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JQounb of Qeaijen 

sin interpretation 


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MACMILLAN & CO., Limited 








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AU rights reserved 

Copyright, 1921 

Set up and electrotyped. Published June, 1921. 

Printed in the United States of America 

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Praepositus Prov. Marylandiae. Neo-Eboracensis. 

Niljtl obBtat, 

Arthur J. Scanlan, S.T.D. 

Lihrorum Censor. 


fPATRiTius J. Hayes, D.D. 

Archiepiscopus Neo-Eboracensis. 

die 7 Aprilis. 1921. 






THIS little volume is offered as an ascetical 
and scriptural interpretation of the poem. 
The author refrains almost entirely from literary 
questions. His one aim has been to attempt to 
clarify obscure passages and to give all passages the 
atmosphere that is required for them from Sacred 
Scripture and from standard ascetical principles, for 
he feels that these not only bring added light and 
pleasure to the understanding of the poem, so instinct 
with invigorating thought, but that they are neces- 
sarily demanded for even a superficial attainment of 
Thompson's thought. The whole poem is vibrant with 
spirituality; and anyone who misses this, is thereby 
hopelessly out of harmony with the whole theme. 

The author wishes to caution the reader that he 
has no intention of asserting that Thompson had 
such or such definite passages of Scripture in view. 
Such passages are offered as illuminative of the poem, 
not necessarily as sources. 

Lastly the author wishes to express his indebted- 
ness to his many Jesuit . brethren who have so un- 
selfishly aided him by encouragement, cooperation, 
and constructive advice in this work. 

Francis P. LeBuffe, S. J. 
Fordham University, 

Feast of SS. Simon and Jude, 1920. 



TO all who read the history of mankind with 
unsoiled eyes the one outstanding and out- 
distancing fact is the insistent love of God. This love 
was first shown in the building of this world-home for 
man, so beautiful and so plural in its appeal to every 
sense of its rational lord. Man was to enjoy it without 
labor, reaping where he had not sown. This was God's 
first manifestation of love, yet man's truancy came 
speedily. Adam and Eve threw away God's love for 
them that they might hearken to a false promise of 
a share in self-sufficing knowledge. Forsaken and 
spurned by them, God would not have it so. Man, 
as any other foolish, petulant child, must be saved 
from his own folly. Man would make away from 
God, and God determined to pursue man and bring 
him back. This pursuit of the human race by God is 
described by St. John Chrysostom (Homily 5 on the 
Epistle to the Hebrews ii, 14-16) : 

"Paul wishing to show the great kindness of God 
towards man, and the Love which He had for the 
human race, after saying: 'Forasmuch then as the 
children were partakers of blood and flesh, He also 
Himself likewise took part of the same' (ii, 14), follows 
up the subject in this passage. For do not regard 


lightly what is spoken, nor think this merely a slight 
matter, His taking on Him our flesh. He granted not 
this to Angels; 'For verily He taketh not hold of 
Angels, but of the seed of Abraham.' What is it that 
he saith? He took not on Him an Angel's nature, but 
man's. But what is 'He taketh hold of? He did 
not (he means) grasp that nature, which belongs to 
Angels, but ours. But why did he not say, 'He took 
on Him,' but used this expression, 'He taketh hold 
of? It is derived from the figure of persons pursuing 
those who turn away from them, and doing every- 
thing to overtake them as they flee, and to take hold 
of them as they are bounding away. For when 
human nature was fleeing from Him, and fleeing far 
away (for we 'were far off — Ephesians ii, 13), He 
pursued after and overtook us. He showed that He 
has done this only out of kindness and love and tender 

This pursuit was long, and man had found his way 
down to the utter depths of the most degrading 
paganism, and seemed almost successful in his flight 
from God. This, St. Paul places before our eyes in 
words that picture with unrivalled force those godless 
men: "So that they are inexcusable, because that, 
when they knew God, they have not glorified Him as 
God, or given thanks, but became vain in their 
thoughts and their foolish heart was darkened. For 
professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 
and they changed the glory of the incorruptible God 


into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, 
and of birds, and of fourfooted beasts, and of creeping 
things. Wherefore God gave them up to the desires 
of their heart, unto uncleanness to dishonor their own 
bodies among themselves, who changed the truth of 
God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature 
rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 
For this cause God delivered them up to shameful 
affections . . . and as they liked not to have God 
in their knowledge, God delivered them to a reprobate 
sense, to do those things which are not convenient" 
(Rom. i, 20-28). It was, then, when man had all but 
become a beast, ''when the fulness of the time was 
come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made 
under the law, that He might redeem them who were 
under the law, that we might receive the adoption of 
sons" (Galatians iv, 4-5), ''and the Word was made 
flesh and dwelt among us . . . and of His fulness 
we all have received and grace for grace" (St. John 
i, 14, 16). Hope was relighted in the human heart 
and out of the sodden ashes of paganism arose the 
serried ranks of martyrs and virgins and holy witnesses 
to the love and kindliness of God to fallen, fleeing 

This racial pursuit of God is again, in a very special 
way, manifested in the history of the Jews, the chosen 
people of God under the older dispensation. Having 
selected them from out the nations of the world at 
the time He called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans, 


God further showed His loving care, for it was He 
*'who smote Egypt with their first bom . . . who 
brought out Israel from among them . . . with a 
mighty hand and with a stretched out arm . . . and 
slew strong kings . . . and He gave their land for 
an inheritance" (Psalm cxxxv, 10-21). But the 
people would not have God alone for "they made also 
a calf in Horeb and they adored the graven thing" 
(Psalm cv, 19). Yet not for that did God abandon 
Israel to his witlessness. "As an eagle enticing her 
young to fly, and hovering over them, He spread His 
wings, and hath taken him and carried him on His 
shoulders. The Lord alone was his leader and there 
was no strange god with him. He set him upon high 
land that he might eat the fruits of the fields, that 
he might suck honey out of the rock and oil out of the 
hardest stone, butter of the herd and milk of the sheep 
with the fat of the lambs, and of the rams of the breed 
of Basan, and goats with the marrow of wheat, and 
might drink the purest blood of the grape" (Deu- 
teronomy xxxii, 11-14). Surely Israel was a petted 
child yet with wonted petulancy, he balked his Fath- 
er's plans for "the beloved grew fat and kicked: he 
grew fat and thick and gross, he forsook God who made 
him and departed from God his Saviour. They pro- 
voked Him by strange gods and stirred Him up to 
anger with their abominations" (Deuteronomy xxxii, 
15-16). This, too, was their continued way of way- 
wardness until the words of aging Josue came true: 


*'But if you will embrace the errors of these nations 
that dwell among you and make marriages with them 
and join friendships; know ye for a certainty that the 
Lord your God will not destroy them before your 
face, but they shall be a pit and a snare in your way, 
and a stumbling-block at your side, and stakes in your 
eyes, till He take you away and destroy you from off 
this excellent land, which He hath given you" (Josue 
xxiii, 12-13). The day did come, when the exiled 
Jews sobbed out in their sorrow (Psalm cxxxvi, 1-4) : 

"Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept, 

When we remembered Sion. 
On the willows in the midst thereof 

We hung up our instruments; 
For there they that led us into captivity, required of us 

The words of songs; 
And they that carried us away, said: 

' Sing ye to us a hymn of the songs of Sion/ 
How shall we sing the song of the Lord 

In a land that is strange?" 

Again and again they were won back to God's friend- 
ship but again and yet again went aside after other 
loves and the whole history of that strange, stifE-necked 
folk is one of the persistency of God's love, which 
would not brook refusal. Not even when the Master 
of the vineyard sent His only Son to them, would they 
give Him their undivided hearts, for that same Son 
was forced to cry (St. Matthew xxiii, 37) : '^Jerusalem, 


Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest 
them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have 
gathered together thy children as the hen doth gather 
her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not!'^ 
But despite it all, on Good Friday morning they re- 
nounced their allegiance to God, who for generations 
had been their king; for, hurling back Pilate's taunt, 
the chief priests answered: "We have no king but 
Caesar'' (St. John xix, 15). After this rejection would 
God continue the pursuit? Did infinite Goodness 
find yet more patience with this ungrateful child? 
Yes, even after they had murdered their Messiah, 
"the Hope of Israel," "The Desire of the everlasting 
hills," for twelve long years the Apostles labored 
unitedly in Jerusalem to win this faithless folk back to 
God. Nor did the pursuit end there; for we know 
that God's love will pursue them until the great day 
of reckoning, before which the "remnant of the house 
of Israel" is to be saved. 

This pursuit of the whole mankind and of the Jew- 
ish folk in particular is but a larger manifestation of 
God's way with each individual soul. "Man is 
created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord, 
and by this means to save his soul; and the other 
things on the face of the earth were created for man's 
sake, and in order to aid him in the prosecution of 
the end for which he was created" (Spiritual Exer- 
cises of St. Ignatius). Hence the command: "Hear, 
O Israel, the Lord, our God, is one Lord. Thou shalt 


love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with 
thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength" (Deu- 
teronomy vi, 4-5), for ''I am the Lord thy God. . . . 
Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me. . . . 
Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the 
Lord thy God, mighty, jealous (Exodus xx, 2-5). But 
each soul is wont to be rebellious and deems it hard 
to find in God its all of love and in subjection to Him 
its highest freedom. "A vain man is lifted up into 
pride and thinketh himself born free like a wild ass's 
colt" (Job xi, 12). Mostly our rebellion is but the 
ignorant querulousness of a peevish child, simply a 
bhnd groping of the human heart among created 
things after that "unlimited good" which alone will 
satisfy it adequately. Sometimes, however, there is a 
deal of conviction within us that it is hard for us to 
kick against the goad, for we realize, to our own in- 
creasing discomfiture, that by not yielding we are 
hurting our own real good. Rarely is our rebellion an 
open rejection of God's authority. Yet there are men 
that are such rebels, and of each of them it can truly 
be said: '' His pride and his arrogancy and his indig- 
nation is more than his strength" (Isaias xvi, 6), for 
this is the kind of pride which ultimately refuses to 
be conquered by God and leads direct to eternal 
wreckage of all that is truly noble in man. 

It is this endeavor of the soul to make away from 
God and God's pursuit that forms the theme of this 
poem. Whether this poem is autobiographical or not, 


seems largely a superfluous academic question. Un- 
doubtedly it is, at least in broad outlines, but it seems 
to add little inward worth to the interpretation to 
know that this line talHes with a certain incident in 
Thompson's Hfe and that line with another. This 
"speciahst" treatment makes little for the general 
appeal. What is of interest and what secures the 
widest appeal for the poem is that it is autobiograph- 
ical of "a" soul, in aspects common to it and all man- 
kind, and therefore autobigraphical of every soul, for 
it is regrettably true that every soul of every child 
of Adam, with the single and signal exception of 
Mary, the Mother of God, has fought with varying 
intensity this fight against its ''Tremendous Lover." 
We have all "fled Him, down the nights and down the 
days" and the poem smites on our souls as did the 
handwriting on Balthasar's wall. As we read and 
ponder, there resound within our hearts the accusing 
words of the prophet Nathan to King David: ''Thou 
art the man." Whether anthologists refuse to class 
this poem as a "great poem" or not, it is more widely 
read and will be more widely read than many that 
measure up to an arbitrary yardstick. Against its 
poignant throbbings we lay our own hearts "to beat 
and share commingUng heat"; and it is quite safe to 
say that many a prayer has been breathed and many 
a heart moved to take at least initial steps to end its 
flight from God, as line after line awakened memories 
that burned and seared the soul unto its own healing. 


Like the Psalms of David, though inevitably with far 
less authority and consequent appeal, it reads each 
human heart for its own self and makes plain to it the 
meaning of those ceaseless cravings which, if mis- 
construed, torture our hearts as they pilgrimage to 
Father's home. Thompson would tell us that all yearn- 
ings of the soul can be met by God alone and that it 
is the sheerest folly to try to ease that fundamental 
search for love, coextensive with our being, save in the 
way that God will have it. God wants our love; and 
God will have it, and have it in the way He Himself 
desires — or else the soul-hunger will never be eased. 
With some this pursuit of God is swift and decisive; 
and so a Magdalene becomes at once a woman of 
saintliest ways, a Saul stands forth as the world- 
grasping Paul, to whom ''to Hve is Christ, and to die 
is gain" (Philippians i, 21), a Spanish cavalier is 
hurled by a cannon-ball into the saintliness of Ignatius. 
With others God's task is harder, the pursuit is 
longer and it is only when God has time and time again 
^ bruised their hearts and torn their souls wide asunder 
and plucked thereout each object that was loved, 
that they yield to Him and in that yielding find sur- 
cease of pain and plenitude of sanctifying love and 
that peace which the world cannot give and is equally 
impotent to take away, ''the peace of God, which sur- 
passeth all understanding" (Philippians iv, 7). 

Thompson is not alone in his endeavor to show 
the futility of trying to escape from God. Holy 


Scripture, with all the force of God's own authority, 
frequently insists on this thought. The whole idea is 
summed up strikingly in our Lord's simple metaphor 
of the Good Shepherd: "I am the Good Shepherd. 
The good shepherd giveth his hfe for his sheep" 
(St. John X, ii), for ''if he shall lose one of them, doth 
he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go 
after that which was lost, until he find it?" (St. 
Luke XV, 4). Elsewhere in Holy Scripture we find 
similar thoughts. The Royal Psalmist (Psalm cxxxviii, 
7-12) speaks from the side of God's omnipresence 
and His conserving love, while Thompson presents 
God's pursuit after a fleeing, erring soul that He wills 
to bring hack to His love. The Psalmist view is one 
of repose, Thompson's one of intensest activity: 

''Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? 

Or whither shall I flee from Thy face? 
If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there; 

If I descend into hell, Thou art present. 
If I take my wings early in the morning 

And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 
Even there also shall Thy hand lead me 

And Thy right hand shall hold me. 
And I said: Perhaps darkness shall cover me. 

And night shall be my light in my pleasures. 
But darkness shall not be dark to Thee, 

And night shall be light as the day; 
The darkness thereof, and the light thereof are alike to 


Again holy Job is answered by Sophar the Naamathite 
(Job xi, 7-10): 

" Peradventure thou wilt comprehend the steps of God, 

And wilt find out the Almighty perfectly? 
He is higher than heaven, and what wilt thou do? 

He is deeper than hell and how wilt thou know? 
The measure of Him is longer than the earth 

And broader than the sea. 
If He shall overturn all things, or shall press them to- 

Who shall contradict Him?" 

In both citations the holy writers take a static 
view of God's relation to the soul, while Thompson's 
entire concept is d3aiamic. The whole story of Saul, 
unhorsed on the road to Damascus, approximates 
more nearly the present theme. "And as he went on 
his journey, it came to pass that he drew nigh to 
Damascus and suddenly a light from heaven shined 
round about him, and falling to the ground, he heard a 
voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest 
thou me? Who said: Who art thou, Lord? And He: 
I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for 
thee to kick against the goad. And he trembling 
and astonished said: Lord, what wilt thou have me 
to do?" (Acts ix, 3-6). Saul had kicked against the 
goad by gazing with blinded eyes on the miracles of 
the early Church and the wondrous sanctity of her 
first-bom children and by turning a deaf ear to 


Stephen's inspired words. But now One greater than 
he, has hurled him to the ground and from the earth 
rises the new man, "Paul a servant of Jesus Christ, 
called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of 
God" (Romans i, i); ''from henceforth let no man 
be troublesome to me: for I bear the brand-marks of 
the Lord Jesus in my body " (Galatians vi, 17). From 
that time on Paul was God's man wholly and entirely. 
Outside the inspired pages of Holy Scripture we 
find other songs to tell us of this flight. In shorter 
compass the poet Archbishop, Richard Chenevix 
Trench, briefly yet strongly pictures the inevitable 
outcome of such vagrancy: 

''If there had anywhere appeared in space 
Another place of refuge where to flee. 
My soul had found a refuge in that place 
And not in Thee. 

