings on the wilful face of skies,

I knew how the clouds arise,

Spume d of the wild sea-snortings.

All that’s born or dies,

Rose and drooped with,

Made 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 day’s dead sanctities.

I laughed in the morning’s 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 Heaven’s grey cheek.

For ah! we know what each other says,

these things and I; In sound I speak,

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

Nature, poor step-dame, cannot slake my drouth.

Let her, if she would owe me

Drop yon blue-bosomed 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 unperturbe d pace

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

And past those noise d feet, a Voice comes yet more fleet:

Lo, nought contentst thee who content’st nought Me.
Naked, I wait thy Love’s uplifted stroke. My harness, piece by piece,

thou’st hewn from me

And smitten me to my knee,

I am defenceless, utterly.

I slept methinks, and awoke.

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 amidst 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 like sunstarts on a stream.

Yeah, 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,

Have yielded, cords of all too weak account,

For Earth, with heavy grief 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 ?

My 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-glimpse d turrets, slowly wash again.

But not ‘ere Him who summoneth

I first have seen, enwound

With glooming robes purpureal; Cypress crowned.

His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.

Whether Man’s Heart or Life it be that yield thee harvest,

Must thy harvest fields be dunged with rotten death ?
Now of that long pursuit,

Comes 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 —

How hast thou merited,

Of all Man’s 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’st but take,

Not for thy harms,

But just that thou might’st 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. 

Beginning of End – Francis Thompson 

She was aweary of the hovering

Of Love’s incessant tumultuous wing;

Her lover’s tokens she would answer not–

‘Twere well she should be strange with him somewhat:

A pretty babe, this Love,–but fie on it,

That would not suffer her lay it down a whit!

Appointed tryst defiantly she balked,

And with her lightest comrade lightly walked,

Who scared the chidden Love to hide apart,

And peep from some unnoticed corner of her heart.

She thought not of her lover, deem it not

(There yonder, in the hollow, that’s HIS cot),

But she forgot not that he was forgot.

She saw him at his gate, yet stilled her tongue–

So weak she felt her, that she would feel strong,

And she must punish him for doing him wrong:

Passed, unoblivious of oblivion still;

And if she turned upon the brow o’ the hill,

It was so openly, so lightly done,

You saw she thought he was not thought upon.

He through the gate went back in bitterness;

She that night woke and stirred, with no distress,

Glad of her doing,–sedulous to be glad,

Lest perhaps her foolish heart suspect that it was sad. 

Before her Portraits in Youth – Francis Thompson 

As lovers, banished from their lady’s face

And hopeless of her grace,

Fashion a ghostly sweetness in its place,

Fondly adore

Some stealth-won cast attire she wore,

A kerchief or a glove:

And at the lover’s beck

Into the glove there fleets the hand,

Or at impetuous command

Up from the kerchief floats the virgin neck:

So I, in very lowlihead of love, –

Too shyly reverencing

To let one thought’s light footfall smooth

Tread near the living, consecrated thing, –

Treasure me thy cast youth.

This outworn vesture, tenantless of thee,

Hath yet my knee,

For that, with show and semblance fair

Of the past Her

Who once the beautiful, discarded raiment bare,

It cheateth me.

As gale to gale drifts breath

Of blossoms’ death,

So dropping down the years from hour to hour

This dead youth’s scent is wafted me to-day:

I sit, and from the fragrance dream the flower.

So, then, she looked (I say);

And so her front sunk down

Heavy beneath the poet’s iron crown:

On her mouth museful sweet –

(Even as the twin lips meet)

Did thought and sadness greet:

Sighs

In those mournful eyes

So put on visibilities;

As viewless ether turns, in deep on deep, to dyes.

Thus, long ago,

She kept her meditative paces slow

Through maiden meads, with waved shadow and gleam

Of locks half-lifted on the winds of dream,

Till love up-caught her to his chariot’s glow.

Yet, voluntary, happier Proserpine!

This drooping flower of youth thou lettest fall

I, faring in the cockshut-light, astray,

Find on my ‘lated way,

And stoop, and gather for memorial,

And lay it on my bosom, and make it mine.

To this, the all of love the stars allow me,

I dedicate and vow me.

I reach back through the days

A trothed hand to the dead the last trump shall not raise.

The water-wraith that cries

From those eternal sorrows of thy pictured eyes

Entwines and draws me down their soundless intricacies!