Francis Thompson

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

After-Strain


Now with wan ray that other sun of Song
Sets in the bleakening waters of my soul:
One step, and lo! the Cross stands gaunt and long
'Twixt me and yet bright skies, a presaged dole.

Even so, O Cross! thine is the victory.
Thy roots are fast within our fairest fields;
Brightness may emanate in Heaven from thee,
Here thy dread symbol only shadow yields.

Of reap-ed joys thou art the heavy sheaf
Which must be lifted, though the reaper groan;
Yea, we may cry till Heaven's great ear be deaf,
But we must bear thee, and must bear alone.

Vain were a Simon; of the Antipodes
Our night not borrows the superfluous day.
Yet woe to him that from his burden flees!
Crushed in the fall of what he cast away.

Therefore, O tender Lady, Queen Mary,
Thou gentleness that dost enmoss and drape
The Cross's rigorous austerity,
Wipe thou the blood from wounds that needs must gape.

'Lo, though suns rise and set, but crosses stay,
I leave thee ever,' saith she, 'light of cheer.'
'Tis so: yon sky still thinks upon the Day,
And showers aerial blossoms on his bier.

Yon cloud with wrinkled fire is edg-ed sharp;
And once more welling through the air, ah me!
How the sweet viol plains him to the harp,
Whose pang-ed sobbings throng tumultuously.

Oh, this Medusa-pleasure with her stings!
This essence of all suffering, which is joy!
I am not thankless for the spell it brings,
Though tears must be told down for the charmed toy.

No; while soul, sky, and music bleed together,
Let me give thanks even for those griefs in me,
The restless windward stirrings of whose feather
Prove them the brood of immortality.

My soul is quitted of death-neighbouring swoon,
Who shall not slake her immitigable scars
Until she hear 'My sister!' from the moon,
And take the kindred kisses of the stars.

Submitted: Thursday, April 15, 2010

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