The Hound of Heaven

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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 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 intertwining charities;

(For, though I knew 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 gateway of the stars,

   Smiting for shelter on 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 blossom 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 unperturbed 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 after that 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 dais,

          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

          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 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 milk of hers once bless

             My thirsting mouth.

             Nigh and nigh draws the chase,

             With unperturbed pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;

             And past those noisèd 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 has hewn from me,

             And smitten me to my knee;

          I am defenceless utterly.

          I slept, methinks, 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 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 as sun-starts on a stream.

          Yea, 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,

Are yielding; cords of all too weak account

For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.

          Ah! is Thy love indeed

A weed, albeit an amarinthine 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-glimpsed 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!

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 but take,

          Not for thy harms,

But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.

          All which 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 seekest!

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’

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About The Mithril Guardian

I like stories.  Whether they’re on film, in song, or in print, I always remember a good story.  They remind me of paintings.  People cannot see them without learning something.  So it’s a good idea to look at a story from as many angles as possible.  I can watch the same movie a million times and still I will learn something that I did not know before.  Thoughts on the Edge of Forever is where I get to focus on what I learned from stories; what was not obvious the first time, the second time, or the umpteenth time. Earlier posts are written in the form of letters, usually to specific characters, to point out what I saw in a particular story or heard in a piece of music. Some of those letters, though, are like letters to the editor. Why did someone write a story this way and not another? Would the story have turned out better if the writer had done something different? These ‘letters to the editor’ will probably never be answered by the writers - the characters certainly will not answer anything - but their contents are still up for debate. After all, unless you ask a question, you will never get an answer. Still, civil ground rules apply. Any foul language or other form of abuse will not be tolerated in Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. I mean, who wants to be around the guest at the dinner party who is being nasty? Practically nobody, since people go to a party to have fun, not to hang around a grouch. So let’s have fun! The Mithril Guardian
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