The Hound of Heaven

by 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 mist 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 followèd,
Yet I was 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 on their clangèd 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."

Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at had 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!
Wherfore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I make 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."




Thompson, Francis
(b. Dec. 18, 1859, Preston, Lancashire, Eng.--d. Nov. 13, 1907, London),
English poet of the Aesthetic movement of the 1890s, whose most famous poem, "The Hound of Heaven," describes the pursuit of the human soul by God.

Thompson was educated in the Roman Catholic faith at Ushaw College, a seminary in the north of England. He studied medicine at Manchester, but not conscientiously, and went to London to seek a livelihood. Poverty reduced him to selling matches and newspapers, and ill health drove him to opium. He wrote his first poems after finding light work with a shoemaker, and in 1888 the publication of two of his poems in Wilfrid Meynell's periodical, Merry England, aroused the admiration of Robert Browning. Meynell and his wife, Alice, befriended Thompson, induced him to enter a hospital, nursed him through convalescence, and in 1893 arranged publication of a collection, Poems, which was highly praised.

From 1893 to 1897 Thompson lived near a Franciscan priory in north Wales, during which period he wrote Sister Songs (1895) and New Poems (1897). He also wrote a number of prose works, mostly published posthumously, including the essay Shelley (1909). The Works of Francis Thompson, 3 vol. (1913), were published by Meynell. Thompson died of tuberculosis.

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