Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thomson


The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson (1859-1907)
Prints by Jeff Hill












Here is Richard Burton reading this poem: You can follow along with his reading.


 
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 mist
of tears
I his form Him, and under running
laughter.

Up visaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed
fears,
From those strong Feet that followed,
followed after.

But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd 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 interwinning
charities;
(For, though I know His love
Who followed,
Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have
naught 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 of their
 clanged bars:
Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports
o’ 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 o’ their feet:—
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist
to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
 
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following feet,
And a voice above their beat—

“Naught 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 children’s
          Eyes
          Seems something,
          Something that replies,
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
          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 daȉs,
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 bold of Nature’s secrecies.
 
I knew all the swift importing
On the willful face of skies;
I knew how the clouds arise
Spumèd 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 not what each
          other says,
          These things and I;
          In sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir,
          They speak by silences.         

Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake
          my drouth;
          Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky,
          and show me
The breasts o’her tenderness:
Never did any mild of hers
          Once bless
My thirsting mouth.

Nigh and nigh
Draws the chase,
With unpeterbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
          And past those noised Feet
          A Voice comes yet more fleet—
“Lo! Naught contents thee,
          Who content’st not me.”      

Naked I wait Thy Love’s uplifted
stroke!

My harness piece by piece
          Thou hast hewn from me,
          And smittenme to my knee;
          I am defenceless utterly.

          I slept, methihks, and woke,
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 amid 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 as sun-stars
          on a stream.
          Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the
          lutanist;
Even the linked fantasies,
          In whose blossomy twist
I swing the earth a trinket at my
          wrist,         
Are yielding; cords of all to weak
          Account
For earth with heavy griefs
          so overplussed.
          Ah! is Thy love indeed
A wee, 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 ist 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-glimpsèd 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
          Which yields
          Thee harvest,
          Must Thy harvest-fields
          Be dunged with rotten death?

Now of that long pursuit
Comes on 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!
Where fore 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 but take,
          Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in
          My arms,
          All with thy child’s 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 sleekest!
Thou dravest love from thee,
          Who dravest Me.”



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