Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Hound of Heaven

Francis Thompson
Francis Thompson

This post isn't going to be for everyone. Not many people will have the fortitude to read this entire poem, I'm pretty sure. But I was raised on a lot of famous poetry, and some phrases of this poem have been "hounding" me this fall.

I've been trying to deal with a big disappointment, where I believe that I was seriously wronged. To the point where I have considered taking legal action if I thought I could prove anything. Of course, this isn't the kind of person I want to be. I'm just trying to convey how upset and angry I've been.

Although this poem was written with the idea of God chasing down someone who has turned away from Him, it still resonates. Every time I felt so angry, I also felt that God's principles- the ones I want to live by- have been chasing me. For example:
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."


And now my heart is 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?

So, I present to you the entire poem, The Hound of Heaven, by Francis Thompson, 1893. Read on, if you are brave:

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 followed,
     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 clanged 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 skyey 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--
     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 gray 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 of 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 defenseless 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 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 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 mist 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 blooming robes, purpureal, cypress-crowned;
is 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 rhe 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, outstreched caressingly?
"Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."


Secondary Roads said...

I reread The Hound of Heaven just the other day. It is a very powerful message of persistent love.

Bill said...


Now that's a long poem, and certainly one that I've never read before. As Secondary Roads says "persistent love"!

With regards to your message to me over at Everyday Adventurer, I'm located in central New England, inland right on the Vermont, MA line. High country and very wild.

Anonymous said...

Never read this, thanks for sharing.

I have concluded God's love is the ONLY pure, never-ending love to be had. Without it we are lost. Mankind will always leave us disappointed and unfulfilled.

Dakota said...

Hey, I just came across your blog by doing a bit of blog-surfing, and I'm glad I did! I've added myself as your newest follower, and I hope you'll check out my Christian devotional site as well:

Have a blessed day!

In Christ,

sm said...

powerful thoughtful message

Mer said...

It's tough to let go of things like that - we had a similar issue this past year where we had to consider legal action. It was hard to move on, but so freeing once I did so as I didn't have to think about what happened all the time anymore. It allowed me to stop being angry. I hope things get better :)

jakill said...

Well done for keying it all in, Joan, if that's what that's how it was done. I'm copying it to print so I can read at my leisure. I'm too impatient to get on with things at my VDU.