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Poem by Francis Thompson


The Mistress Of Vision


I

Secret was the garden;
Set i' the pathless awe
Where no star its breath can draw.
Life, that is its warden,
Sits behind the fosse of death. Mine eyes saw not,
and I saw.

II

It was a mazeful wonder;
Thrice three times it was enwalled
With an emerald--
Seal-ed so asunder.
All its birds in middle air hung a-dream, their
music thralled.

III

The Lady of fair weeping,
At the garden's core,
Sang a song of sweet and sore
And the after-sleeping;
In the land of Luthany, and the tracts of Elenore.

IV

With sweet-panged singing,
Sang she through a dream-night's day;
That the bowers might stay,
Birds bate their winging,
Nor the wall of emerald float in wreath-ed haze away.

V

The lily kept its gleaming,
In her tears (divine conservers!)
Wash-ed with sad art;
And the flowers of dreaming
Pal-ed not their fervours,
For her blood flowed through their nervures;
And the roses were most red, for she dipt them in
her heart.

VI

There was never moon,
Save the white sufficing woman:
Light most heavenly-human--
Like the unseen form of sound,
Sensed invisibly in tune,--
With a sun-deriv-ed stole
Did inaureole
All her lovely body round;
Lovelily her lucid body with that light was inter-
strewn.

VII

The sun which lit that garden wholly,
Low and vibrant visible,
Tempered glory woke;
And it seem-ed solely
Like a silver thurible
Solemnly swung, slowly,
Fuming clouds of golden fire, for a cloud of incense-
smoke.

VIII

But woe's me, and woe's me,
For the secrets of her eyes!
In my visions fearfully
They are ever shown to be
As fring-ed pools, whereof each lies
Pallid-dark beneath the skies
Of a night that is
But one blear necropolis.
And her eyes a little tremble, in the wind of her
own sighs.

IX

Many changes rise on
Their phantasmal mysteries.
They grow to an horizon
Where earth and heaven meet;
And like a wing that dies on
The vague twilight-verges,
Many a sinking dream doth fleet
Lessening down their secrecies.
And, as dusk with day converges,
Their orbs are troublously
Over-gloomed and over-glowed with hope and fear
of things to be.

X

There is a peak on Himalay,
And on the peak undeluged snow,
And on the snow not eagles stray;
There if your strong feet could go,--
Looking over tow'rd Cathay
From the never-deluged snow--
Farthest ken might not survey
Where the peoples underground dwell whom
antique fables know.

XI

East, ah, east of Himalay,
Dwell the nations underground;
Hiding from the shock of Day,
For the sun's uprising-sound:
Dare not issue from the ground
At the tumults of the Day,
So fearfully the sun doth sound
Clanging up beyond Cathay;
For the great earthquaking sunrise rolling up
beyond Cathay.

XII

Lend me, O lend me
The terrors of that sound,
That its music may attend me.
Wrap my chant in thunders round;
While I tell the ancient secrets in that Lady's
singing found.

XIII

On Ararat there grew a vine,
When Asia from her bathing rose;
Our first sailor made a twine
Thereof for his prefiguring brows.
Canst divine
Where, upon our dusty earth, of that vine a cluster
grows?

XIV

On Golgotha there grew a thorn
Round the long-prefigured Brows.
Mourn, O mourn!
For the vine have we the spine? Is this all the
Heaven allows?

XV

On Calvary was shook a spear;
Press the point into thy heart--
Joy and fear!
All the spines upon the thorn into curling tendrils
start.

XVI

O, dismay!
I, a wingless mortal, sporting
With the tresses of the sun?
I, that dare my hand to lay
On the thunder in its snorting?
Ere begun,
Falls my singed song down the sky, even the old
Icarian way.

XVII

From the fall precipitant
These dim snatches of her chant
Only have remain-ed mine;--
That from spear and thorn alone
May be grown
For the front of saint or singer any divinizing twine.

XVIII

Her song said that no springing
Paradise but evermore
Hangeth on a singing
That has chords of weeping,
And that sings the after-sleeping
To souls which wake too sore.
'But woe the singer, woe!' she said; 'beyond the
dead his singing-lore,
All its art of sweet and sore,
He learns, in Elenore!'

XIX

Where is the land of Luthany,
Where is the tract of Elenore?
I am bound therefor.

XX

'Pierce thy heart to find the key;
With thee take
Only what none else would keep;
Learn to dream when thou dost wake,
Learn to wake when thou dost sleep.
Learn to water joy with tears,
Learn from fears to vanquish fears;
To hope, for thou dar'st not despair,
Exult, for that thou dar'st not grieve;
Plough thou the rock until it bear;
Know, for thou else couldst not believe;
Lose, that the lost thou may'st receive;
Die, for none other way canst live.
When earth and heaven lay down their veil,
And that apocalypse turns thee pale;
When thy seeing blindeth thee
To what thy fellow-mortals see;
When their sight to thee is sightless;
Their living, death; their light, most light-
less;
Search no more--
Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.'

XXI

Where is the land of Luthany,
And where the region Elenore?
I do faint therefor.
'When to the new eyes of thee
All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
Hiddenly
To each other link-ed are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star;
When thy song is shield and mirror
To the fair snake-curl-ed Pain,
Where thou dar'st affront her terror
That on her thou may'st attain
Persean conquest; seek no more,
O seek no more!
Pass the gates of Luthany, tread the region Elenore.'

XXII

So sang she, so wept she,
Through a dream-night's day;
And with her magic singing kept she--
Mystical in music--
That garden of enchanting
In visionary May;
Swayless for my spirit's haunting,
Thrice-threefold walled with emerald from our mor-
tal mornings grey.

XXIII

And as a necromancer
Raises from the rose-ash
The ghost of the rose;
My heart so made answer
To her voice's silver plash,--
Stirred in reddening flash,
And from out its mortal ruins the purpureal phantom
blows.

XXIV

Her tears made dulcet fretting,
Her voice had no word,
More than thunder or the bird.
Yet, unforgetting,
The ravished soul her meanings knew. Mine ears
heard not, and I heard.

XXV

When she shall unwind
All those wiles she wound about me,
Tears shall break from out me,
That I cannot find
Music in the holy poets to my wistful want, I doubt
me! 



                      Francis Thompson


Francis Thompson's other poems:
  1. A Girl's Sin - In Her Eyes
  2. Gilded Gold
  3. A Carrier Song
  4. To A Poet Breaking Silence
  5. An Arab Love-Song


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