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New Poems by Francis Thompson

Part 3 out of 3

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The heart you hold too small and local thing,
Such spacious terms of edifice to bear.
And yet, since Poesy first shook out her wing,
The mighty Love has been impalaced there;
That has she given him as his wide demesne,
And for his sceptre ample empery;
Against its door to knock has Beauty been
Content; it has its purple canopy
A dais for the sovereign lady spread
Of many a lover, who the heaven would think
Too low an awning for her sacred head.
The world, from star to sea, cast down its brink--
Yet shall that chasm, till He Who these did build
An awful Curtius make Him, yawn unfilled.


O nothing, in this corporal earth of man,
That to the imminent heaven of his high soul
Responds with colour and with shadow, can
Lack correlated greatness. If the scroll
Where thoughts lie fast in spell of hieroglyph
Be mighty through its mighty habitants;
If God be in His Name; grave potence if
The sounds unbind of hieratic chants;
All's vast that vastness means. Nay, I affirm
Nature is whole in her least things exprest,
Nor know we with what scope God builds the worm.
Our towns are copied fragments from our breast;
And all man's Babylons strive but to impart
The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart.


From Hugo's 'Feuilles d'Automne'.

I love the evenings, passionless and fair, I love the evens,
Whether old manor-fronts their ray with golden fulgence leavens,
In numerous leafage bosomed close;
Whether the mist in reefs of fire extend its reaches sheer,
Or a hundred sunbeams splinter in an azure atmosphere
On cloudy archipelagos.

Oh gaze ye on the firmament! a hundred clouds in motion,
Up-piled in the immense sublime beneath the winds' commotion,
Their unimagined shapes accord:
Under their waves at intervals flames a pale levin through,
As if some giant of the air amid the vapours drew
A sudden elemental sword.

The sun at bay with splendid thrusts still keeps the sullen fold;
And momently at distance sets, as a cupola of gold,
The thatched roof of a cot a-glance;
Or on the blurred horizons joins his battle with the haze;
Or pools the glooming fields about with inter-isolate blaze
Great moveless meres of radiance.

Then mark you how there hangs athwart the firmament's swept track
Yonder a mighty crocodile with vast irradiant back,
A triple row of pointed teeth?
Under its burnished belly slips a ray of eventide,
The flickerings of a hundred glowing clouds its tenebrous side
With scales of golden mail ensheathe.

Then mounts a palace, then the air vibrates--the vision flees.
Confounded to its base, the fearful cloudy edifice
Ruins immense in mounded wrack:
Afar the fragments strew the sky, and each envermeiled cone
Hangeth, peak downward, overhead, like mountains overthrown
When the earthquake heaves its hugy back.

These vapours with their leaden, golden, iron, bronz-ed glows,
Where the hurricane, the waterspout, thunder, and hell repose,
Muttering hoarse dreams of destined harms,
'Tis God who hangs their multitude amid the skiey deep,
As a warrior that suspendeth from the roof-tree of his keep
His dreadful and resounding arms!

All vanishes! The sun, from topmost heaven precipitated,
Like to a globe of iron which is tossed back fiery red
Into the furnace stirred to fume,
Shocking the cloudy surges, plashed from its impetuous ire,
Even to the zenith spattereth in a flecking scud of fire
The vaporous and inflam-ed spume.

O contemplate the heavens! whenas the vein-drawn day dies pale,
In every season, every place, gaze through their every veil,
With love that has not speech for need;
Beneath their solemn beauty is a mystery infinite:
If winter hue them like a pall; or if the summer night
Fantasy them with starry brede.


From Hugo's 'Feuilles d'Automne'.