But only when I found in earth and air 
And heaven and hell that such could nowhere be. 
That I could not flee from Thee anywhere 
I fled to Thee." 

Again with lesser note Father Tabb has sung in one of 
his famous quatrains, "The Wanderer": 

" For one astray, behold 

The Master, leaves the ninety and the nine. 
Nor rest till, love-controlled. 

The Discord moves in Harmony divine. 


Greater than either of these is the strong passage 
in ''Idylls of the King," where, in ''The Holy Grail," 
Sir Percivale tells the monk Ambrosius of his quest. 
The parting tournament has been held and Percivale 
had shown unwonted strength of arm and then the 
morrow came and he went forth with his fellow- 
knights to seek the Holy Grail: 

"And I was lifted up in heart, and thought 

Of all my late-shown prowess in the lists, 

How my strong lance had beaten down the knights, 

So many and famous names; and never yet 

Had heaven appeared so blue, nor earth so green. 

For all my blood danced in me, and I knew 

That I should light upon the Holy Grail. 

Thereafter the dark warning of our King, 

That most of us would follow wandering fires. 

Came like a driving gloom across my mind. 

Then every evil word I had spoken once. 

And every evil thought I had thought of old. 

And every evil deed I did, 

Awoke and cried, 'This Quest is not for thee.' 

And lifting up mine eyes, I found myself 

Alone, and in a land of sand and thorns. 

And I was thirsty even unto death; 

And I, too cried, 'This Quest is not for thee.' 

And on I rode, and when I thought my thirst 
Would slay me, saw deep lawns, and then a brook. 
With one sharp rapid, where the crisping white 


Play'd ever back upon the sloping wave, 
And took both ear and eye; and o'er the brook 
Were apple-trees, and apples by the brook 
Fallen, and on the lawns. 'I will rest here,' 
I said, 'I am not worthy of the Quest;' 
But even while I drank the brook, and ate 
The goodly apples, all these things at once 
Fell into dust, and I was left alone. 
And thirsting, in a land of sand and thorns. 

And then behold a woman at a door 
Spinning; and fair the house whereby she sat, 
And kind the woman's eyes and innocent, 
And all her bearing gracious; and she rose 
Opening her arms to meet me, as who should say, 
'Rest here;' but when I touched her, lo! she, too. 
Fell into dust and nothing, and the house 
Became no better than a broken shed, 
And in it a dead babe; and also this 
Fell into dust, and I was left alone. 

And on I rode, and greater was my thirst. 
Then flash'd a yellow gleam across the world. 
And where it smote the ploughshare in the field. 
The ploughman left his ploughing, and fell down 
Before it; where it glitter'd on her pail. 
The milkmaid left her milking, and fell down 
Before it, and I knew not why, but thought 
'The sun is rising,' tho' the sun had risen. 
Then was I ware of one that on me moved 
In golden armor mth a crown of gold 
About a casque all jewels; and his horse 


In golden armor jewell'd everywhere: 

And on the splendor came, flashing me blind ; 

And seem'd to me the Lord of all the world, 

Being so huge. But when I thought he meant 

To crush me, moving on me, lo ! he, too, 

Open'd his arms to embrace me as he came, 

And up I went and touch'd him, and he, too. 

Fell into dust, and I was left alone. 

And wear)ang in a land of sand and thorns. 

And I rode on and found a mighty hill, 

And on the top, a city wall'd: the spires 

Prick'd with incredible pinnacles into heaven 

And by the gateway stirr'd a crowd; and these 

Cried to me climbing, 'Welcome, Percivale! 

Thou mightiest and thou purest among men!' 

And glad was I and clomb, but found at top 

No man, nor any voice. And thence I past 

Far thro' a ruinous city, and saw 

That man had once dwelt there; but there I found 

Only one man of an exceeding age. 

'Where is that goodly company,' said I, 

'That so cried out upon me?' and he had 

Scarce any voice to answer, and yet gasp'd, 

' Whence and what art thou? ' and even as he spoke 

Fell into dust, and disappear'd, and I 

Was left alone once more, and cried in grief, 

'Lo, if I find the Holy Grail itself 

And touch it, it will crumble into dust.' 

And thence I dropt into a lowly vale, 

Low as the hill was high, and where the vale 


Was lowest, found a chapel, and thereby 

A holy hermit in a hermitage. 

To whom I told my phantoms, and he said: 

*0 son, thou hast not true humility, 

The highest virtue, mother of them all; 

For when the Lord of all things made Himself 

Naked of glory for His mortal change, 

"Take thou my robe," she said, " for all is thine, " 

And all her form shone forth with sudden light 

So that the angels were amazed, and she 

FoUow'd him down, and like a fl3ang star 

Led on the gray-hair'd wisdom of the East; 

But her thou hast not known; for what is this 

Thou thoughtest of thy prowess and thy sins? 

Thou hast not lost thyself to save thyself 

As Galahad.'" 

Lack of lowliness of mind has caused all things to 
fade upon his touch and has robbed them of the 
little power they rightfully had to give some comfort 
to his soul. Undue love of self works havoc in the 
soul nor is the Holy Grail seen by Percivale, until 
Galahad — 

"Drew me, with power upon me, till I grew 
One with him to believe as he believed." 

Organically blending throughout the poem with 
this dominant idea of God's persistency in '^ hound- 
ing" the soul not to death but to life is the thought 
that God afficts man in order to bring him back to 
Him. This is written large on almost every page of 


Scripture yet nowhere perhaps more dearly or more 
poignantly than in the threnody of Jeremias (Lamen- 
tations iii, 1-17, 22-23, 31-33)- 

"I am the man that see my poverty 

By the rod of His indignation. 
He hath led me and brought me into darkness, 

And not into light. 
Only against me He hath turned and turned again 

His hand all the day. 
My skin and my flesh He hath made old, 

He hath broken my bones. 
He hath built round about me, and He hath compassed me 

With gall and labor. 
He hath set me in dark places 

As those that are dead forever. 
He hath built against me round about that I may not get 

He hath made my fetters heavy. 
Yea, and when I cry and entreat. 

He hath shut out my prayer. 
He hath shut up my way with square stones. 

He hath turned my paths upside down. 
He is become to me as a bear lying in wait. 

As a Hon in secret places. 
He hath turned aside my paths and broken me in pieces. 

He hath made me desolate. 
He hath bent His bow and set me 

As a mark for His arrows. 
He hath shot into my veins 

The daughters of His quiver. 




I am made a derision to all my people, 

Their song all the day long. 
He hath filled me with bitterness, 

He hath inebriated me with wormwood. 
And He hath broken my teeth one by one, 

He hath fed me with ashes. 
And my soul is removed far off from peace; 

I have forgotten good things. 

The mercies of the Lord, that we are not consumed; 

Because His commiserations have not failed. 
They are new every morning; 

Great is Thy faithfulness. 

For the Lord will not cast off 

For if He will cast off. He will also have mercy 

According to the multitude of His mercies. 
For He hath not willingly afflicted 

Nor cast off the children of men." 

There the whole story is told as it ought to be told. 
Sorrow and pain and disappointment are sent by God 
for one's good, and when they are recognized as so sent, 
they lead the soul back to God's welcoming arms. It is 
a strong grace from God when we can see that all our 
trials come upon us because He wills it so, that they 
are all ''shade of His hand outstretched caressingly"; 
a blessed hour when with true humility we recognize 
and admit our waywardness and yield — and then 
hear the welcome: "Rise, clasp my hand and come." 


I FLED Hini, 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. 5 

Up vistaed hopes, I sped; 
And ^ot, precipitated 
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, 

From those strong Feet that followed, followed 
But with unhurrying chase, 10 

And unperturbed pace, 
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, 
They beat — and a Voice beat 
More instant than the Feet — 
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me." 15 

I pleaded, outlaw- wise, 
By many a hearted casement, curtained red, 

TrelHsed with intertwining charities; 
(For, though I knew His love Who foUowed, 

Yet was I sore adread 20 



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, 25 

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 ; 30 

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, 35 

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, 40 
The long savannahs of the blue; 

Or w^hether. Thunder-driven, 
They clanged His chariot 'thwart a heaven. 
Flashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o' their 
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue. 45 
Still with unhurrying chase. 
And unperturbed pace. 
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, 


Came on the following Feet, 
And a Voice above their beat — 50 

''Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter 

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, 55 
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. 60 
''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, 

Wantoning 65 

With our Lady-Mother's vagrant tresses, 

With her in her wind- walled palace. 

Underneath her azured dais, 

Quafhng, as your taintless way is, 70 

From a chalice 
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring." 

So it was done: 
/ in their delicate fellow^ship was one — 
Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies. 75 


/ knew all the swift impor tings 
On the wilful face of skies; 
I knew how the clouds arise 
Spumed of the wild sea-snortings; 
All that's born or dies 80 

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 85 

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; 90 
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. 95 
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, 100 

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, 105 
With unperturbed pace, 
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, 
And past those noised Feet 
A Voice comes yet more fleet — 
"Lo! naught contents thee, who content^st not 
Me.'^ no 

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 115 

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 — 1 20 

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; 125 

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 130 

A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed, 


SufiFering no flowers except its own to mount? 
Ah! must — 
Designer Infinite! — 
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn 
with it? \- 135 

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. 140 

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; 145 

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 ; 1 50 
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 155 

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! 160 

Strange, piteous, futile thing! 
Wherefore should any set thee love apart? 
Seeing none but I make much of naught" (He said), 
^'And human love needs human mwiting: 

How hast thou merited — 165 

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? 170 

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: 175 

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, 180 

I am He Whom thou seekest! 
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me." 


Hound of Heaven. — With felicitous grace and reverential 
delicacy Thompson gives Our Lord an unwonted and daring 
title and throughout the poem never once explicitly refers to 
the metaphor. A lesser writer would inevitably have rendered 
the comparison very repellent. The fuller development is left 
to our own devotional, inward thoughts. 

Thompson, of course, had Scriptural warrant for using such 
t5^e of comparisons from the animal world. No phrase of 
Holy Writ is more current than "the Lamb of God" (St. John 
i, 29, 36; Apoc. V, 12, vi, 16, vii, 14). Each Holy Week we 
hear Isaias' plaint (Isaias liii, 7): "He shall be led as a sheep 
to the slaughter and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer," 
which thought is repeated in Acts viii, ^2. Opening the Apoc- 
alypse once more we find another metaphor (Apocalypse v, 5) : 
"And one of the Ancients said to me: "Weep not; behold the 
lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to 
open the book." Lastly we find another metaphor in St. Paul 
(Hebrews xiii, 11-12), where with true and sound literary 
instinct he applies the symbolism of the offering but not the 
name to Our Lord, thus reversing the present process of Thomp- 
son: "For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought 
into the holies by the high priest for sin, are burned without 
the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the 
people by His own blood, suffered without the gate." 

Lines 1-15 

With the bold inclusive sweep of genius, Thompson in these 
first verses outlines the whole scope of the poem and suggests 



unmistakably its outcome. The merely material picture of 
these lines is noteworthy: a branching path, a portico, a maze, 
a mist, a sparkling stream, a forest glade and lastly a vast 

Line i. With another masterly stroke, we are given the 
scope of the poem in the first three words ^^ I fled Him." That 
this is the central thought is still further accentuated by the 
presence of the comma after "Him," and the repetition of the 
phrase at the beginning of the second and third lines. 

The reason of the flight is given us in lines 19-21, and it is 
a misguided love of self not catching even the surface meaning 
of those compelling words of Our Lord: "He that will save his 
Hfe, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for My sake shall 
find it" (St. Matthew xvi, 25). St. Augustine says so well: 
"Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the 
earthly, by the love of self even to the contempt of God; the 
heavenly, by the love of God even to the contempt of self. 
The former, in a word, glories in itself; the latter in the Lord" 
(City of God, Bk. XIV, 28). Yet throughout the poem it is 
quite essential to remember that there is no suggestion of un- 
holy love. It is all a misguided quest, a seeking for heart's ease 
there where it cannot be found. In the end the cheated soul 
win bewail its folly as did the Jews of old, who had put their 
trust in Egypt and Ethiopia, only to find, in the defeat of these, 
their own undoing. "And they shall be afraid, and ashamed of 
Ethiopia, their hope, and of Egypt, their glory. And the 
inhabitants of this isle shall say: "Lo, this was our hope, to 
whom we fled for help to deliver us from the face of the As- 
syrians, and how shall we be able to escape?" (Isaias xx, 


Nights and Days. — Not merely "always," but through 
sunshine and darkness, both physical, mental, and spiritual. 
Such indeed is the underlying thought of lines 1-9. 

Line 2. Arches of the Years. — Life is pictured as a journey 


down a long colonnade, each arch of which is a year. By such 
imagery, the poet conveys to us the fact that the flight from 
God, though swift in action, was not swift in time, for it length- 
ened out into years. Compare line 9 and note. 

Line 3. Labyrinthine Ways.— /The mind's unlimited capac- 
ity of grasping and dwelHng on objects without number seemed 
to give hope of escape. Compare "losing one's self in thought." 

Many a soul has tried to lose sight of God by study and 
research, and some have — all too unfortunately — succeeded 
in losing Him in perplexed and specious reasonings into which 
they have wandered as into a labyrinth. 

Line 4. Tennyson (In Memoriam, Canto xxiv) speaks of 
"the haze of grief." Grief and its subsequent tears drives 
many a man to God, for as Dante says: "Sorrow re-marries us 
to God"; but others again it hurries away from God and leads 
them to seek help from fellow-creatures alone, as did the Jews 
when threatened by the Assyrians: "Wo to them that go down 
to Egypt for help, trusting in horses, and putting their con- 
fidence in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, 
because they are very strong; and have not trusted in the Holy 
One of Israel, and have not sought after the Lord. . . . Egypt 
is man and not God: and their horses flesh, and not spirit; 
and the Lord shall put down His hand, and the helper shall 
fall, and he that is helped shall fall and they shall all be con- 
founded together. For thus saith the Lord to me: Like as the 
lion roareth, and the lion's whelp upon his prey, and when a 
multitude of shepherds shall come against him, he will not fear 
at their voice, nor be afraid of their multitude, so shall the 
Lord of hosts come down to fight upon Mount Sion, and upon 
the hills thereof. As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts 
protect Jerusalem, protecting and delivering, passing over and 
saving" (Isaias xxxi, i, 3-5). 

Homer (Iliad iii, 10-12) gives a fine picture of the hiding 
power of the mist: "Even as when the south wind sheddeth 


mist over the crests of a mountain, mist unwelcome to the 
shepherd, but to the robber better than night, and a man can 
see no further than he casteth a stone. . . ." (Lang, Leaf, & 
Myers Translation). It was the soul's endeavor to hide behind 
such hopeless, stubborn grief that hung between God and itself 
like a cloud. 

Lines 4-5. Tears — Laughter. — Pain and pleasure alike 
were sought as guides away from God; but neither could dull 
the fundamental yearning, coextensive with itself, of the human 
soul for God. This elemental craving for complete happiness, 
ever elusive in this world, where sunshine and shadow play 
upon us so constantly, is one of the strong rational proofs for a 
life beyond the grave where God will be possessed unendingly. 

Line 5. Running Laughter. — We often speak of a smile 
"rippling'' over one's face. 

