Francis Thompson

British poet (1859-1907)

Francis Joseph Thompson (December 18, 1859November 13, 1907) was an English poet and Catholic mystic.

Francis Thompson in 1877


  • O GAIN that lurk’st ungainèd in all gain!
    O love we just fall short of in all love!
    O height that in all heights art still above!
    O beauty that dost leave all beauty pain!
    Thou unpossessed that mak’st possession vain,
  • The hills look over on the South,
    And Southward dreams the sea;
    And with the sea-breeze hand in hand,
    Came innocence and she.
  • The fairest things have fleetest end,
    Their scent survives their close:
    But the rose's scent is bitterness
    To him that loved the rose.
  • Nothing begins, and nothing ends,
    That is not paid with moan,
    For we are born in other's pain,
    And perish in our own.
  • Look for me in the nurseries of Heaven.
    • To My Godchild (this line is inscribed on Thompson's gravestone).
  • Thou canst not stir a flower / Without troubling of a star.
    • The Mistress of Vision (1913).
  • The innocent moon, that nothing does but shine,
    Moves all the labouring surges of the world.
  • Short arm needs man to reach to Heaven,
    So ready is Heaven to stoop to him.
  • Know you what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of today. It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul; it is to live in a nutshell and to count yourself the king of infinite space; it is
    To see a world in a grain of sand,
    And a Heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
    And eternity in an hour;
    it is to know not as yet that you are under sentence of life, nor petition that it be commuted into death.
    • Shelley. In the Dublin Review (July 1908).
  • Summer set lip to earth's bosom bare;
    And left the flushed print in a poppy there:
    Like a yawn of fire from the grass it came,
    And the fanning wind puffed it to flapping flame.
  • I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
    I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
    I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
    I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
    • St. 1.
  • But with unhurrying chase,
    And unperturbéd pace,
    Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
    They beat—and a Voice beat
    More instant than the Feet—
    "All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."
    • St. 1.
  • Across the margent of the world I fled,
    And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
    Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars:
    Fretted to dulcet jars
    And silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.
    • St. 2.
  • I said to Dawn: Be sudden—to Eve: Be soon.
    • St. 2.
  • In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
    I shook the pillaring hours
    And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
    I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years—
    My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
    My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
    Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
    • St. 4.
  • 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.
    • St. 5.
  • O world invisible, we view thee,
    O world intangible, we touch thee,
    O world unknowable, we know thee,
    Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
    • St. 1.
  • The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
    Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.
    • St. 3.
  • 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.
    • St. 4.
  • Upon thy so sore loss
    Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
    Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.
    • St. 5.
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