Have you sometimes, calm, silent, let your tread aspirant rise
Up to the mountain's summit, in the presence of the skies?
Was't on the borders of the South? or on the Bretagne coast?
And at the basis of the mount had you the Ocean tossed?
And there, leaned o'er the wave and o'er the immeasurableness,
Calm, silent, have you harkened what it says? Lo, what it says!
One day at least, whereon my thought, enlicens-ed to muse,
Had drooped its wing above the beach-ed margent of the ooze,
And, plunging from the mountain height into the immensity,
Beheld upon one side the land, on the other side the sea.
I harkened, comprehended,--never, as from those abysses,
No, never issued from a mouth, nor moved an ear, such voice as this

A sound it was, at outset, vast, immeasurable, confused,
Vaguer than is the wind among the tufted trees effused,
Full of magnificent accords, suave murmurs, sweet as is
The evensong, and mighty as the shock of panoplies
When the hoarse melee in its arms the closing squadrons grips,
And pants, in furious breathings, from the clarions' brazen lips.
Unutterable the harmony, unsearchable its deep,
Whose fluid undulations round the world a girdle keep,
And through the vasty heavens, which by its surges are washed young,
Its infinite volutions roll, enlarging as they throng,
Even to the profound arcane, whose ultimate chasms sombre
Its shattered flood englut with time, with space and form and
Like to another atmosphere with thin o'erflowing robe,
The hymn eternal covers all the inundated globe:
And the world, swathed about with this investuring symphony,
Even as it trepidates in the air, so trepidates in the harmony.

And pensive, I attended the ethereal lutany,
Lost within this containing voice as if within the sea.

Soon I distinguished, yet as tone which veils confuse and smother,
Amid this voice two voices, one commingled with the other,
Which did from off the land and seas even to the heavens aspire;
Chanting the universal chant in simultaneous quire.
And I distinguished them amid that deep and rumorous sound,
As who beholds two currents thwart amid the fluctuous profound.

The one was of the waters; a be-radiant hymnal speech!
That was the voice o' the surges, as they parleyed each with each.
The other, which arose from our abode terranean,
Was sorrowful; and that, alack! the murmur was of man;
And in this mighty quire, whose chantings day and night resound,
Every wave had its utterance, and every man his sound.

Now, the magnificent Ocean, as I said, unbannering
A voice of joy, a voice of peace, did never stint to sing,
Most like in Sion's temples to a psaltery psaltering,
And to creation's beauty reared the great lauds of his song.
Upon the gale, upon the squall, his clamour borne along
Unpausingly arose to God in more triumphal swell;
And every one among his waves, that God alone can quell,
When the other of its song made end, into the singing pressed.
Like that majestic lion whereof Daniel was the guest,
At intervals the Ocean his tremendous murmur awed;
And I, t'ward where the sunset fires fell shaggily and broad,
Under his golden mane, methought, that I saw pass the hand of God.

Meanwhile, and side by side with that august fan-faronnade,
The other voice, like the sudden scream of a destrier affrayed,
Like an infernal door that grates ajar its rusty throat,
Like to a bow of iron that gnarls upon an iron rote,
Grinded; and tears, and shriekings, the anathema, the lewd taunt,
Refusal of viaticum, refusal of the font,
And clamour, and malediction, and dread blasphemy, among
That hurtling crowd of rumour from the diverse human tongue,
Went by as who beholdeth, when the valleys thick t'ward night,
The long drifts of the birds of dusk pass, blackening flight on
What was this sound whose thousand echoes vibrated unsleeping?
Alas! the sound was earth's and man's, for earth and man were

Brothers! of these two voices, strange most unimaginably,
Unceasingly regenerated, dying unceasingly,
Harken-ed of the Eternal throughout His Eternity,
The one voice uttereth: NATURE! and the other voice: HUMANITY!

Then I alit in reverie; for my ministering sprite
Alack! had never yet deployed a pinion of an ampler flight,
Nor ever had my shadow endured so large a day to burn:
And long I rested dreaming, contemplating turn by turn
Now that abyss obscure which lurked beneath the water's roll,
And now that other untemptable abyss which opened in my soul.
And I made question of me, to what issues are we here,
Whither should tend the thwarting threads of all this ravelled gear;
What doth the soul; to be or live if better worth it is;
And why the Lord, Who, only, reads within that book of His,
In fatal hymeneals hath eternally entwined
The vintage-chant of nature with the dirging cry of humankind?