Line 6. Vistaed Hopes. — Hopes which when realized would 
last, not for a moment and then fade away, but would reach 
out into time as vistas reach out into space. Thus when we 
gaze with longing towards such hopes, they seem "vistaed." 

Lines 6-7. Note striking contrast — Up vistaed hopes I sped, 
and shot, etc. When hope lights our way, our journey is indeed 
swift; but who has not felt the hurtling force of gloom and 
desolation, when from the heights of hope we are "shot" into 
the abyss of "chasmed fears" with heart-sickening speed? It 
is of this the Psalmist speaks (Psalm xxix, 6-8) : 

"For wrath is in His indignation, 

And life in His good will. 
In the evening weeping shall have place, 

And in the morning gladness. 
And in my abundance I said : 

'I shall never be moved.' 
O Lord, in Thy favor, Thou gavest strength to my beauty, 

Thou turnedst away Thy face from me, and I became 


Note further that when hope led him on, the motion of traveling 
was his own — "I sped," but when grief came upon him he was 
hurled with a motion not his own. Fear being "the yielding 
up of the powers of succour from thought," the soul is no 
longer in control of its actions. 

Line 8. Adown. — Conveys the impression of falling con- 
tinually and ever lower. The onomatopoeia of the line is note- 

Titantic Glooms. — Glooms that were not only broad and 
high and so enveloping that into their nether darkness no ray 
of hope could steal, but almost brutish in their aggressiveness 
against the soul. Then it is that soul-paralysis is wont to 
come, unless the hght of faith has been kept burning in our 
hearts "as a light shining in a dark place" (2 Peter i, 19). 
This line recalls Dante's Inferno and Dore's illustrations 
thereof. Titanic is meant undoubtedly to recall the war of 
the Titans against the gods, so frequently read in pagan my- 

Line g. Strong Feet. — By a happy use of "transferred 
epithet," strong is appHed to the feet rather than to the whole 
man. "Strong" foretells the end of the pursuit, for "the strong 
win the race." 

Followed, Followed. — The repetition continues to convey 
subtly the idea of a long and persistent pursuit. (Cf. line 2 and 

Lines 10-15 

Three several times (lines 10-15, 46-51, 105-110), does this 
refrain occur; and it is in great measure by means of this subtle 
suggestion that we are made aware of the progress of the pur- 
suit, until we read in line 177 "Halts by me that footfall." 

The slow majestic rhythm of these lines is in itself symbolic 
of the poise of the Pursuer, and markedly so, coming as they do 
after the swift sweep of the preceding lines. • 


As we read this refrain and grasp the central idea of the 
poem, we may recall the words of the Psalmist (Psalm xviii, 

"He hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way: 

His going out is from the end of heaven, 
And his circuit even to the end thereof: 

And there is none that can hide himself from his heat." 

Line lo. Note the oxymorons in this and the following lines. 

Line 12. Deliberate Speed. — The pursuit was deliberately 
entered upon, and the speed was not precipitate or impetuous. 
The result is inevitable. The pursuit of the soul by God is not 
the result of a chance whim, for to predicate such of God were 
contradictory and blasphemous: "Yea, I have loved thee with 
an everlasting love. Therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity 
on thee" (Jeremias xxxi, 3). 

Instancy. — Cf. note on line 14. 

Line 13. A Voice Beat. — Its beat was as rhythmical as man's 
own heart, and stirred up within him the beat of the deathless 
voice of conscience. 

Line 14. Instant. — In its radical sense of pressing tipan, 
urgent (Latin in & sio). Thompson was fond of bringing words 
back to their original meaning. Compare lines 49, 66. (This 
tendency is evidenced by many modern writers and is one of the 
ways by which a language rejuvenates itself, e. g., "the in- 
tolerable face of God," where intolerable is used in its root 
sense, shorn of any acquired, sinister meaning.) 

Line ij. The words are not understood by the soul nor does 
it practically realize that "it is hard for thee to kick against 
the goad" (Acts ix, 5), which in every case is the grace of God 
urging on to greater love of Him alone. It has yet to learn 
under the flail of suffering and withered hopes that "there is no 
wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the 
Lord" (Proverbs xxi, 30). Then and then only will the soul 


cry out, "Too late have I learned to love thee"; and shall warn 
other souls: "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, 
before the time of affliction come, and the years draw nigh of 
which thou shalt say: They please me not: Before the sun, and 
the light, and the moon, and the stars be darkened, and the 
clouds return after the rain . . . before the silver cord be 
broken, and the golden fillet shrink back, and the pitcher be 
crushed at the fountain, and the wheel be broken upon the 
cistern, and the dust return into the earth, from whence it was, 
and the spirit return to God, who gave it. Vanity of van- 
ities . . . and all things are vanity" (Ecclesiastes xii, 1-7). 

Betray. — By refusing to harbor and conceal. In this line 
the poet gives us a distinct fore-view of the outcome of the 

f Lines 16-24 

The soul is pictured as pleading for shelter at a human heart, 
which is likened to a cottage, with little casement windows. 
The human heart is indeed small, for it is earthly and therefore 
only a poor "clay-shuttered" cottage, doomed one day to 
house devouring worms as its latest dwellers. 

Line 16. I Pleaded. — There was all the poignancy of a 
lonely soul crowded into that cry for harborage. 

Outlaw-Wise. — Because he was fleeing from Him who is 
Justice itself and to whom all order is due, a fugitive from 
Divine Law and the God who would make him a prisoner of 

Line 17. Compare "Arras'd in purple like the house of 
kings" (An Anthem of Earth). These and other metaphors 
concerning the heart are thought by some to be due to Thomp- 
son's study of medicine. Compare the concluding lines of 
"An Arab Love Song": 

"And thou — what needest with thy tribes' black tents 
Who hast the red pavilion of my heart?" 


Line i8. Intertwining Charities. — So manifold and so 
interlacing were these charities that they quite covered the 
whole heart, thus they made it susceptible to every appeal 
and promised a secure and inviolate refuge once the assured 
admittance was gained. The casement, being here the human 
heart, is trellised not merely with the vine of the love of God 
but also with the love of creatures. We may paraphrase and 
read: I knew His love but felt that if I surrendered directly to 
Him, there would be nothing for self; and so I sought a com- 
promise in a heart where there were heavenly and earthly 
loves interlaced, where I could love God in the creature and 
the creature too, and there find a reciprocated love from that 

Line ig. I Knew. — This knowledge was as yet purely the- 
oretical and imperfect. Such knowledge every Christian, even 
the most ignorant, possesses. When, however, it becomes 
practical, then a vitalizing force is thrown into life which carries 
on swiftly to the stark grandeur of a saint. 

Line 20. All have heard the words of God: "I am the Lord 
thy God, mighty, jealous" (Exodus xx, 5), and again: "The 
Lord His name is Jealous; He is a jealous God" (Exodus xxxiv, 
14). Again they have listened time and again to the words of 
our Lord Himself: "If any man come to Me and hate not his 
father and mother and wife and children and brothers and 
sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" 
(St. Luke xiv, 26). All have heard indeed, but many have 
misread these words. Even though we had never heard His 
other commands: "Honor thy father and thy mother, that 
thou mayest be long-lived upon the land which the Lord thy 
God will give thee" (Exodus xx, 12), and again: "Husbands 
love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church and delivered 
Himself up for it" (Ephesians v, 25); even though we were 
ignorant of the fact that to "hate," in the language which our 
Lord spoke, in such setting means "to love less" (as in Mai- 


achias i, 2-3, "I have loved Jacob but have hated Esau"); 
sound spiritual reasoning would tell us that He did not mean 
to undo all natural or acquired love. What He did mean was: 
I. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart 
and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength and with all 
thy mind" (St. Luke x, 27). If any lower love runs counter to 
this love of God, we must be done with the baser love; 2. That, 
though we do love others, we must love all in God and for God, 
i. e., love them because He commands us to love them, and as 
He commands us, always remembering that any goodness or 
holiness or excellence we find in them is but a faint reflection of 
His infinite perfections: "They are but broken lights of Thee, 
and Thou, O Lord art more than they" (In Memoriam). 
"God gave us love, something to love He only lent." 

It is a wholly wrong grasp of this principle that makes many 
beginners in the spiritual Hfe experience that fear of which 
Thompson here tells. A foreseen isolation of loneliness then 
makes the spiritual life an unbearable yoke to them. Unques- 
tionably for those who find it in their hearts to strive for the 
higher planes of holiness and imperatively for all who have 
vowed themselves to a religious life of celibacy, much pruning 
and cutting of earthly affections is necessary. Each such is 
indeed — 

"Chosen of God his lonely way to wend. 

Out from all glare and glory to the shade, 
The shadow of the Cross where saints are made?" 

Yes, it seems a lonely way to those who know not the music 
that is in the heart as it travels alone with God. It is not, 
however, beginners only who feel this dread of God. Even the 
Saints at times were wont to struggle against God, especially 
in His more marvelous manifestations of special affection. 
Thus St. Theresa tells us of her struggle against being mirac- 
ulously elevated off the ground into the air while in prayer: 


"I repeat it; you feel and see yourself carried away you know 
not whither. For though we feel how delicious it is, yet the 
weakness of our nature makes us afraid at first ... so trying 
is it that I would very often resist and exert all my strength, 
particularly at those times when the rapture was coming on 
me in pubHc. I did so, too, very often when I was alone, be- 
cause I was afraid of delusions. Occasionally I was able, by 
great efforts, to make a sHght resistance, but afterwards I was 
worn out, like a person who had been contending with a strong 
giant; at other times it was impossible to resist at all." (The 
Month, April, 19 19, p. 274.) 

Line 21. Sore Adread. — ^There is no pain like to this anguish 
of the soul that is face to face with a great renunciation for 
God and finds not within itself sufficient generosity to make the 
surrender. "He is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who 
hath resisted Him and hath found peace?" (Job ix, 4). "Too 
grasping is that heart for which God is not enough." Unhap- 
pily the pui-view of the soul is often so straightly shortened by 
the flickering lights and shadows of this vale of tears, that it 
cannot realize that it is well to say, "I'd rather walk in the dark 
with God, than go alone in the hght." Indeed, when God is 
not with us all light is real darkness; whereas God, Eternal 
Light, makes the noon of night as the brightest summer sky. 

Naught Beside. — In many places in the Old Testament 
(e. g., Genesis xvii, i. Exodus vi, 3, etc.), God is called in the 
Hebrew text "EL SCHADDAI" "God our Sufficiency." Such 
He is indeed and He alone, and such He will prove to be to us 
in Heaven; but here in this land of exile our faith grows dull at 
times and we would fain find "our sufficiency" in things of 
sense and of time. 

Commenting on this sacred name, the learned and saintly 
CorneUus a Lapide, S. J., writes (Genesis xvii, i): 

" God therefore is our SCHADDAI, who satisfies, who sates 
each craving of ours with good things. Why, then, unhappy 


man, do you stray through many things, seek rest and do not 
find it? Do you love riches? You will not be satisfied, for 
they are not SCHADDAI. Do you love honors? You will 
not be filled, for they are not SCHADDAI. Do you love the 
gracefulness and the beauty of the body? They are not your 
SCHADDAI. Oh, heart of man, unworthy heart, heart that 
hast known sorrows, that hast been crushed by sorrows, why 
will you make your search through vain and frail and short- 
lived and deceitful goods? Not by them can the hunger, not 
by them can the thirst of the soul be allayed. Love your true 
SCHADDAI. He alone can fill every corner of your soul, 
He alone can quench your thirst with a rushing stream, yea, 
with an ocean of pleasures, since the fount of Hfe is within Him. 
To the mind He is the fulness of Hght, to the will a manifold 
peace, to the memory a continuation of eternity." 

St. Augustine tells us: "Thou sufficest for God, let God suf- 
fice for thee." 

Line 22. The human heart is indeed a "little casement"; 
for, though it opens itself widest, it can never satisfy in another 
himaan heart that craving which God alone can adequately 

Line 23. Approach. — ^Though the Pursuer has not yet come 
up, His very drawing near sharply closes the gates of the 
heart. Not indeed that the human heart, in whose love rest is 
sought, always withdraws its love; but the very nearness of 
God brings it to pass that the craving soul, from its side, finds 
no comfort in such proffered or even given love. Yes, even in 
hearts that love God and seek Him rightly, the increasing near- 
ness of God, though it does not "clash to" the opened "Httle 
casements," does cause all human love to seem a poor, frail 
thing indeed, and not worth the earning, unless it be from a 
heart that is quite attuned to God. 

Gust — Clash. — ^The words convey perfectly the idea of 
great speed in the pursuit. 


Line 24. All the peevish ingenuity of the soul, afraid to give 
itself to God, finds itself completely checkmated by the pur- 
suing love of God for it, even as a petulant child, who would 
run away to its harm, cannot elude the watchful eye of its 
mother. With the "httle casement" clashed to, the fugitive 
must be off again and seek new harbor. 

Lines 25-51 

In these lines the soul is pictured as seeking a refuge in the 
broad expanse of the heavens. It goes to the stars and the 
moon, to the day and to the night, to all the winds, only to 
find its "own betrayal in their constancy." The conviction of 
its own uneased heart is voiced by the Pursuer in line 50. 
''Naught shelters thee, who will not shelter Me." 

Lines 25-26. The image here needs clarifying. Frustrated 
in his quest for love from men, he flees across the margent or 
margin of the world, i. e., out beyond the bounds of this small 
earth of ours and comes to the stars, which are pictured as 
having gateways of gold. At the bars of these gates, he knocks 
sharply and impatiently {smiting), making them resound 
loudly {clanged bars, by prolepsis). Then he hurries across to 
the moon, which is pictured as a shadowy castle {pale ports 
conveying this image), at whose huge silver doors he beats for 
entrance, thus making them ring with that pleasing discord 
pecuHar to silver. 

In Hnes 16-23 the picture of a lowly cottage was given, as 
fit symbol of the human heart. Here, in keeping with out 
wonted thoughts of the skies, a firm-builded castle is portrayed 
with its "gold gateways," "clanged bars," "pale ports." 

Line 25. Across the Margent of the World. — If the soul 
sought aright, the stars and the heavens would bring it com- 
fort. A Monica and an Augustine, as they sat the long evenings 
out on the balcony at Rome, knew how to find in the stars a 


pathway unto God. Yes, and when centuries had passed, 
Ignatius, the one-time cavalier of Spain, would rise from like 
contemplation of the heavens with his wonted cry: "How base 
do earthly things become to me, when I gaze upon the heavens." 
Foolish soul that has forgotten the hymn of its childhood days: 

"Out beyond the shining, 

Of the farthest star, 
Thou art ever stretching, 

Infinitely far." 

Thus its hope of escape is fruitless. See Psalm cxxxviii 
(quoted in Preface, p: vil). 

Line '^. Troubled. — Shows fretful anxiety to enter. It 
moreover hints at the peace and gentle quiet of the heavens. 
Rebel man alone brings discord. 

Line 28. Fretted. — Carries on the idea conveyed by "trou-" 
bled." The petulant haste of the outlaw marring the quiet 
of the stars. The "dulcet jars" remind one of "symphonia 
discors" of Horace. 

Line 30. To Dawn: Be Sudden. — ^The coming of dawn 
always seems a sudden thing. Indeed we speak of the "day- 
break," just as centuries ago the Hebrews named the dawn, 
"bhoqer" (from the root bhaqar to "cleave," "open"), the 
"cleaver" of the darkness. 

