This page was updated on 20th April 2021
In no strange land by Francis Thompson
O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air--
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?
Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!--
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.
The angels keep their ancient places;--
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
’Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.
But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry;—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.
Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry,—clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!
Francis Thompson (1859–1907) an English poet whose poetry, usually on religious subjects, is noted for its brilliant imagery and sonorous language. He was educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood at Ushaw College but in 1877 entered Owens College, Manchester, to study medicine. Relinquishing his medical studies in 1885, he went to London, where he lived a destitute life, suffering from ill health, poverty, and opium addiction. In 1888 he sent a manuscript to Wilfrid Meynell who, with his wife Alice Meynell, edited the Catholic periodical Merry England. They recognized Thompson’s poetic ability and took him under their care. Poems (1893), which attracted much attention, contained “The Hound of Heaven,” Thompson’s chief and best-known work, describing the poet’s futile flight from God. Two more volumes appeared, Sister Songs (1895) and New Poems (1897), both supplemented by the publication of a few more poems after his death. Thompson spent the years from 1893 to 1897 in a monastery in Wales. Thompson also wrote a number of essays, including a study of Shelley (1909).