The Hound of Heaven

Original Text: 
Francis Thompson, The Works of Francis Thompson. Poems, 2 vols. (ew York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913): I, 107-13. PR 5650 A1 1913c Robarts Library
1I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
2I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
3I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
4   Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
5I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
6            Up vistaed hopes I sped;
7            And shot, precipitated,
8Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
9   From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
10            But with unhurrying chase,
11            And unperturbèd pace,
12        Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
13            They beat -- and a Voice beat
14            More instant than the Feet
15        "All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."
16            I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
17By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
18    Trellised with intertwining charities;
19(For, though I knew His love Who followèd,
20            Yet was I sore adread
21Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
22But, if one little casement parted wide,
23    The gust of His approach would clash it to:
24    Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
25Across the margent of the world I fled,
26    And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
27    Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars;
28            Fretted to dulcet jars
29And silvern chatter the pale ports o' the moon.
30I said to Dawn: Be sudden -- to Eve: Be soon;
31    With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
32            From this tremendous Lover --
33Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
34   I tempted all His servitors, but to find
35My own betrayal in their constancy,
36In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
37    Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
38To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
39    Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
40          But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
41        The long savannahs of the blue;
42            Or whether, Thunder-driven,
43          They clanged his chariot 'thwart a heaven,
44Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o' their feet: --
45    Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
46            Still with unhurrying chase,
47            And unperturbèd pace,
48        Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
49            Came on the following Feet,
50            And a Voice above their beat --
51        "Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me."
52I sought no more that after which I strayed
53            In face of man or maid;
54But still within the little children's eyes
55            Seems something, something that replies,
56They at least are for me, surely for me!
57I turned me to them very wistfully;
58But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
59            With dawning answers there,
60Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
61"Come then, ye other children, Nature's -- share
62With me" (said I) "your delicate fellowship;
63            Let me greet you lip to lip,
64            Let me twine with you caresses,
65                Wantoning
66            With our Lady-Mother's vagrant tresses,
67                Banqueting
68            With her in her wind-walled palace,
69            Underneath her azured daïs,
70            Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
71                From a chalice
72Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring."
73                So it was done:
74I in their delicate fellowship was one --
75Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies.
76            I knew all the swift importings
77            On the wilful face of skies;
78            I knew how the clouds arise
79            Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings;
80                All that's born or dies
81            Rose and drooped with; made them shapers
82Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine;
83            With them joyed and was bereaven.
84            I was heavy with the even,
85            When she lit her glimmering tapers
86            Round the day's dead sanctities.
87            I laughed in the morning's eyes.
88I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
89            Heaven and I wept together,
90And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
91Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
92            I laid my own to beat,
93            And share commingling heat;
94But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
95In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek.
96For ah! we know not what each other says,
97            These things and I; in sound I speak --
98Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
99Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
100            Let her, if she would owe me,
101Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
102            The breasts o' her tenderness:
103Never did any milk of hers once bless
104                My thirsting mouth.
105                Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
106                With unperturbèd pace,
107            Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
108                And past those noisèd Feet
109                A voice comes yet more fleet --
110            "Lo! naught contents thee, who content'st not Me."
111Naked I wait Thy love's uplifted stroke!
112My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
113                And smitten me to my knee;
114            I am defenceless utterly.
115            I slept, methinks, and woke,
116And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
117In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
118            I shook the pillaring hours
119And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
120I stand amid the dust o' the mounded years --
121My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
122My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
123Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
124            Yea, faileth now even dream
125The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist;
126Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
127I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
128Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
129For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
130            Ah! is Thy love indeed
131A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
132Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
133            Ah! must
134            Designer infinite! --
135Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?
136My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust;
137And now my heart is as a broken fount,
138Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
139            From the dank thoughts that shiver
140Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
141            Such is; what is to be?
142The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
143I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
144Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
145From the hid battlements of Eternity;
146Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
147Round the half-glimpsèd turrets slowly wash again.
148            But not ere him who summoneth
149            I first have seen, enwound
150With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
151His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
152Whether man's heart or life it be which yields
153            Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
154            Be dunged with rotten death?
155                Now of that long pursuit
156                Comes on at hand the bruit;
157            That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
158                "And is thy earth so marred,
159                Shattered in shard on shard?
160            Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
161            Strange, piteous, futile thing!
162Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
163Seeing none but I makes much of naught" (He said),
164"And human love needs human meriting:
165            How hast thou merited --
166Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot?
167            Alack, thou knowest not
168How little worthy of any love thou art!
169Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
170            Save Me, save only Me?
171All which I took from thee I did but take,
172            Not for thy harms,
173But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
174            All which thy child's mistake
175Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
176            Rise, clasp My hand, and come!"
177    Halts by me that footfall:
178    Is my gloom, after all,
179Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
180     "Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
181    I am He Whom thou seekest!
182Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1996-2000.