Note the impatience so characteristic of the sick, above 
all of the sick of mind. When man is trying to get away from 
the voice of conscience and of God, the worst terror is to lack 
constant change and thus be thrown back on self and self- 
introspection. In Deuteronomy xxviii, 65-67, God pictures 
such a visitation of soul-agony coming upon the Jews, if they 
violate His law: "Neither shalt thou be quiet, even in those 
nations, not shall there be any rest for the sole of thy foot. For 
the Lord will give thee a fearful heart, and languishing eyes, 
and a soul consumed with pensiveness: and thy life shall be as 


it were hanging before thee. Thou shalt fear night and day, 
neither shalt thou trust thy hfe. In the morning thou shalt 
say: Who will grant me evening? and at evening: Who will 
grant me morning? for the fearfulness of thy heart, wherewith 
thou shall be terrified, and for those things which thou shalt 
see with thy eyes." 

Thompson must often have felt thus during his days of 
penury in London. The following lines speak eloquently 
(Sister Songs, Part ist): 

"Forlorn, and faint, and stark, 
I had endured through watches of the dark 

The abashless inquisition of each star. 
Yea, was the outcast mark 

Of all those heavenly passers' scrutiny; 

Stood bound and helplessly 
For Time to shoot his barbed minutes at me; 
Suffered the trampling hoof of every hour 

In night's slow- wheeled car; 
Until the tardy dawn dragged me at length 
From under those dread wheels; and, bled of strength, 

I waited the inevitable last." 

Lme ji. If the soul, yet in this vale of tears, wherein God's 
"mercy most delights to spare," would only realize that God's 
pursuit is not one of vengeful wrath but a pursuit to rescue it 
from its own folly, then this desire to be hid from God would 
never find expression. Only when Hfe is over and the con- 
demnatory judgment is come, is there place and real reason for 
what we read so strongly put by St. John: "And the kings of 
the earth and the princes and the tribunes, and the rich and 
the strong and every bondman, and every freeman hid them- 
selves in the dens and in the rocks of mountains: and they shall 
say to the mountains and the rocks: Fall upon us and hide us 
from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the 


wrath of the Lamb" (Apocalypse vi, 15, 16). Sin alone can 
make us want to be away and hide from God. It was sin that 
staged the memorable scene in Paradise: "And when they 
heard the voice of the Lord God walking in paradise at the 
afternoon air, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the 
face of the Lord God, amidst the trees of paradise" (Gene- 
sis iii, 8). 

Thompson's varied imagery of the sky is astounding. Com- 
pare lines 40-44, 68, 69, 77-79, 85, 86, 92, 95, loi. Compare 

"Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven. 
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the Angels." 

Tremendous Lover. — God is a tremendous Lover: (i) for 
His love is eternal — "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting 
love. Therefore I have drawn thee taking pity on thee" 
(Jeremias xxxi, 3); (2) for His love is unsurpassed. "Can a 
woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of 
her womb? And if she should forget, yet will I not forget 
thee" (Isaias xlix, 15); (3) for His love is insistent — for when 
God wills to win the full love of the human heart, there is no 
silencing His grace's knocking. "Behold I stand at the gate 
and knock" (Apocalypse iii, 20); (4) for His love is munificent — 
giving us gifts of inward grace in this life and a reward sur- 
passing thought in the next. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear 
heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what 
things God hath prepared for them that love /Jim" (i Co- 
rinthians ii, 9); (5) for His love is overwhelming — of other saints 
than St. Francis Xavier has the following been told: "Francis 
was often overheard crying out during prayer, with his hands 
on his heart and eyes raised to heaven: "Basta ya, Serior, ♦v'^^^\, 
basta!" (Enough, Lord, enough). He was also known to 
open his soutane and pour water upon his chest, so ardent was 
the fire of divine love that inflamed his heart" (The Life of 


St. Francis Xavier— M. T. Kelly, Ch. v); (6) for His love is 
changeless — "Jesus Christ yesterday, and to-day and the same 
forever" (Hebrews xiii, 8); (7) lastly (bringing "tremendous" 
back to its root sense of "making to fear") because His love is 
so great and so overwhelming and so exclusive that it does make 
the poor unschooled human soul fear the isolating greatness of 
this same love. Compare lines 19-21 and note. 

Line 33. Vague Veil. — The veil of night is vague in itself and 
makes all objects vague. Thus would it be harder to be found 
by the Lover. Compare Dante (Inferno, Canto III) : 

"Various tongues 

Made up a tumult that forever whirls 

Round through the air with solid darkness stained, 

Like to the sand that in the whirlwind flies." 

Lines 34-37. Inanimate nature is in its every component 
part a mirror of some excellence in God: the storm, of His 
power; the cataract, of His grandeur; the flower, of His beauty. 
Though we may misuse them, we can never change their nature; 
and thus they ever faithfully portray their Creator and remain 
loyal to Him. St. Ignatius in the meditation on "Personal 
Sin," after making us parade our sins before us and "weigh" 
them, and after making us pit our poor selves against God 
whom we have offended by thus misusing the wills He bestowed 
on us and the creatures He gave to us, suggests that there will 
come forth from our soul, "a cry of wonder with a flood of 
emotion, ranging in thought through all creatures, — how they 
have suffered me to live and have preserved me in Hfe, — how 
the angels, being the sword of divine justice, have borne with 
me and guarded and prayed for me, — ^how the Saints have 
been interceding and praying for me, — and the heavens, sun, 
moon, stars and elements, fruits, birds, fishes and animals, — 
and the earth, how it has not opened to swallow me up, creating 


new hells for my eternal torment therein" (Spiritual Exercises 
of St. Ignatius, translated by Rickaby, S. J.). 

For the antithetical verbal structure of these lines we have 
many an example in the writings of St. Augustine. The follow- 
ing from Fr. A. J. Ryan's Nocturne sounds a like, though lesser, 

"To be faithless oft means to be faithful, 
To be false often means to be true; 

The vale that loves clouds that are golden 
Forgets them for skies that are blue. 

To forget often means to remember 

What we had forgotten too long; 
The fragrance is not the bright flower, 

The echo is not the sweet song." 

Tennyson (Lancelot and Elaine) sings: 

" but now 

The shackles of an old love straightened him, 

His honor rooted in dishonor stood, 

And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true." 

Line 38. Note the alliteration and the onomatopoctic effect 
in these lines. " To " with the verb " sue " is unusual. However 
compare "make suit to." 

Compare a similar thought in Isaias xxx, 15, 16: "For thus 
saith the Lord God the Holy One of Israel : If you return and be 
quiet, you shall be saved: in silence and in hope shall your 
strength be. And you would not: but have said: No, but we 
will flee to horses: therefore shall you flee. And we will mount 
upon swift ones: therefore shall they be swifter that shall pursue 
after you." 

Line jp. Mane. — In this one word the whole metaphor of 
the cloud-horses is foreshadowed. 


Line 40. Smoothly Fleet. — Swift but not boisterous. 

Lines 41-42. Diff^iiig interpretations have been made of 
these lines, i. "^S=mk is intransitive and "long savannahs of 
the blue" is in apposition to " they." Thus the thought would 
be, that the breath of a quiet breeze on a clear blue day, makes 
us think that it has come from afar, and that it is very long like 
a "savannah." Compare "Wind of the Moor," by C. ScoUard, 
especially the opening line: "Wind of the Moor, breath of the 
vast free reaches." 

ii. "Swept" is transitive, governing "long savannahs." 
" The long savannahs of the blue" are then the blue dome of 
heaven itself. 

Line 42. Compare Psalm ciii, 1-4: — 

"Bless, the Lord, O my soul. 
O Lord my God, Thou art exceeding great: 

With splendor and glory art Thou clad, 

Thou coverest Thyself with light as with a garment ; 
Spreadest out the heavens like a tent-cloth. 

Who lays the beams of His upper-chambers in the waters; 
Who makes the clouds His chariot: 

Who makes His way on the wings of the wind; 
Who makes his messengers winds: 

His ministers a flaming fire." 

"In these verses God is figured as an earthly potentate, clad 
in splendor, enthroned under a lofty canopy ( = "tent-cloth"), 
possessing towering palaces, swift chariots, and a countless 
retinue" (M'Swiney, S. J., Translation of the Psalms and 
Canticles) . 

Again we read in Habacuc (iii, 8, 11): "Wast Thou angry, O 
Lord, with the rivers? Or was Thy wrath upon the rivers? 
Or Thy indignation in the sea? Who will ride upon Thy horses: 
and Thy chariots are salvation. . . . The sun and the moon 


stood still in their habitation, in the light of Thy arrows, they 
shall go in the brightness of Thy glittering spear." 

Line 44/J\ist as wildly charging horses strike fire from be- 
neath their feet, so these heavenly steeds, the winds, awaken 
the lightnings as their feet "spiini^' the ground, i. e., thrust the 
floor of heaven hurriedly away from them/' We read in Thomp- 
son's Ode to the Setting Sun: — 

"wide o'er rout-trampled night 
Flew spurned the pebbled stars." 

Line 45. Fear Wist Not. — Fear could suggest no avenue, 
down which to flee, that Love could not and did not discover. 

Fear. — It was indeed a purblind dread of this tremendous 
Lover that caused the flight. 

Line 4Q. Note the strong, active sense of "following," a 
proper, but contrary to normal, usage, which offers the word 
in an inactive sense only, 'V. g., "the following paragraph." 
Compare note on line 14. 

Line 51. Adam and Eve in the garden after their betrayal of 
God's trust, to keep their souls untarnished, found no place to 
shelter them "when they heard the voice of the Lord God 
walking in paradise at the afternoon air" (Genesis iii, 8). 

Lines 52-60 

Foiled of his purpose among the stars, he drops back to earth; 
but remembering his cheated dreams of winning satisfying love 
from older folk, he seeks in the love of children surcease of his 

Line 52. That After Which I Strayed. — The human heart is 
always consciously or unconsciously seeking the "perfect good," 
the possession of which will bring it perfect well-being and 
adequate happiness. 

Line 53. Thompson's love of children was remarkable. 
Compare especially the ending of his poem "To my Godchild": 


" For if in Eden as on earth are we, 
I sure shall keep a younger company: 

Look for me in the nurseries of Heaven." 
Again, from Sister Songs (Part First) : 

"Then there came past 
A Child; like thee, a spring flower; but a flower 
Fallen from the budded coronal of Spring, 
And through the city-streets blown withering. 
She passed — brave, sad, lovingest, tender thing! 
And of her own scant pittance did she give, 

That I might eat and live: 
Then fled, a swift and trackless fugitive. 

Therefore I kissed in thee 
The heart of Childhood, so di\'ine for me." 

Amongst the most remarkable of his children's poems are 
"Daisy," "The Poppy," "The Making of Viola," "Ex Ore 
Infantium," the last of which should be known to every 
child. /^^ 

Line §4. Still. — Though adult human kind has failed to stay 
his quest, there does seem to remain hope of human love from 

Line 55. Notice the indefinite "something" and the repeti- 
tion of the same. What it was, the poet seemed not to know; 
and "just as their young eyes grew sudden fair, with dawning 
answers there," just as that intangible "something" seemed to 
be about to be rendered intelligible to him, the little children 
were snatched away — and his quest was on him again. 

Line 56. They at Least. — There is a poignancy in these 
words that bespeak the soul's realization that it is playing a 
losing game that costs it much. 


Line 57. The pathos of this line is splendid, its slow move- 
ment fitting in harmoniously with the thought. His soul- 
hunger is strong, very strong. 

Line §8. A child's eyes "light up" when it has something 
good and pleasing to tell its comrades or its elders, for the eyes 
are the windows of the soul and the light of its joys and the 
shadows of its sorrows stream through those same windows. 
Compare the delicate poem of CastelH, "Vom Auge," two 
stanzas of which run thus: 

"Es sind zwei kleine Fensterlein 
In einem grossen Haus, 
Da schaut die ganze Welt hinein 
Die ganze Welt heraus. 

Auch was der Hausherr denkt und fleht 
Malt er ans Fenster an, 
Dass jeder, der vorueber geht, 
Es deuthch sehen kann." 

Line 60. Their Angel Plucked Them. — To save them from 
being means, albeit unwittingly, of aid to the soul's thievery of 
itself from God, since innocence must have no part in such 
sacrilege. A kind cruelty both to the soul and to the children. 
Probably Thompson wishes, too, to stress his own deeply-felt 
unworthiness and taintedness, as a reason for this sudden with- 
drawal of the innocents. 

Plucked Them. — Suddenly and swiftly. 

Did Thompson have in mind here the story of Ganymede of 
pagan mythology, and of Habacuc (Daniel xiv, 32-38)? He 
certainly had in mind the Catholic belief in Guardian Angels. 
It is indeed a commonplace of Catholic teaching that each one 
of us has an Angel to guard and protect us, above all in matters 
touching the soul. " See that you despise not one of these little 


ones: for I say to you that their Angels in heaven always see 
the face of My Father, who is in heaven" (St. Matthew xviii, 
lo). What courage and confidence such a doctrine gives us, as 
from our earliest days we are schooled to kneel and pray: 

"Angel of God, my guardian dear, 
To whom His love commits me here, 
Ever this day be at my side, 
To light, to guard, to rule and guide." 

We may compare the thought expressed by Tennyson 
(Lancelot and Elaine) as Lancelot thinks upon his guilty 

" . . . But if I would not, then may God, 
I pray him, send a sudden Angel down 
To seize me by the hair and bear me far 
And fling me deep in that forgotten mere, 
Among the tumbled fragments of the hills." 

Lines 61-110 

The soul turns to Nature's children and tries to frame all its 
moods on theirs, hoping to be one with them in their "delicate 
fellowship," only to find that the human heart can secure no 
real sympathy from creatures that know not suffering. Indeed 
sympathy (from the Greek o-vfi7rcia')^6Lv — to suffer along with) 
presupposes at least the capacity of suffering like pain. 

Lines 61-62. This whole passage is a poetic flight full of 
vast imagery, and one does wrong to strain out laboriously a 
separate reason for every word. The main idea is clear. Na- 
ture is here pictured as a queen and mother, with the earth as 
her palace, which is walled round with winds. She is seated 
upon a throne or dais, that is canopied over by the azure dome 
of Heaven. Within the palace, i.e., upon the earth, are Nature's 
children, the winds and the rain and the clouds, the trees and 


plants and flowers, banqueting and drinking from chalices, 
which are filled with the pure light that is spilled abroad by the 
sun at day-break (^' hicent-weeping out of the day spring^'). 

Come Then. — The petulancy and growing irritation of the 
thwarted soul is shown in the abrupt transition and appeal. 
Of all the attempts made by the soul to find relief outside of 
God, this is the most pitiable. (Compare note on fine 93.) 

Nature's. — As many a man before and after him, Thompson 
tried to find a fulness of rest and repose in nature. "Few seem 
to realize that she is alive, has almost as many ways as a 
woman, and is to be lived with, not merely looked at." Thus 
he writes to Mrs, Meynell (Life, p. 131). But he himself found 
that it was quite impossible that the void of the human heart 
should be filled by dumb nature. He will tell us this in lines 90- 
104, and speaks of it in "A Renegade Poet and Other Essays" 
(Boston, 1910, pp. 95-96): "You speak, and you think she 
answers you. It is the echo of your own voice. You think you 
hear the throbbing of her heart, and it is the throbbing of your 
own. I do not believe that Nature has a heart; and I suspect 
that like many another beauty, she has been credited with a 
heart because of her face." A companionship can be found in 
nature, if it be sought aright and restrainedly. So did St. 
Francis of Assissi find joy in Nature and Nature's children, 
because they and he were children of the same Father. So 
do not the Pantheists and atheistic nature-lovers. 

