Francis Thompson

(16 December 1859 – 13 November 1907 / Preston, England)

A Captain Of Song


(On a portrait of Coventry Patmore by J. S. Sargent, R.A.)

Look on him. This is he whose works ye know;
Ye have adored, thanked, loved him,--no, not him!
But that of him which proud portentous woe
To its own grim
Presentment was not potent to subdue,
Nor all the reek of Erebus to dim.
This, and not him, ye knew.
Look on him now. Love, worship if ye can,
The very man.
Ye may not. He has trod the ways afar,
The fatal ways of parting and farewell,
Where all the paths of pain-ed greatness are;
Where round and always round
The abhorr-ed words resound,
The words accursed of comfortable men,--
'For ever'; and infinite glooms intolerable
With spacious replication give again,
And hollow jar,
The words abhorred of comfortable men.
You the stern pities of the gods debar
To drink where he has drunk
The moonless mere of sighs,
And pace the places infamous to tell,
Where God wipes not the tears from any eyes,
Where-through the ways of dreadful greatness are
He knows the perilous rout
That all those ways about
Sink into doom, and sinking, still are sunk.
And if his sole and solemn term thereout
He has attained, to love ye shall not dare
One who has journeyed there;
Ye shall mark well
The mighty cruelties which arm and mar
That countenance of control,
With minatory warnings of a soul
That hath to its own selfhood been most fell,
And is not weak to spare:
And lo, that hair
Is blanch-ed with the travel-heats of hell.

If any be
That shall with rites of reverent piety
Approach this strong
Sad soul of sovereign Song,
Nor fail and falter with the intimidate throng;
If such there be,
These, these are only they
Have trod the self-same way;
The never-twice-revolving portals heard
Behind them clang infernal, and that word
Abhorr-ed sighed of kind mortality,
As he--
Ah, even as he!

Submitted: Thursday, April 15, 2010

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