(The metre of the second of these two translations is an experiment.
The splendid fourteen-syllable metre of Chapman I have treated after
the manner of Drydenian rhyming heroics; with the occasional
triplet, and even the occasional Alexandrine, represented by a line
of eight accents--a treatment which can well extend, I believe, the
majestic resources of the metre.)



O you, love's mendicancy who never tried,
How little of your almsman me you know!
Your little languid hand in mine you slide,
Like to a child says--'Kiss me and let me go!'
And night for this is fretted with my tears,
While I:-'How soon this heavenly neck doth tire
Bending to me from its transtellar spheres!'
Ah, heart all kneaded out of honey and fire!
Who bound thee to a body nothing worth,
And shamed thee much with an unlovely soul,
That the most strainedest charity of earth
Distasteth soon to render back the whole
Of thine inflam-ed sweets and gentilesse!
Whereat, like an unpastured Titan, thou
Gnaw'st on thyself for famine's bitterness,
And leap'st against thy chain. Sweet Lady, how
Little a linking of the hand to you!
Though I should touch yours careless for a year,
Not one blue vein would lie divinelier blue
Upon your fragile temple, to unsphere
The seraphim for kisses! Not one curve
Of your sad mouth would droop more sad and sweet.
But little food love's beggars needs must serve,
That eye your plenteous graces from the street.
A hand-clasp I must feed on for a night,
A noon, although the untasted feast you lay,
To mock me, of your beauty. That you might
Be lover for one space, and make essay
What 'tis to pass unsuppered to your couch,
Keep fast from love all day; and so be taught
The famine which these craving lines avouch!
Ah! miser of good things that cost thee naught,
How know'st thou poor men's hunger?--Misery!
When I go doleless and unfed by thee!


'No man ever attained supreme knowledge, unless his heart had been
torn up by the roots.'

When I presage the time shall come--yea, now
Perchance is come, when you shall fail from me,
Because the mighty spirit, to whom you vow
Faith of kin genius unrebukably,
Scourges my sloth, and from your side dismissed
Henceforth this sad and most, most lonely soul
Must, marching fatally through pain and mist,
The God-bid levy of its powers enrol;
When I presage that none shall hear the voice
From the great Mount that clangs my ordained advance,
That sullen envy bade the churlish choice
Yourself shall say, and turn your altered glance;
O God! Thou knowest if this heart of flesh
Quivers like broken entrails, when the wheel
Rolleth some dog in middle street, or fresh
Fruit when ye tear it bleeding from the peel;
If my soul cries the uncomprehended cry
When the red agony oozed on Olivet!
Yet not for this, a caitiff, falter I,
Beloved whom I must lose, nor thence regret
The doubly-vouched and twin allegiance owed
To you in Heaven, and Heaven in you, Lady.
How could you hope, loose dealer with my God,
That I should keep for you my fealty?
For still 'tis thus:-because I am so true,
My Fair, to Heaven, I am so true to you!


Phoebus, who taught me art divine,
Here tried his hand where I did mine;
And his white fingers in this face
Set my Fair's sigh-suggesting grace.
O sweetness past profaning guess,
Grievous with its own exquisiteness!
Vesper-like face, its shadows bright
With meanings of sequestered light;
Drooped with shamefast sanctities
She purely fears eyes cannot miss,
Yet would blush to know she IS.
Ah, who can view with passionless glance
This tear-compelling countenance!
He has cozened it to tell
Almost its own miracle.
Yet I, all-viewing though he be,
Methinks saw further here than he;
And, Master gay! I swear I drew
Something the better of the two!


The after-even! Ah, did I walk,
Indeed, in her or even?
For nothing of me or around
But absent She did leaven,
Felt in my body as its soul,
And in my soul its heaven.