Line 62. Delicate. — Notice the word which is repeated in 
line 74. The soul has lost faith in its fellows, and unaggressive 
nature with its verdant meadows, soft turf and gentle breezes 
seemed to hold the balm of Galaad that would heal its smarts 
nor would it ever bruise his soul. There seems interwoven with 
these lines the confession that Thompson found the fellowship of 
men a rasp to his seijtive, high-strung soul — men who called 
him "The dreamer," who said that he "hung his needless 
head" among them. Compare note on line 123. 


Line 66. Vagrant. — Here used in its radical, active sense of 
"wandering," "straying." Compare line 14 and note. 

Compare the passage from Sister Poems (Part 2nd, lines 34, 
35, Burns and Oates Edition, 1908): 

"Sees the palm and tamarind 
Tangle the tresses of a phantom wind." 

Lines 68-6g. Wind- Walled Palace. — The winds are pictured 
as the walls of the palace, the earth being the floor. 

Lines yo-72. The meaning seems to be, that in the early- 
hours, before the turmoil of Hfe taints the earth, Nature's 
children drink of the dews which come pure and clean and 
sparkling {" lucent-weeping^' = pouring forth light) out of the 
morning's chahce. 

Corot, the famous French painter, used to fold up his kit at 
sunrise and go into the house, saying that beauty vanished with 
the broad daylight. 

Line 75. Though Nature is an open book, which God spreads 
before us all, still there are secrets that one can find out only by 
diligent search. As in any other book, it requires time and 
thought to "read between the lines." 

Line 76. Compare Wordsworth's "Michael": 

"Hence he had learned the meaning of all winds, 
Of blasts of every tone; and oftentimes. 
When others heeded not, he heard the south 
Make subterraneous music, like the noise 
Of bagpipers on distant Highland hills." 

Lines 78-yg. Compare Tennyson (Ancient Sage) : 

"This wealth of waters might but seem to draw 
From yon dark cave, but son, the source is higher, 
Yon summit half a league in air — and higher. 


The cloud that hides it — higher still, the heavens 
Whereby the clouds are moulded, and whereout 
The cloud descended. Force is from the heights." 

Note well that both Tennyson and Thompson are admirably 
accurate on matters scientific, even those technically so. These 
present lines express, as only a poet could, the bald fact that 
the water is drawn up from the ocean by the heat of the sun 
and forms clouds. Tennyson frames this briefly: "The clouds 
themselves are children of the sun." Besides comparing 
SheUy's "Cloud," notice "Clouds" by J. B. Tabb: 

"Born of the waters are we, 

Clean of original stain; 
Fresh from the salt of the sea, 

Pure from the marsh and the plain. . 

Born of the breezes above, 

Whithersoever they go. 
Made in a mystical love, 

Mothers of Rain and of Snow." 

V Line yg. Spumed of the Wild Sea-Snortings. — As though 
the white clouds were foam thrown off by great sea-horses 
in their wild racing. 

Line 82. Wailful or Divine. — The outcome of every spiritual 
movement sent by God, is joy and peace; and even though in 
the beginning there be darkness, this is only the "shade of His 
hand outstretched caressingly." 

Darkness there may be for the soul, even as night falls on 
the body, but both darknesses are meant for respite, not for 
irritation. Gloom from God is always the forerunner of dawn; 
it is the noon of night that will yield to the cheering twilight in 
which holy souls in this vale of tears abide until they stand in 
the full light of Heaven. Be the darkness what it may, unless 


we misread its sending, there is nothing wailful about it, save 
for heroic souls who make love's complaint: "Yet more, O 
Lord, yet more." Where God is, there are no tears; or, if 
there be, they touch but the surface, as the rainfall and the 
storm ruffle the ocean's breast, while the depths of the soul are 
at peace with God. To every soul-cloud sent by God, there is a 
silver lining seen and felt. Darkness that brings lasting de- 
pression is not of God. 

Notice the chiastic construction: 

Wailful ~"-~-^^^^-^-^divine 
joyed.^-'"^ ^"~^^-^bereaven. 

To Thompson, as we know from his life, there seemed a very 
evident parallel between the seasons of the soul and the Church's 
liturgical seasons. 

Line 84. All too well is it known that with those in grief and 
anxiety the lengthening shadows of eventide are wont to bring 
on depression and anxiety; then, when the morning comes, they 
*' laugh in the morning's eyes," for the material light, breaking 
in on the darkness, all unconsciously causes light and joy to be 
re-lit in their hearts and drives back all shadows therefrom. 

Lines 8j-86. This is a beautiful image of the stars as glim- 
mering tapers placed round the day that is dead and which by 
its brightness and glory was like to the holiness of grace. Com- 
pare Macbeth, Act. II, Scene i : 

"There's husbandry in heaven; 
Their candles are all out." 

Line 86. Dead Sanctities. — To Thompson, even as to every 
true lover of God, everything in nature was "sacramental," that 
is, a sensible sign of some hidden, mysterious power behind. 
Compare Romans i, 20: "For the invisible things of Him, from 
the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood 
by the things that are made." This too was the way of the 


Saints, away and beyond all other men. To them, it was 
frankly true, "Turn but a stone and start an Angel's wing." 
The root difficulty in these modern days is that "Heaven is not 
as neighbourly with us as with men of old." 

Compare the opening verses of "Orient Ode," wherein 
Thompson bases his imagery on the Catholic ritual of Bendic- 

Line go. In the revealed story of the creative days, we read 
after each day that preceded man's own coming: "And God 
saw that it was good." Philosophy, too, unless it be quite 
sapped of its truth by ancient or modern Manichaeism, which 
would hold to a double principle of good and evil, teaches us 
that all things are good. So the rain is good, and it is sweet 
too — sweet to the lips of the parched earth, the long dusty road, 
the thirsting flowers, the cricket with its drought-born cry. 
Only in the tears of man is there bitterness, brought there by 
his own sad misconstruing of life and life's problem. God, by 
the gifts He had given to our first parents, dried our tears 
before they ever fell. Adam's sin unloosed the fountain of 
tears and swift and destructive has been the flowing since then, 
from the first cry of the new-born babe to the tears that wet 
age's cheeks, as it bends over its own grave. "Never morning 
wore to evening, but some heart did break" (In Memoriam, 
Canto vi). Compare A. O'Shaugnessy's Fountain of Tears. 

We read the following in the "Autobiography of the Little 
Flower" (p. loo): "On that day, too, the sun dared not shine, 
and the beautiful blue sky of Italy, hidden by dark clouds, 
mingled its tears with mine." 

Line gi. Sunset Heart. — All through this passage Nature is 
personified; and quite naturally the metaphor of heart is here 
introduced. Compare Thompson's " A Corymbus for Autumn " : 

"Day's dying dragon lies drooping his crest, 
Panting red pants into the West." 


Again, the "Ode to the Setting Sun" may be read for much 
similar imagery. 

Though dissimilar, the following from Sidney Lanier's "Even- 
ing Song" is worthy of note: 

"Now in the sea's red vintage melts the sun, 

As Egypt's pearl dissolved in rosy wine, 
And Cleopatra night drinks all." 

Line gj. How many gropers after God have tried to win 
warmth for their heart from nature and nature-study — futilely! 
The cult of nature in lieu of religion has been prominent of 
late, because in most religions there has been an adequate 
destruction of all true notions of the supernatural. Emotional- 
ism is taken for religion; and we all know, that while nature's 
beauties can awaken powerful emotions in any soul that is not 
utterly crass, such fleeting phases of feeling are not satisfying 
food for an immortal soul. Naturism is a poor substitute. 
No, not by that, by that is eased our human smart! 

Line 94. Even in the Garden of Eden, where there could be 
no "human smart," God saw that it was not good for man to 
be alone; and so made for him a helpmate like unto himself 
(Genesis ii, 18). But once the human heart knew pain and 
sorrow, this need of intelligent, actively sympathetic and, 
above all, competent comradeship became intensified. The 
Incarnation is the answer to that need. "And the Word was 
made flesh and dwelt amongst us" (St. John i, 14). Thus we 
have to keep us company, "the man, Christ Jesus" (i Timothy 
ii, 5); as man, keenly and experimentally conscious of our 
weakness; as God, strong to ease our "human smarts." Read 
the striking passage in Hebrews ii, 9-1 S. 

By That, By That. — There is deep pathos in this repetition. 
He had taken himself right gladly and most hopefully to these 
children of a mother whom he thought to own in common with 
them, and now the increased "human smart" assures him 


that his kinship was mistaken; nay more, these children and 
he are alien and do not speak the same language. Their "deli- 
cate fellowship " was, after all, a deceptive thing. 

So deep-seated is this need of human companionship in our 
nature, that Aristotle tells us in the Politics (Bk. I, ch. 2): 
"But he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need 
because he is suflEicient in himself, must be either a beast or a 
god: he is no part of a state" (Jowett's Translation). The 
soul here is neither a beast, for the objects of its misdirected 
love are not sinful; nor is it a god, as its incessant craving for 
created love proves. 

This part of the poem ought to be compared with these 
powerful passages in Holy Scripture in which the absurdity of 
idolatry is shown: Wisdom xii, 10-19, Isaias xliv, 9-20, Jeremias 

X, 3-5. 

Line qj. Even when on cloudy, damp days nature seemed 
best attuned to his sorrow, it gave him no solace. 

Line g8. Their Sound is But Their Stir.— The trees, the 
flowers, the grass, the water, etc., "speak" to us of God, not by 
the sound they make as they are swayed by the winds or tumble 
over the rocks, but by silently showing forth, as imitations and 
adumbrations. His limitless perfections. This "witnessing" is 
beautifully described by the Psalmist (Psalm xviii, 2-5) : 

"The heavens show forth the glory of God, 

And the firmament declareth the work of His hands. 
Day to day uttereth speech. 

And night to night showeth knowledge. 
There are no speeches or languages 

Where their voices are not heard. 
Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth. 

And their words unto the ends of the world." 

It is of this eloquence of nature that the Book of Wisdom 
speaks (xiii, 1-9): 


"But all men are vain, in whom there is not the knowl- 
edge of God: and who by these good things that are seen, 
could not understand Him that is, neither by attending to 
the works have acknowledged who was the workman: but 
have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or 
the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon, 
to be the gods that rule the world. With whose beauty, if 
they, being delighted, took them to be gods, let them know 
how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they: for 
the first author of beauty made all those things. Or if they 
admired their power and their effects, let them understand by 
them, that He that made them, is mightier than they: for by 
the greatness of the beauty and of the creature, the Creator of 
them may be seen, so as to be known thereby. But yet as to 
these they are less to be blamed. For they perhaps err, seeking 
God and desirous to find Him. For being conversant among His 
works, they search, and they are persuaded that the things are 
good which are seen. But then again they are not to be par- 
doned. For if they were able to know so much as to make a 
judgment of the world, how did they not more easily find out 
the Lord thereof?" 

Silences. — ^These silences could never ease the troubled 
heart. There is only one silence that can heal every human 
smart; and that is the "silence of Death," that ushers us 
into eternity, wherein reverberate unceasingly "the sound- 
less thunders of eternal: bliss, breaking on an immaterial 
shore. " 

Line gg. Nature was not at fault. If she failed, it was be- 
cause she was asked to nurture a child that was not of her 
kind nor of her own choosing. 

Line loo. Owe. — Here in the sense of "own," "claim me as 
her own." 

Despite the fact that he realizes she is not his mother, he 
makes one last despairing appeal. 


Line loi. Nature does drop the blue bosom-veil of sky and, 
from the breasts of her tenderness, pour down upon her true 
but irrational children, the enlivening rain that furthers their 

Line 103. Never . . . Once. — This search has been utterly- 
futile. At least man and maid and child began to return his 
love, until God, with cruel kindness, offset it. 

Line 105. Compare the lines of Homer describing the pur- 
suit of Hector by Achilles (Iliad xxii, 157-161): "Thereby they 
ran, he flying, he pursuing. Valiant was the flier, but far 
mightier he who fleetly pursued him. For not for beast of 
sacrifice or for an ox-hide were they striving, such as are prizes 
for men's speed of foot, but for the life of horse-training Hector 
was their race." So here the prize is the soul of man to be won 
whoUy to God. 

Line 108. Noised. — I. e., making noise. 

Line no. When we content God and have our heart set on 
Him above all, then the little joys and pleasures of earth con- 
tent us, because we seek to draw from creatures only the 
meed of happiness they are meant to give and we use them 
aright, as "food for our journey and not as snares for our 
tarrying" (viaticum itineris, non illecebra mansionis). But 
when we content not God and have our hearts far from Him, 
then nought contents us, either because the foreseen brevity of 
the happiness, which created things will give, taints even the 
initial tasting, or because, blind to the limited pleasure-con- 
tent of created things, we seek to gain from them what they are 
adequately powerless to give, and then find ourselves unsated. 
"God made man after His own image and likeness," wherefore 
He gave him an infinite capacity, and infinite desires, such as 
caimot be satisfied with any finite goods. Therefore it is 
necessary that God alone, who is infinite Good, should fiU and 
satisfy that capacity. 


Lines 111-154 

In these lines we have the awakening of the soul progres- 
sively portrayed. In lines 111-129 the poet pictures his shat- 
tered life and the fading of his last hope to find comfort at 
least in his worded work, just as every shattered soul clutches 
with piteous futility at some pet nothingness on which to try to 
stay its beaten love. Then in lines 130-154 the truth begins 
to be realized that love for God must stand alone in the soul and 
that it grows and flourishes therein only when the soul has been 
"dunged with rotten death" and by its dead hopes rendered 
fertile to give God unstinted love. 

Line iii. With the prophet Jeremias (xlvii, 6) the soul cries 
out: "O thou sword of God, how long wilt thou not be quiet? 
Go into thy scabbard, rest, and be still." Still and motionless 
this sword will be, if only the soul itself will allow it to remain 
so. If it has now learned the lesson that God will have it 
learn — that of whole-hearted submission to His Will — then 
it is wrong in awaiting an uplifted stroke, unless indeed it 
prove itself as stiff-necked in its rebellion as were the Jews to 
whom Isaias prophesied (ix, 11-13): *'The Lord . . . shall 
bring on his enemies in a crowd : the Syrians from the east and 
the Philistines from the west and they shall devour Israel with 
open mouth. For all this His indignation is not turned away, 
but His hand is stretched out still. And the people are not 
returned to Him who hath struck them and have not sought 
after the Lord of Hosts." If the soul will return to Him who 
hath struck it, then it will hear the Psalmist singing, "A con- 
trite and humbled heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" 
(Psalm 1, 19). It would seem that Thompson portrays the 
soul as just beginning to realize that it was really God's love 
for it that brought all this disappointment. Love's "No" 
must often cost a deal of pain and it is often wisely cruel for 
love to say it. Compare Hebrews xii, 5-8: 


"My son, neglect not the discipline of the Lord; 

Neither be thou wearied whilst thou art rebuked by 
For whom the Lord loveth, He chastlseth; 

And He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. 

Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with 
His sons; for what son is there, whom the father doth not cor- 
rect? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are 
made partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons." 

Line 112. Bit by bit, the love of all earthly things by which 
he has been trying to encase himself against God's love has 
been "hewn" away. Lusty strokes were needed, for they 
fitted so tightly and so snugly, and were grasped so wilfully. 
Compare the verses from "Ccelestis Urbs Jerusalem," the 
Breviary hymn for the Dedication of a Church (Translation 
by Rev. T. J. Campbell, S. J.) : 

"Thy gates of purest pearl are opened wide 

To all the world; for, by no previous worth, 
Are mortals led to thee; but Christ who for them died. 

Hath wrought within their souls a supernatural birth 
That makes them bear the frequent mallet's blow, 

And the slow shaping which the chisel gives. 
By which each stone is fitted to the rest and lives. 

That so beyond the stars the Church of God may grow." 

