Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Angels Keep Their Ancient Places

Homeless, friendless, hopelessly addicted to opium, half naked in the cold rain of a London night as he tried to sleep on a bench beside the Thames, Francis Thompson was perhaps not an uncommon sight either then or now. But who that saw him could have guessed what brilliance his bloodshot eyes beheld as he lay there staring through his tears out over the river?


O WORLD invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air--
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!--
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places;--
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
'Tis ye, 'tis your estrang├Ęd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry,--and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry,--clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!


Devika said...

funny ending..
but good poem...

Nice to see you posting...
Wish you and family a Joyous and Prosperous New Year...


The Masked Badger said...

Happy Christmas and New Year from England, Doug! I guess you have had a very busy time over Christmas - lots of mail?

Anyway, thanks for this. I only have ever heard of The Hound of Heaven by Thompson.
I wonder how the references to London sound to US ears?! The juxtaposition of the heavenly and the mundane grandiosity of Charing Cross and the Thames...

deola said...

Hi,happy new year

Rosa said...

Wow, that is one powerful poem!

Dominic Sternhagen said...

Thanks! Incredible poem!