The Hound of Heaven

One of my favorite poems from one of my favorite poets, Francis Thompson. Rarely does a poem so clearly embody the race from deeper meaning that humans go through.

The Hound of Heaven

    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 chasmèd 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 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 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."

    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,


        With our Lady-Mother's vagrant tresses,


        With her in her wind-walled palace,

        Underneath her azured daïs,

        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 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 milk of hers once bless

            My thirsting mouth.

            Nigh and nigh draws the chase,

            With unperturbèd 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 hast 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 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-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 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 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."