Line 113. Metaphor from the old wars of lances. Compare 
^schylus (Agamemnon, lines 60-68; Morshead's Transla- 
tion) : 

"Even so doth Zeus the jealous lord 
And guardian of the hearth and board, 
Speed Atreus' sons, in vengeful ire, 
'Gainst Paris — sends them forth on fire. 


Her to buy back, in war and blood, 
Whom one did wed but many woo'd ! 
And many, many, by his will. 
The last embrace of foes shall feel, 
And many a knee in dust be bowed, 
And splintered spears on shields ring loud. 
Of Trojan and of Greek, before 
That iron bridal-feast be o'er!" 

Line 115. Does Thompson mean to tell us that during the 
whole time of his flight from God his soul had been really 
asleep, not alive to what was real around it and to what con- 
cerned it most? Or does he mean that, after all had been stripped 
from it, he lapsed for a while into a dazed condition like unto 
sleep and, on awakening, first realized the stark reality of his 
witless wanderings? Judging from his whole character, the 
first view seems correct. Compare Job xvi, 1 2-1 5 : 

"I that was formerly so wealthy, am all on a sudden broken to 

He hath taken me by my neck. He hath broken me, 

And hath set me up to be His mark. 
He hath compassed me round about with His lances, 

He hath wounded my loins; 
He hath not spared, and hath poured out my bowels on the 

He hath torn me with wound upon wound, 
He hath rushed in upon me like a giant." 

Line 116. Slowly Gazing.— So true to life, when one is 
wakened from deep sleep after harrowing experiences. 

Lines 117-123. Note and weigh each word in this composite 
picture of Hfe- wreckage and compare with it the Psalmist's 
song (Psalm i, 1-4): 


"Happy is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the 

But his will is in the law of the Lord, 

And on His law he shall meditate day and night. 
And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running 

Which shall bring forth its fruit in due season. 

And his leaf shall not fall off: 
And all whatsoever he shall do, shall prosper. 

Not so the wicked, not so: 
But like the dust which the wind driveth from the face of the 

and again. Psalm cxxvii, 1-4: 

"Blessed are all they that fear the Lord: 

That walk in his ways. 
Thou shalt eat the labors of thy hands: 

Blessed art thou and it shall be well with thee. 
Thy wife as a fruitful vine, 

On the sides of thy house. 
Thy children as olive plants. 

Round about thy table. 
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed 

That feareth the Lord." 

Lines 117-121. The poet here pictures life as a dwelling 
supported by the "pillaring hours" of youth, which in his 
rashness and folly he pulls down upon him, to find himself, 
all besmirched and bedraggled, standing amid the ruins, with 
youth done for and dead beneath. 

These lines vividly recall the story of Samson (Judges xvi, 
25-30): "And rejoicing in their feasts, when they had now 
taken their good cheer, they commanded that Samson should 


be called, and should play before them. And being brought out 
of prison he played before them, and they made him stand 
between two pillars. And he said to the lad that guided his 
steps, 'Suffer me to touch the pillars which support the whole 
house, and let me lean upon them, and rest a Httle.' Now the 
house was full of men and women, and all the princes of the 
Philistines were there. Moreover about three thousand persons 
of both sexes from the roof and the higher part of the house were 
beholding Samson's play. But he called upon the Lord, say- 
ing, 'O Lord God remember me and restore to me now my 
former strength, O my God, that I may revenge myself on my 
enemies, and for the loss of my two eyes I may take one re- 
venge.' And laying hold on both the pillars on which the house 
rested, and holding the one with his right hand and the other 
with his left, he said, 'Let me die with the Philistines.' And 
when he had strongly shook the pillars, the house fell upon all 
the princes and the rest of the multitude that was there: and he 
killed many more at his death, than he had killed before in his 

It is a searing, and therefore great grace from God to be 
made to realize the blight that has lain on our past years; for 
then as we kneel in prayer we can humbly crj'-r "I shall recount 
to Thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul. O Lord, if 
man's Hfe be such, and the life of my spirit be in such things as 
these. Thou shalt correct me and make me to Hve" (Isaias 
xxxviii, 15, 16). Then shall the answer ever come back to us: 
"As it was your mind to go astray from God, so when you re- 
turn again, you shall seek Him ten times as much" (Baruch iv, 

Line 117. Rash Lustihood of my Young Powers. — Youth 
is strong, yet wasteful of its new-won strength and it is usually 
only the weight of years that brings a proper poise to every 
act. Many, many men must cry out with sorrowing David 
(Psalm xxiv, 6, 7) : 


"Remember, O Lord, Thy bowels of compassion, 

And thy mercies that are from the beginning of the world. 
The sins of my youth and my ignorance do not remember. 

According to Thy mercy remember Thou me; 
For Thy goodness' sake, O Lord." 

Line 118. Pillaring Hours. — The time of youth is the time 
of "pillaring hours," i. e., it is then that man must build for the 
future by means of the proper moulding and the right education 
of his "young powers" of mind and body, that they may be 
the "pillars" or supports of his maturer hfe. 

Line iig. Pulled My Life Upon Me. — Does Thompson 
here have in mind the years of his want in London, when he 
actually did pull his life upon him and quite ruined his body 
by the use of drugs? 

Grimed with Smears. — i. e., soiled by all that he had done 

Line 120. Carrying out the metaphor of "pillaring hours" 
and "pulled my Hfe upon me," after the crash of falling walls, 
he finds himself standing amid the dust of the years heaped up 
into a mound of debris. Wreckage is all that is left, where a 
perfect dwelling ought to have been. It was while gazing back 
at death's door over the tangled wreckage of his lawless days, 
that the penitent thief found it in his heart to cry out: "Lord, 
remember me, when Thou shalt come into Thy kingdom" 
(St. Luke xxiii, 42). That cry meant much humility; and 
such must we all have, when the failure of years, seeming or 
real, faces us, else no man can tell the sad future of our 

Lhie 121. Mangled. — By his own willful self-seeking, thus 
spoiHng the handiwork of God. 

Line 122. Crackled. — Where there should have been the 
freshness of youth, there was nothing but the dryness of age, 
fit fuel for the flames. 


Compare W. H. Mallock ("The Old Order Changeth," 
Vol. I, pp. 135-136, Bentley & Son, London, 1886): 

"Oh World! whose days like sunlit waters glide. 
Whose music links the midnight with the morrow, 

Who for thy own hast Beauty, Power and Pride, — 
Oh, World what art thou? And the world replied: 
*A husk of pleasure round a heart of sorrow.' 

Oh, Child of God! thou who hast sought thy way 
Where all this music sounds, this sunHght gleams, 

Mid Pride and Power and Beauty day by day — 
And what art thou? I heard my own soul say: 
*A wandering sorrow in a world of dreams.'" 

Compare Psalm ci, 4-5, 12: 

" For my days are vanished like smoke. 
And my bones are grown dry like fuel for the fire. 

I am smitten as grass, and my heart is withered : 
Because I forgot to eat my bread. 

My days have declined like a shadow. 
And I am withered like grass." 

Indeed the misplaced efforts of his younger days have passed 
away, leaving no lasting good behind, even as smoke leaves no 
least trace of its passing. 

We recall the wonderful picture of life given us in Wisdom v, 
9-14: "All those things are passed away like a shadow, and 
like a post that runneth on, and as a ship that passeth through 
the waves, whereof when it is gone by, the trace cannot be 
found, nor the path of its keel in the waters; or as when a bird 
flieth through the air, of the passage of which no mark can be 
found, but only the sound of the wings beating the light air, and 
parting it by the force of her flight; she moved her wings and 
hath flown through, and there is no mark found afterwards of 


her way: or as when an arrow is shot at a mark, the divided air 
Cometh together again, so that the passage thereof is not 
known: so we also being born, forthwith ceased to be, and have 
been able to show no mark of virtue, but are consumed in our 
wickedness. Such things as these the sinners said in hell." 
Compare also Isaias xxxviii, 12: "My generation is at an end, 
and it is rolled away from me, as a shepherd's tent. My hfe is 
cut off as by a weaver: whilst I was yet beginning, he cut me 

Line 12 j. Compare the following lines from Thompson (The 

"I hang 'mid men my needless head 
And my fruit is dreams, as theirs is bread: 
The goodly men and the sun-hazed sleeper 
Time shall reap, but after the reaper 
The world shall glean of me, me the sleeper! 

Love! I fall into the claws of Time: 
But lasts within a leaved rhyme 
All that the world of me esteems — 
My withered dreams, my withered dreams! 

Thompson's disappointment, and he was sadly disappointed 
at the lack of appreciation shown him by the world, is poign- 
antly described by him in "The Cloud's Swan-Song": 

"A lonely man, oppressed with lonely ills, 

And all the glory fallen from my song. 

Here do I walk among the windy hills; 

The wind and I keep both one monotoning tongue. 

Like grey clouds one by one my songs upsoar 
Over my soul's cold peaks; and one by one 
They loose their Httle rain, and are no more; 
And whether well or ill, to tell me there is none. 


For 'tis an alien tongue, of alien things, 
From all men's care, how miserably apart! 
Even my friends say: 'Of what is this he sings?' 
And barren is my song and barren is my heart." 

Line 125. All the more substantial objects of love and of 
consolatory powers had failed him. Now things most easily 
had, the dream of the dreamer, the music of the lutanist, the 
musings of the poet that are wont to bring a stray ray of sun-. 
shine into dark hours, none of these ofTer relief. 

Compare the beautiful passages from the Apocalypse xviii, 
22, 23 : "And the voice of harpers and of musicians, and of them 
that play on the pipe and on the trumpet, shall no more be 
heard at all in thee; and no craftsman of any art whatsoever 
shall be found anymore at all in thee; and the sound of the mill 
shall be heard no more at all in thee; and the light of the lamp 
shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bride- 
groom and the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee." 
Again Jeremias vii, 34: "And I will cause to cease out of the 
cities of Juda and out of the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of 
joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and 
the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate"; and 
Ezechiel xxvi, 13: "And I will make the multitude of thy 
songs to cease and the sound of thy harps shall be no more." 

Thus St. John spoke of Babylon and Jeremias of Jerusalem 
and Ezechiel of Tyre; and thus it is told of every heart that 
makes itself a mart where the things of time may come and go, 
but where God alone is not most welcome. If a man would 
have peace of soul, he must heed the caution of the poet, 
Archbishop Trench: 

"But keep thou thine a holy solitude; 

For He, who would walk there, would walk alone; 
He who would drink there, must be first endued 
With single right to call that stream His own. 


Keep thou thine heart close-fastened, unrevealed, 
A fenced garden and a fountain sealed." 

Lines 126-129. Like many another poet, he wove sweet 
sounding cadences of words around the world and all its trink- 
ets, and toyed with it as would a child, and it gave him joy for 
the while and eased his heart a bit; but now, when that earth is 
loaded with heavy griefs, the fragile cords can bear no such 

Line 129. Overplussed. — i. e., overcharged, overloaded. 

Lines 130-132. Weed. — The notion of weed is here shorn of 
all its unpleasant connotation of worthlessness and is used 
because of its prolificness, that makes all other growth im- 
possible. (This metaphor, like the title of the poem, is a good 
example of Thompson's felicitous boldness.) 

Amaranthine. — An adjective derived from the Greek word 
meaning "deathless." We read in St. Peter (i Peter v, 4): 
*' And when the prince of pastors shall appear, you shall receive a 
never-fading (literally in the Greek 'amaranthine') crown." 

Line 132. From the very start (lines 19-27) the soul per- 
ceived (though its practical application of its perception was 
distorted) that God was to be its "all of love." Now, this 
reahzation is intensified. Father A. J. Ryan (Nocturne) with 
wonted simpHcity, sings: 

"Nay! Hst to the voice of the Heavens, 

'One Eternal alone reigns above.' 
Is it true? and all else are but idols. 

So the heart can have only one love? 

Only one, all the rest are but idols. 

That fall from their shrines soon or late. 

When the Love that is Lord of the temple, 
Comes with sceptre and crown to the gate." 


Line 133. The soul begins to see dimly something of God's 
designs but unlike St. Paul, unhorsed on the road to Damascus, 
it yields no ready submission. The reason of St. Paul's in- 
stantaneous yielding was that he really had been seeking God 
and His glory according to his conscience. Here the soul is 
seeking self, not hearkening to the words of Our Lord: "If any 
man come to Me and hate not his father and mother and wife 
and children and brethren and sisters, yea and his own life 
also, he cannot be My disciple" (St. Luke xiv, 26). "If any 
man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his 
cross and follow Me" (St. Matthew xvi, 24). This self-denial 
is the forfeit of sanctity, the price of being near God. 

Line 134. Designer Infinite. — One of the strongest argu- 
ments for the existence of God is "the argument from design." 
The myriad multiplicity of interacting agents both on this tiny 
earth of ours and especially in the great unmeasured reaches of 
the heavens speak loudly of a Designer, all-wise in His con- 
ceptions and infinite in His power to make such conceptions 
materialize. "The harmony of the spheres," the co-ordination 
and sub-ordination of nature's laws, and the often palpably felt 
directive force in man's own soul-life tell intelligibly that 
"Behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, 
keeping watch above His own." (N. B. "The archetypal ideas 
of God," which served Him as exemplars of creation, is a 
famihar expression to all conversant with even the rudiments of 
Scholastic Philosophy.) 

Line 135. Metaphor from charcoal sketching, wherein the 
wood is burned and charred before being fit for use. 

The more experience one has of Hfe, the more one is con- 
vinced that pain and suffering is a tremendous grace from God. 
"Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen 
thee in the furnace of poverty" (Isaias xlviii, 10). It is only 
from hearts that are bruised, that the "sweet odor of Christ" 
will come forth. "Thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that 


out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed" (St. Luke ii, 
35). Compare notes on lines iii, 133, 143. 

Whether we will or no, the cross awaits us everywhere in 
life. As Kempis says: "The cross, therefore, is always ready, 
and everywhere waits for thee. Thou canst not escape it 
whithersoever thou runnest; for whithersoever thou goest, thou 
carriest thyself with thee, and shalt always find thyself. Turn 
thyself upwards, or turn thyself downwards; turn thyself 
without or turn thyself within thee, and everywhere thou will 
find the cross. ... If thou fling away one cross, without 
doubt thou will find another, and perhaps a heavier" (Imita- 
tion of Christ, Book II, ch. 12). Is it not then plain common 
sense to follow this saintly author's advice: "Set thyself, then, 
like a good and faithful servant of Christ to bear manfully the 
cross of thy Lord, for the love of Him who was crucified for 
thee. . . . For He manifestly exhorts both His disciples that 
followed Him and all that desire to follow Him to bear the 
cross, saying: "If anyone will come after Me, let him deny 
himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me"? So too, St. 
Paul exhorts Timothy (2 Timothy ii, 3): "Take your share of 
trials as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." 

Lines 136-140. There is a wonted Thompsonian profuseness 
of metaphor here, but no confusion. 

Line 136. Spent Its Wavering Shower in the Dust. — Hence 
uselessly; for the fitful shower merely moistens the dust and 
does not sink into and fructify the earth. 

My Freshness. — My youth, the time of freshness and 

Its Wavering Shower. — The efforts of youth are wont to be 
spasmodic and unstable. "A boy's will is the wind's will." 

Energy was spent in youth without thought of the time of 
maturer but weaker years. Many a man who has set his 
heart unduly on created things and won them not, cries out, as 
did the Apostles (St. Luke v, 5): "Master, we have labored all 


the night and have taken nothing." Yet it is a tremendous 
grace to realize this before death; for, though it be hard to go 
to the grave, empty-handed of earthly riches, it is eternally 
bad to go there poor in the things of God. Compare note on 
line 123, second quotation, lines 5-8. 