'Ah me! my very flesh turns soul,
Essenced,' I sighed, 'with bliss!'
And the blackbird held his lutany,
All fragrant-through with bliss;
And all things stilled were as a maid
Sweet with a single kiss.

For grief of perfect fairness, eve
Could nothing do but smile;
The time was far too perfect fair,
Being but for a while;
And ah, in me, too happy grief
Blinded herself with smile!

The sunset at its radiant heart
Had somewhat unconfest:
The bird was loath of speech, its song
Half-refluent on its breast,
And made melodious toyings with
A note or two at best.

And she was gone, my sole, my Fair,
Ah, sole my Fair, was gone!
Methinks, throughout the world 'twere right
I had been sad alone;
And yet, such sweet in all things' heart,
And such sweet in my own!


Me since your fair ambition bows
Feodary to those gracious brows,
Is nothing mine will not confess
Your sovran sweet rapaciousness?
Though use to the white yoke inures,
Half-petulant is
Your loving rebel for somewhat his,
Not yours, my love, not yours!

Behold my skies, which make with me
One passionate tranquillity!
Wrap thyself in them as a robe,
She shares them not; their azures probe,
No countering wings thy flight endures.
Nay, they do stole
Me like an aura of her soul.
I yield them, love, for yours!

But mine these hills and fields, which put
Not on the sanctity of her foot.
Far off, my dear, far off the sweet
Grave pianissimo of your feet!
My earth, perchance, your sway abjures?--
Your absence broods
O'er all, a subtler presence. Woods,
Fields, hills, all yours, all yours!

Nay then, I said, I have my thought,
Which never woman's reaching raught;
Being strong beyond a woman's might,
And high beyond a woman's height,
Shaped to my shape in all contours.--
I looked, and knew
No thought but you were garden to.
All yours, my love, all yours!

Meseemeth still, I have my life;
All-clement Her its resolute strife
Evades; contained, relinquishing
Her mitigating eyes; a thing
Which the whole girth of God secures.
Ah, fool, pause! pause!
I had no life, until it was
All yours, my love, all yours!

Yet, stern possession! I have my death,
Sole yielding up of my sole breath;
Which all within myself I die,
All in myself must cry the cry
Which the deaf body's wall immures.--
Thought fashioneth
My death without her.--Ah, even death
All yours, my love, all yours!

Death, then, he hers. I have my heaven,
For which no arm of hers has striven;
Which solitary I must choose,
And solitary win or lose.--
Ah, but not heaven my own endures!
I must perforce
Taste you, my stream, in God your source,--
So steep my heaven in yours.

At last I said--I have my God,
Who doth desire me, though a clod,
And from His liberal Heaven shall He
Bar in mine arms His privacy.
Himself for mine Himself assures.--
None shall deny
God to be mine, but He and I
All yours, my love, all yours!

I have no fear at all lest I
Without her draw felicity.
God for His Heaven will not forego
Her whom I found such heaven below,
And she will train Him to her lures.
Nought, lady, I love
In you but more is loved above;
What made me, makes Him yours.

'I, thy sought own, am I forgot?'
Ha, thou?--thou liest, I seek thee not.
Why what, thou painted parrot, Fame,
What have I taught thee but her name?
Hear, thou slave Fame, while Time endures,
I give her thee;
Page her triumphal name!--Lady,
Take her, the thrall is yours.


A boy's young fancy taketh love
Most simply, with the rind thereof;
A boy's young fancy tasteth more
The rind, than the deific core.
Ah, Sweet! to cast away the slips
Of unessential rind, and lips
Fix on the immortal core, is well;
But heard'st thou ever any tell
Of such a fool would take for food
Aspect and scent, however good,
Of sweetest core Love's orchards grow?
Should such a phantast please him so,
Love where Love's reverent self denies
Love to feed, but with his eyes,
All the savour, all the touch,
Another's--was there ever such?
Such were fool, if fool there be;
Such fool was I, and was for thee!
But if the touch and savour too
Of this fruit--say, Sweet, of you--
You unto another give
For sacrosanct prerogative,
Yet even scent and aspect were
Some elected Second's share;
And one, gone mad, should rest content
With memory of show and scent;
Would not thyself vow, if there sigh
Such a fool--say, Sweet, as I--
Treble frenzy it must be
Still to love, and to love thee?

