by Francis Thompson (1859-1907)
When the great floodgates God first sundered
Of Himself on desolation,
And round reverberate Heaven there thundered
The growl of an unleashed Creation,
What voice could cry to discord: ‘Be
Thou rampart round security?’
I bade the frowning terror be
Citadelled o’er security
Yea, at my stamp she cowers, and lies
The warden-hound of Paradise.
Leviathan earth, with back upstood from
Chaos, shook its woody fells;
Belching a conflagrant flood from
Its Aetnean spiracles;
And where then was there found a hand
That could draw it to the land?
I, with the finger of my hand,
Plucked it to the heaven-strand;
And with a twist I bound it there
Of adamantean gossamer.
Whose the hand that strews the manna
For the mailèd birds of God,
When congregating pennons fan a
Flicker from the flame-grassed sod,
With tinkling justle, and the clangours
Intersweeping of sweet angers?
I cast the paradisal grain
In a sudden rainbow-rain;
’Mid the clangour, clangour, clangour,
Of their wings in argent anger.
Threating occidential rampires
When the stellar hordes alight,
Kindling their innumerous camp-fires
On the champain of the night;
What tactic ranks their rangèd wars?
Who is Captain of the stars?
My nod their linked battalia wait,
Their wheeling ranks intrinsicate;
Until this rotten earth become
An apple ’twixt the jaws of doom.
Who hath seen the broods of lightnings
Seething in their caverned cloud,
And endured their dreadful brightenings
With lids unblenched, with front unbowed?
Whose countenance the strong thunders mutes,
When they tear Heaven up by the roots?
With moveless gaze enchant I these,
And interspheral harmonies;
I bide the levins’ stroke and pause,
Or twitch the sting from their hot jaws.
When Eve’s blown vestures half uncover
The lucence of her moonèd breast;
And a red vortex gurges over
The foundered sun in the tossed West,
Who to the heavens’ high-seas restores
And sets it round with silver oars?
I bid its banks of vibrant rays
Beat to bright froth heaven’s water-ways
Unmooring from Phosphorian shores
The long flash of those silver oars.
When the lady lily, slipping
Her green garment, stands up slight,
With her white limbs newly dripping
From the laving of the light;
What hand can gird her safely pure,
From her funeral mold renew her?
I engird her safely pure,
From sepulchral mold renew her;
Till the dead stars that night enwombs
Burst the lids o’ their golden tombs.
Who hath piped to every bird
Pipings of so diverse noise?
Given each its little unknown word?
Perfumed with tone its diverse voice?
Who steers the throngs of note on note
That shake its multitudinous throat?
I teach their passionate souls, small, strong
To break and curdle into song;
Allay or perturbate all notes
That swarm within their populous throats.
Who graved grief’s face, a signet-ring for
God’s own signet-hand to wear?
Made smooth joy a mirroring for
Grief to see her own self fair?
The fount of tears so near to rise,
Their spray perturbs the calm-mered eyes?
Through me, through me, doth joyance prove
The way to grief, and grief to love;
Yea, sadness sitteth, by my arts,
A portress at the gate of hearts.
Who is he of dread dominion,
That, upon the peal of doom,
Weighs two firmaments of pinion,
Constellate of burning plume?
Under his foot off-pushing into flight,
The universe goes rocking down to night.
That is I, oh, that is I!
By me what sprung, by me shall die:
Back to God’s stretched hand I fly,
To perch there for eternity.
The fates may gorge to their content,
To implacable desire,
On the shapes that drift asunder
Down the inundating thunder,—
Carrion hulks of continent,
Redly riven, and bleeding fire:
But I shadow with supernal
Wings of sway the fields eternal,
There my great empery feels not jars,
Though the sick heaven shall moult its stars.
Notes: Aetnean spiracles = from orifices from Mt. Aetna; rampires = ramparts; intrinsicate = intricate; levins = lightning flashes; gurges = surges; Phosphorian = fm Phorphorus, the morning star.
15 hours ago