G. K. Chesterton teUs us sententiously that "Hell is energy 
without joy"; and he sums up much theology in those few 

Lilies 137-140. This whole metaphor is taken from a broken, 
discarded well over which hangs a gaunt, stark tree from whose 
soughing branches the bleak wind spills down into the stagnant 
waters below the drops of rain which seem to ooze out of the 
branches. Every single word should be weighed in this picture 
of personal desolation which appeals to many as one of the most 
powerful that has come from human pen. The wealth and 
force of its imagery recalls the description of place-desolation 
in Isaias xxxiv, 8-15: "For it is the day of vengeance of the 
Lord, the year of recompenses of the judgment of Sion. And 
the streams thereof (i. e., of the land of the enemies) shall be 
turned into pitch, and the ground thereof into brimstone, and 
the land thereof shall become burning pitch. Night and day it 
shall not be quenched, the smoke thereof shall go up forever; 
from generation to generation it shaU He waste, none shall pass 
through it forever and ever. The bittern and the ericius shall 
possess it; the ibis and the raven shall dwell in it; and a Une 
shall be stretched out upon it, to bring it to nothing, and a 
plummet, unto desolation. The nobles thereof shall not be 
there; they shall call rather upon the king, and all the princes 
thereof shall be nothing. And thorns and nettles shall grow 
up in its houses, and the thistle in the fortresses thereof; and it 
shall be the habitation of dragons, and the pasture of ostriches. 
And demons and monsters shall meet, and the hairy ones shall 
cry one to another; there hath the lamia lain down, and found 
rest for herself. There hath the ericius had its hole, and brought 


up its young ones, and hath dug round about, and cherished 
them in the shadow thereof; thither are the kites gathered to- 
gether, one to another." 

Line i^y. Broken Fount. — Once it was a fountain fair to 
see, holding pure waters of love; but now it is a broken, dis- 
carded thing; and all that were given leave to draw love there- 
from, have left it in dreary isolation; and all that were to be to 
it the sources of its springs of love have sent no waters therein. 

Line 138. Tear-Drippings. — No flood of tears such as as- 
suage lesser griefs but just those dreadful tears that are dis- 
tilled one by one from the mind in deepest desolation and 

Lines 13Q-140. Dank Thoughts, Sighful Branches. — The 
poor mind distills "dank" (i. e., gloomy, oppressive) thoughts 
from its "sighful" branches, and these fall into a heart that 
has lost all motion, suffering that dreadful paralysis that 
comes from excessive sorrow. We cannot but think of Our 
Lord in the Agony as described in the Greek New Testament. 
It is said that he began \v7rela6ai (St. Matthew xxvi, 37), 
to be sad; then aSrjfxovelv (St. Matthew ibid.), to be heavy and 
dazed; lastly i/cOa/jL^eccrOaL (St. Mark xiv, ss), to be aghast 
and terrified. There is a distinct progress in mental effects as 
He allows the Passion and its terrors to grow upon Him. 

N. B. We need not press the word "branches" to find a 
strict parallel in the mind. It merely fills out the picture, 
indicating that there was no quarter of the mind that offered 
anything but sadness and depression. 

Line 142. The Pulp so Bitter. — If in the days of youth and 
new -bom manhood, when hfe is wont to be so sweet and every 
day is as a day in June, I find all so tasteless, nay bitter, how 
will my old age be? The soul has not yet learned the worth of 
the Psalmist's prayer: "Cast me not off in the time of old-age: 
when my strength shall fail, do not Thou forsake me" (Psalm 
Ixx, 9) ; nor does it realize that God can and does make old age 


for those who have always loved him — yes, and even for those 
who learned late to love Him — a time of gentle, peaceful waiting 
for the Bridegroom's coming. The last few hours of even the 
penitent thief were such. 

We might recall St. Luke (xxiii, 31): "For if in the green 
wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry? " 

The soul is now absolutely disconsolate, for all objects of love 
have been taken from it. 

"The night has a thousand eyes. 

And the day but one; 
Yet the light of the bright world dies 

With the dying sun. 

The mind has a thousand eyes, 

And the heart but one; 
Yet the light of a whole life dies 

When love is done." 

Life seems utterly blanked now, and there seems to lie 
athwart Ufe's path a future darker than the shadowed past. 

Line 143. Under the repeated dosages of disappointment, 
sorrow and misfortune, the soul's vision is being cleared, even as 
the blind man's eyes were given light through the anointing 
with clay and spittle (St. John ix, 6). 

It begins to see the healing and sanctifying value of all that 
the human heart holds hard, it begins to realize the old sayings, 
"per aspera, ad astra," "per crucem ad lucem." The Greeks, 
too, had the proverb: eav eiraOe's^ eixaOe^ (if you suffer, you 
learn). Virgil makes Dido say (^neid Bk. I, line 630): "Non 
ignara maH miseris succurrere disco" ("Nor yet untaught in 
sorrow's school, I learn to succor grieving hearts "). Isaias tell us 
(xxviii, 19): "Vexation alone shall make you understand what 
you hear." And with unmistakable terms Christ Our Lord 
says: "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat, 


falling into the ground, die, itself remaineth alone. But if it 
die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (St. John xii, 24, 25). 

God very kindly keeps the hidden freight of the future away 
from our eyes; yet, from time to time, as we absorb experiences, 
it becomes clearer and clearer to us that the way of progress in 
this vale of tears is the way of the cross. God indeed has a 
surgery for the soul more heaHng than ever was or can be the 
surgery of the body — ^yes, and far more necessary. Fr. Ryan 
sings (A Thought): 

"It is a truth beyond our ken — 
And yet a truth that all may read — 

It is with roses as with men, 
The sweetest hearts are those that bleed. 

The flower that Bethlehem saw bloom 

Out of a heart all full of grace. 
Gave never forth its full perfume 

Until the cross became its vase." 

The old dramatist ^schylus (Agamemnon), lines 176-178 
(Morsehead's Translation) tells us: 

"Tis Zeus alone who shows the perfect way 

Of knowledge: He hath ruled, 
Men shall learn wisdom, by affliction schooled." 

Joyce Kilmer (Poets) sings so beautifully: 

"Light songs we breathe that perish with our breath 
Out of our lips that have not kissed the rod. 

They shall not live who have not tasted death. 
They only sing who are struck dumb by God." 

Compare notes on lines 11 1, 133, 135. 

Line 145. To second the convictions that are beginning to 
take form in his mind, a vision is given him from Eternity; 


and "Eternity" being the view-point, truth is necessarily 
implied. Notice how fitly the whole scene is described : "battle- 
ments of Eternity" — for he has been fighting against what is of 
God and now the unshakable walls are seen; the "mists" in 
which Time confounds everything because of our shortened 
purview are "shaken" for a short "space" by the magic trum- 
pet. The soul catches a faint, dim, yet convincing view both 
of the turrets and of the summoner, and then the mists slowly 
fold all out of sight again. 

Lines 148-154. Different interpretations have been given to 
these lines: 

i. Lines 148-151 picture Death. Lines 152-154 is an address 
to God. The adjectives "gloomy," purpureal," "c3^ress- 
crowned" are claimed to be more appropriate if Death be 
meant, but somewhat difficult of explanation if God be in- 
tended. Nor is the transition too abrupt, as the recognition of 
Death in line 1 50 makes the soul reflect and turn to God with a 
very natural question. Lastly the personal pronouns in lines 
148-15 1 are spelled without capitals, which Thompson in- 
variably uses when referring to God. 

ii. The lines represent God throughout. Our Lord is pic- 
tured in "glooming robes purpureal": for He trod the wine- 
press of Golgotha, coming "from Edom, with dyed garments 
from Bosra, the beautiful one in His robe" (Isaias Ixiii, i), and 
He is "cypress-crowned," for His crown, with which He was 
crowned conqueror of the world, was the crown of death. 
Compare "laurel-crowned" for crowned with victory. 

LUies 152-154. Within the answer to this question would be 
contained the whole doctrine of mortification, so grossly mis- 
understood by many. Mortification is not a fetish but a minis- 
tering angel and, as the soul's spiritual vision is clarified, it 
sees, that mortification, i. e., the making dead (Latin mortuum 
and facere), the killing of all that is disordered in our lives is 
necessary, for three reasons: 


i. That we may never be led astray by our passions. Right 
Psychology teaches us that sense-perceptions precede intel- 
lectual and volitional movements; and, if they are very vehe- 
ment, are prone to hurry the latter into action without proper 
regard for the laws of God. To have perfectly under our con- 
trol at all times and in all places all of our sense-activities, a 
deal of self-denial, i. e., mortification, is required. If we have 
not this control we are the playthings of our own passions and 
passing moods, and from our own hearts is wrung, sooner or 
later, the bitter cry of the old poet: 

"I know my soul hath power to know all things, 

Yet is she bhnd and ignorant in all. 
I know I'm one of nature's little kings. 

Yet to the least and vilest things am thrall. 
I know my life's a pain and but a span, 

I know my sense is mocked in everything, 
And to conclude I know myself a man. 

Which is a proud and yet a wretched thing." 

Thompson had quite a singular grasp of the doctrine of 
mortification and the necessity of denying one's self. He 
puts it tersely in "Any Saint": 

" Compost of Heaven and mire, 
Slow foot and swift desire! 

To have yes, choose no; 

Gird and thou shalt unbind; 
Seek not and thou shalt find; 
To eat 
Deny thy meat; 

And thou shalt be fulfilled 
With all sweet things unwilled." 


Recall Tennyson (In Memoriam) : 

"That men may rise on stepping-stones 
Of their dead selves to higher things." 

ii. That we may make atonement for past misuse of these 
same faculties, when by them we violated God's law, even in 
little things. 

iii. That we may not be "dehcate soldiers of a thorn-crowned 
King," for "love either finds or makes alike"; and so "Those, 
who seriously follow Christ our Lord, love and earnestly 
desire ... to be clothed with the same garment and with the 
Hvery of their Lord for His love and reverence" (St. Ignatius of 
Loyola). It was an over-mastering love of Christ that made so 
many Saints practice unwonted mortifications and could find 
them ever saying with the poet-priest of the South : 

"I tasted all the sweets of sacrifice, 
I kissed my cross a thousand times a day, 
I hung and bled upon it in my dreams, 
I Hved on it — I loved it to the last." 

It was such desire as this, to be like her suffering Lord, that 
made a St. Theresa plead, "Lord, let me suffer or let me 

Man's Heart or Life. — Man's heart is "dunged with rotten 
death" when it feels upon it the weight of the drooping and 
dead objects of its earthly love; and man's Hfe yields God most 
harvest then only, when it has passed through ordeals that 
bring it well within the shadow of the Cross. 

Line 154. Robert Southwell, S. J., in his "St. Peter's Com- 
plaint" has a quaint line: 

"Did Christ manure thy heart to breed him briers?" 


Lines 155-176 

At length the fleeing soul is overtaken and with words that 
humble yet encourage, strike to the ground and yet uplift, it is 
told its real value and whom alone it can find to give such a 
worthless thing abiding love. New hope, too, is lighted up 
within when it is known that all its faded dreams will be found 
quite fulfilled "at home." 

Line 156. Comes on at Hand the Bruit. — Note how subtly 
the poet conveys the idea of lessening distance between giant 
Pursuer and pursued. It is only now that the sound of the 
"following Feet" is near enough to be heard, and they are the 
feet of a "tremendous Lover"; and so the giant's footfall is 
indeed a bruit or great noise. 

Line 157. As the sea when it bursts beneath the lashing of a 
vast storm seems to be roaring above and below and around 
those in the storm-tossed bark, thus the voice of God now so 
surrounds the soul that there is no avenue of escape. We 
hear in this line the refrain of the Psalmist (Psalm xli, 8-9, 
translation by J. M'Swiney, S. J.) : 

"Deep to deep is calling, at the noise of Thy cataracts; 
All Thy breakers and Thy waves are gone over me." 

and again (Psalm xcii, 3, 4): 

"The floods have Hfted up, O Lord, 
The floods have lifted up their voice : 

The floods have Hfted up their waves, 

With the noise of many waters. 

Wonderful are the surges of the sea: 

Wonderful is the Lord on high." 

Thompson must surely have had in mind the words of St. 
John (Apocalypse i, 15): "And His voice as the sound of many 


Line 158. Note the progressive reproof in the words of God. 
First, a gentle correction which, however, brings hope (156- 
160); then by degrees, with a tenderness known only to pierced 
Hands, He lays bare the wounds of the soul and shows with 
healing pitilessness the utter unworthiness of the soul (161- 
170). This indeed must be realized, if we are to be saved from 
our own follies. Then, again, a correction of wrong impressions 
awakening old hopes (i 71-175). Finally the loving invitation 
to let bygones be bygones and to come to Him (176). 

Line ijg. Compare Isaias xxx, 14: "And it shall be broken 
small, as the potter's vessel is broken all to pieces with mighty 
breaking, and there shall not a shard be found of the pieces 
thereof, whereon a little fire may be carried from the hearth, 
or a Httle water be drawn out of the pit." 

Line 161. A powerful line with a weight of adjectives that 
sink into the very heart of man. 

Strange. — Weirdly-strange heart of man, who is the child of 
God, yet runs away lest it have no love except that of a Father 
who so loves it, that He gave His only Son as ransom for its 
sins and cried out to it: "Can a woman forget her infant, so as 
not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should 
forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold I have graven thee in 
-My hands" (Isaias xlix, 15, 16). 

Piteous. — Worthy of all pity, because its running away is a 
fooHsh bit of childish insubordination, all to its own hurt. 
"Be astounded, O ye heavens, at this, and ye gates thereof be 
very desolate, saith the Lord. For My people have done two 
evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, 
and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that 
can hold no water" (Jeremias ii, 12, 13). 

Futile. Because, if God is determined to win thy love, "it is 
hard for thee to kick against the goad" (Acts ix, 5). It is a 
rebellion doomed from the start. 

Line 164. There is only one human love which stands not on 


human meriting and that is the love of parent for child. This 
love is based and natively modeled on our heavenly Father's 
love. All other loves, the love of man and woman, of friend and 
friend is given precisely because of human excellence and human 
meriting. Supernatural love, however, being founded on the 
goodness of God and the eternal worth of every soul, heaven- 
destined like ourselves, sinful though it may now be, reaches 
beyond and above all this, remaining true when even the love 
of parent fails. Compare St. Matthew, v, 43-48. 

Lines 165-168. Any man who realizes intimately that these 
lines are true of him, can kneel and cry out aright with the 
Psalmist: "Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord" 
(Psalm cxxix, i). A vivid realization of this humihating truth 
makes Saints, men and women to whom self is nought. This 
is the unraveler of the mystery of self -hatred, so present in the 
lives of the Saints. At least a lesser realization is necessary to 
every man who has at heart the salvation of his soul. For, as 
in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth out of 
nothingness, so in the spiritual life, God will not build and 
form and fashion save where there is the nothingness of self- 

Line 166. Clotted. — No longer is man the untainted, un- 
cursed clay, into which God breathed the breath of life; for 
entangling passions have made him a sorry thing. The seven 
primal sources of sin have woven his life, individual and social, 
into many a knotted skein. The intellect, imbued with preju- 
dices, leads the will astray; the will, plunging headlong after 
sensible dehghts, darkens the intellect; and against the control 
of both intellect and will, rise the rebellious senses. Truly if 
peace be "the tranquilhty of order," there rarely is full peace 
found in man this side of the grave. 