Yet had I torn (man knoweth not,
Nor scarce the unweeping angels wot
Of such dread task the lightest part)
Her fingers from about my heart.
Heart, did we not think that she
Had surceased her tyranny?
Heart, we bounded, and were free!
O sacrilegious freedom!--Till
She came, and taught my apostate will
The winnowed sweet mirth cannot guess
And tear-fined peace of hopefulness;
Looked, spake, simply touched, and went.
Now old pain is fresh content,
Proved content is unproved pain.
Pangs fore-tempted, which in vain
I, faithless, have denied, now bud
To untempted fragrance and the mood
Of contrite heavenliness; all days
Joy affrights me in my ways;
Extremities of old delight
Afflict me with new exquisite
Virgin piercings of surprise,--
Stung by those wild brown bees, her eyes!


Now in these last spent drops, slow, slower shed,
Love dies, Love dies, Love dies--ah, Love is dead!
Sad Love in life, sore Love in agony,
Pale Love in death; while all his offspring songs,
Like children, versed not in death's chilly wrongs,
About him flit, frighted to see him lie
So still, who did not know that Love could die.
One lifts his wing, where dulls the vermeil all
Like clotting blood, and shrinks to find it cold,
And when she sees its lapse and nerveless fall
Clasps her fans, while her sobs ooze through the webb-ed gold.
Thereat all weep together, and their tears
Make lights like shivered moonlight on long waters.
Have peace, O piteous daughters!
He shall not wake more through the mortal years,
Nor comfort come to my soul widow-ed,
Nor breath to your wild wings; for Love is dead!

I slew, that moan for him: he lifted me
Above myself, and that I might not be
Less than myself, need was that he should die;
Since Love that first did wing, now clogged me from the sky.
Yet lofty Love being dead thus passeth base--
There is a soul of nobleness which stays,
The spectre of the rose: be comforted,
Songs, for the dust that dims his sacred head!
The days draw on too dark for Song or Love;
O peace, my songs, nor stir ye any wing!
For lo, the thunder hushing all the grove,
And did Love live, not even Love could sing.

And, Lady, thus I dare to say,
Not all with you is passed away!
For your love taught me this:-'tis Love's true praise
To be, not staff, but writ of worthy days;
And that high worth in love unfortunate
Should still remain it learned in love elate.
Beyond your star, still, still the stars are bright;
Beyond your highness, still I follow height;
Sole I go forth, yet still to my sad view,
Beyond your trueness, Lady, Truth stands true.
This wisdom sings my song with last firm breath,
Caught from the twisted lore of Love and Death,
The strange inwoven harmony that wakes
From Pallas' straying locks twined with her aegis-snakes.
'On him the unpetitioned heavens descend,
Who heaven on earth proposes not for end;
The perilous and celestial excess
Taking with peace, lacking with thankfulness.
Bliss in extreme befits thee not, until
Thou'rt not extreme in bliss; be equal still:
Sweets to be granted think thy self unmeet
Till thou have learned to hold sweet not too sweet.'
This thing not far is he from wise in art
Who teacheth; nor who doth, from wise in heart.


Go, songs, for ended is our brief, sweet play;
Go, children of swift joy and tardy sorrow:
And some are sung, and that was yesterday,
And some unsung, and that may be to-morrow.

Go forth; and if it be o'er stony way,
Old joy can lend what newer grief must borrow:
And it was sweet, and that was yesterday,
And sweet is sweet, though purchas-ed with sorrow.

Go, songs, and come not back from your far way:
And if men ask you why ye smile and sorrow,
Tell them ye grieve, for your hearts know To-day,
Tell them ye smile, for your eyes know To-morrow.

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