Clay. — ^As Ash Wednesday's "Remember man that thou 
art dust and unto dust thou shalt return," so this line, with one 
majestic sweep, carries us back to man's lowliest beginning. 


Compare Thompson's similar expressions found in "Any 

"Great arm-fellow of God! 

To the ancestral clod 

And to cherubin; 

Bread predilectedly — 
O' the worm and Deity! 

O God's clay-sealed Ark." 

' Compost of Heaven and mire " 

"Rise; for Heaven hath no frown 
When thou to thee pluck'st down, 
Strong clod! 
The neck of God." 

Dingiest Clot. — Every soul can say this, for even though its 
actual sins have not been as heinous as those of others, still its 
slack correspondence with God's graces, especially when these 
have come with unwonted largess into its life, makes it say in 
all truth, that it is the most ungrateful of mortals, the sorriest 
specimen of all. 

Lines 167-168. Indeed, to know how Httle worthy we are of 
love, we should have to know what sin is. Yet this no man can 
know in its entirety; for to evaluate sin exactly, man would 
have to possess complete knowledge of God whom sin offends. 

Line i6g. Ignoble. — Surely man is ignoble: 

i. In his primeval origin. — "And the Lord God formed man 
of the sHme of the earth" (Genesis ii, 7). 

ii. In his present nature. — "I find then a law, that when I 


have a will to do good, evil is present within me. For I am de- 
lighted with the law of God according to the inward man : but I 
see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my 
mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my mem- 
bers. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the 
body of this death?" (Romans vii, 21-24). 

iii. By the ending of his body. — "I have said to rottenness: 
Thou art my father; To worms: My mother and my sister" 
(Job. xviii, 14). 

iv. By his ingratitude to God. — Most say "Thank you" to 
God far fewer times than they would in decency dare say it 
to a human benefactor. "Were not ten made clean? Where 
are the nine?" (St. Luke xvii, 17). 

V. Above all in his sin. — "Yet I planted thee a chosen vine- 
yard, all true seed: how then art thou turned imto Me into that 
which is good for nothing, O strange vineyard? " (Jeremias ii, 

In times of self-forgetfulness we seem to ourselves to be worth 
a deal and we preen our feathers and strut before the world; 
but when we sit alone and thinkingly ponder the lapsed years, 
what is the autobiography we see written with incessant pen? 
"I will recount to thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul" 
(Isaias xxxviii, 15). When we finish the count, are we anxious 
to find a publisher for our autobiography; and were it pub- 
lished, would any of its readers ever find it in them to love us? 
Yet we crave to talk out our hearts. It was to meet this deep 
psychological craving that Our Lord deigned to institute the 
confessional, wherein we can lay bare our inmost souls and 
know that our secret will never be told, and ourselves never 
valued the less for the telling of our own sad tale. 

Line 170. The soul must be made to realize that "to Thee is 
the poor man left: Thou wilt be a helper to the orphan" (Psalm 
ix, 14). Indeed it is only God who will accept the gift of a 
shattered life, and welcome a public Magdalen and promise 


heaven to a dying thief. Truly "Thou art my God, for Thou 
hast no need of my goods" (Psalm xv, 2), "for Thou lovest all 
things that are, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast 
made: for Thou didst not appoint or make anything, hating 
it. . . . But Thou sparest all, because they are Thine, O Lord, 
who lovest souls" (Wisdom xi, 25, 27). 

Lines 171-176. Note the exquisite touch in these lines. We 
are led to recall the action of a fond mother who takes away the 
playthings of her child, just that she may have the pleasure of 
having it seek them from her again. 

Compare the following from Joyce Kilmer (Peimies) : 

" So unto men 

Doth God, depriving that He may bestow. 

Fame, health and money go. 

But that they may, new foimd, be newly sweet. 

Yea, at His feet 

Sit, waiting us, to their concealment bid. 

All they, our lovers, whom His love hath hid." 

All — Stored — Home. — The words are well chosen to in- 
sinuate the length of the pursuit and the multiplicity of the 
objects taken. Note again the ringing pathos of the lines. 

The soul must realize the reason of God's action which has 
seemed to it to be a baneful persecution. There are few words 
that insinuate so well the purpose God has in afflicting a soul as 
the words of Isaias (i, 5): "For what shall T strike you any 
more, you that increase transgressions?" God is a divine 
surgeon who cuts to heal. When the cutting serves but to 
increase the malady. He desists. 

Compare Joel ii, 25, 26: "And I will restore to you the 
years which the locust, and the bruchus, and the mildew, and 
the palmerworm have eaten . . . and you shall eat in plenty 
and shall be filled: and you shall praise the name of the Lord 
your God, who hath done wonders with you, and My people 


shall not be confounded forever." Also the following from 
Psalm Ixxxviii, 31-34: 

"And if his children forsake My law, 

And walk not in My judgments; 
If they profane My justices, 

And keep not my commandments; 
I will visit their iniquities with a rod, 

And their sins with stripes; 
But My mercy I will not take away from him. 

Nor will I suffer My truth to fail." 

Line 173. Note emphatic position of " Just." 
Again, are we pressing words too far, if we note that it is 
"in My arms" and not "from" them that the lost treasures 
must be sought? Like a little child, after having strayed from 
her, nestles safely in its mother's arms, and finds its playthings 
all about it, so now the soul, without leaving God's embrace, wiil 
find all the former objects of its love brought near it. 

Line 174. A pitiable commentary on a man is to say, "He 
is an overgrown child"; and yet every strayer from God is 
such. This likening man to a child and his waywardness to a 
child's wilfulness recalls Coventry Patmore's beautiful lines 
from "The Toys": 

"Ah! when at last we lie with tranced breath, 

Not vexing Thee in death, 

And Thou rememberest of what toys 

We made our joys, 

How weakly understood 

Thy great commanded good. 

Then, fatherly not less 

Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay, 

Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say, 

'I will be sorry for their childishness.'" 


Before Patmore, the Royal Psalmist sang (Psalm cii, 12-14): 

"As far as the east is from the west, 

So far hath He removed our iniquities from us. 

As a father hath compassion on his children, 

So hath the Lord compassion on them that fear Him. 

For He knoweth our frame; 

He remembereth that we are dust." 

Line 175. At Home. — These words alone ought to win any 
soul to God; and they do, when fully grasped. With them 
God would reawaken the long slumbering echoes in the exile's 
soul and rouse anew that homesickness for heaven that every 
man feels in his heart. Truly, if that is home, "where our feet 
may leave, but not our hearts," then the infinite homesickness 
of the human heart amid all the manifold joys of life, infallibly 
tells of a home beyond the grave. The realization of this makes 
us call our burying-ground, a "cemetery," i. e., "sleeping-place" 
whence we are to awaken and arise. This knowledge makes 
every Christian cry out with St. Paul: "O death, where is thy 
victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (i Corinthian xv, 55). 
To the pagans, of old and of to-day, who misread this yearning 
of the heart as a desire to stay and find at length full light where 
shadows always fall, death is a bitter, painful thing, that will 
snuff out even that mead of happiness we sometimes gain this 
side the grave. Dying is not to them what is was to the old 
Germans — Heimgang, a "going home," 

Line iy6. Throughout these words there is no chiding, for 
this will come from the heart itself, when it has learned to love 
God more. "Thy own wickedness shall reprove thee, and thy 
apostasy shall rebuke thee. Know thou that it is an evil and a 
bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God" (Jeremias 
ii, 19). 

Rise. — Compare line 113, "And smitten me to my knee." 
Hence the need of rising. 


Clasp My Hand. — The eager welcome of the surrendering 
soul by Our Lord is beautifully pictured in these words. Com- 
pare Isaisas xliii, i: "And now thus saith the Lord that created 
thee, O Jacob, and formed thee, O Israel: Fear not, for I have 
redeemed thee, and called thee by thy name: thou art Mine." 

Lines 177-182 

With utter delicacy the poet describes the meeting in a few 
brief lines and draws the curtain, that words might not mar, 
with their vulgar noise, the sacredness of that recognition. 

Line 177. The smooth rhythm of these Hues audibly conveys 
the calm and peace of the surrendered soul. 

Line 178. Is My Gloom. — ^The words of God have been 
working silently yet powerfully, and here a change of view- 
point is evidenced in the soul; and this, a change of view-point, 
is so markedly the beginning of repentance, that the early 
Greek theologians called the whole repentive process "a change 
of mind" — fierdvoia ( = an after or later perception). Re- 
pentance is indeed a rectifying of a false judgment that a sinful 
act was worth the while committing. Because of this mental 
rectification and readjustment, there inevitably comes the 
resolve not to sin again. 

Line I7g. The soul begins to hear and understand tHe call 
of God: "Why seek you the living among the dead?" (St. Luke 
xxiv, 5). It has tried to find its heart's-ease there where it 
could not be found, feeding its immortal desires on passing 
trifles, which are, like the Dead Sea fruit, fair to behold but 
crumbhng into ashes at the very touch. 

With the thought of protecting shade we may compare 
Isaias xlix, 2: "And He hath made my mouth Hke a sharp 
sword: in the shadow of His hand He hath protected me, and 
hath made me a chosen arrow: in His quiver He hath hidden 
me." Indeed whatever darkness comes from God is one of 


protection, for "God is light and in Him there is no darkness" 
(i John i, 5). 
Fr. Tabb (Eclipse) presents a similar idea: 

"Fear not: the planet that bedims 

The moon's distorted face, 
Itself through cloudless ether swims 

The Sea of Space; 

And earthward many a distant wing 

Of spirits in the light 
A salutary shade may fling 

To mark its flight." 

Line 180. Fondest. — How strangely must this word fall on 
the erring soul! How has it been fond towards God? Yet it 
is by this word that God seems to eagerly second the slightest 
efforts of the soul. Truly the human soul is "fond." Its very 
capacity for love led its feet astray. 

Blindest. — All wandering from God, all sin is indeed pitiable 
blindness. "Father forgive them for they know not what they 
do." Blind, indeed, is the soul since it cannot understand 
the prayer of an Augustine who had himself wandered far from 
God: "O Lord Thou hast made us for Thyself and our heart 
is restless till it rests in Thee" (Confessions Bk. I, ch. i). Yes, 
and it has forgotten the hymn that awakened echoes in its 
child's heart: 

"Thou alone canst fill it, 

Little though it be; 
For Thou, Lord, hast made it, 

AU alone for Thee." 

The soul must see that "destruction is thy own, O Israel; thy 
help is only in Me" (Osee xiii, 9). "I am, I am the Lord: and 
there is no saviour besides Me" (Isaias xhii, 11). 


Weakest. — How eager is the Lover of souls to excuse! The 

"Little Flower" said that her heavenly Lover knew no mathe- 
matics, for He never adds our faults together once we are sorry 
for them. Here Our Lord shows Himself a true priest, "for 
every high priest, being selected from among men ... is 
capable of bearing gently with the ignorant and the erring, since 
he is himself beset with weakness" (Hebrews v, 1-2). 

Line 182. Even as the prodigal was welcomed by his ex- 
pectant father, so the vagrant soul, that has wasted its sub- 
stance on the fruitless love of creatures, is greeted by God its 
Father and brought back home, and all the Angels of God are 
glad for they know that their "brother was dead and is come to 
life again; he was lost and is found" (St. Luke xv, 32). Even 
as God bends down to greet the wayward culprit, it hears the 
cheering words: "Be of good comfort my children ... for as 
it was your mind to go astray from God, so when you return 
again you shall seek Him ten times as much" (Baruch iv, 
27-28). "Therefore at the least from this time call to Me: 
Thou art my Father" (Jeremias iii, 4). 

As the soul gives in at length to God and yields an uncondi- 
tional surrender then "the peace of God which surpasseth all 
imderstanding " (Philippians iv, 7) enters into it and such joy 
comes, too, that the grateful soul breaks out into the song that 
Judith sang (Judith xvi, 16-17): 

"O Adonai Lord, great art Thou, 

And glorious in Thy power, 

And no one can overcome Thee. 
Let all Thy creatures serve Thee, 

Because Thou hast spoken and they were made; 

Thou didst send forth Thy spirit and they were created. 

And there is no one that can resist Thy voice." 


No longer is it "sore adread, lest having Him, it must have 
nought beside" for it has learned that He and He alone, as 
"Goodness without limit," can satiate every craving of its 
being. Its one prayer now is the prayer of Loyola's soldier- 
saint: "Only Thy love and grace on me bestow, possessing 
these, all riches I forego." If there be aught of regret that it 
feels, it is that it has sadly squandered its love and surrendered 
too late and too reluctantly to God. "O Lord, our God, other 
lords besides Thee have had dominion over us, only in Thee let 
us remember Thy Name" (Isaias xxvi, 13). "Thou art great, 
O Lord, and Thy kingdom is unto all ages: for Thou scourgest, 
and Thou savest: Thou leadest down to hell and bringest up 
again, and there is none that can escape Thy hand" (Tobias 
xiii, 1-2). 

The pursuit is over now, but rest does not ensue. At once a 
new race is begun, but Our Lord is now at the side of the soul 
as it runs its course heavenwards. Nor is the race a slack one. 
"There is need of running, and of running vehemently. He 
that runneth a race, seeth none of those that meet him; whether 
he be passing through meadows, or through dry places: he that 
runneth, looketh not at the spectator, but at the prize. . . . 
He is occupied in one thing alone, in running, in gaining the 
prize. He that runneth never standeth still, since even if be 
slacken a little, he has lost the whole. He that runneth, not 
only slackens nothing before the end, but then even especially 
straineth his speed" (St. John Chrysostom, Homily vii, on 
the Epistle to the Hebrews). Yet there is the greatest joy 
and satisfaction in this race, for the soul now has caught the 
rich meaning of the words wherein St. Paul calls to us aU, 
after that he has told of the faithful Saints of old: "And there- 
fore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our heads, 
laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us 


run with steadfastness the race proposed to us, looking on 
Jesus, the author and finisher of faith" (Hebrews xii, 1-2). 

Thus side by side the soul and Our Lord will go forward in 
the race and there will be no anxiety "for though I should 
walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, 
for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they com- 
forted me" (Psalm xxii, 4). If we but journey on by His side 
and forsake Him not there will be no need of the prayer: "Cast 
me not off in the time of old age: when my strength shall fail, 
do not Thou forsake me " (Psalm Ixx, 9) ; for we shall go on and 
on together through this valley of tears with the light of another 
world in our eyes and the music of Angels' song within our 
hearts. There will be days of gloom and trial, days when 
poor mortal flesh would fain take rest; but we shall travel 
swiftly on despite it all. 

" Coward, wayward and weak, 

I change with the changing sky, 
One day eager and brave 

The next not caring to try, 
But He never gives in, and we two shall win, 

Jesus and I." 

Thus will He lead us on, "o'er moor and fen, o'er crag and 
torrent, 'till the night is gone," "until the day dawn and the 
day-star arise" (2 Peter i, 19), and we come "home" to find 
our lost trinkets stored in Father's house. "O kingdom of 
eternal blessedness! where youth never groweth old, where 
beauty never waneth, nor love groweth cold, where health 
knows no sickness, where joy never decreaseth, where life 
hath no end" (St. Augustine, Soliloquy, ch. 36). "Even to 
your old age I am the same, and to your gray hairs I will carry 
you; I have made you and I will bear; I will carry and I will 
save (Isaias xlvi, 4). Therein lies the secret of it all, the com- 
radeship of my changeless Friend. 


202 Main Library 


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1-month loans may be renewed by calling 842-3406 j 
1 year loans may be recharged by bringing the books to the Circulation Oee*^ 
Renewals and recharges may be made 4 days prior to #ue da*e 



D By 






ORM NO. DD6, 60m, 1/83 BERKELEY CA 94720 

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