Thursday, April 14, 2011

Francis Thompson

I first heard this on a recording of a talk that Don Miller gave.  He spoke about life and all the big concepts that come with it.  He closed by reciting this poem, but first he told the story of its auther, Francis Thompson.  He was an opium addict, living under a bridge.  He sent his poems into a London newspaper.  The editor always published them, because of their beauty and sincerity.  Don Miller told how the editor wrote a letter to the anonymous poet, pleading for him to reveal himself: "we have a greater than Milton among us!"  They finally did discover him, with this, his last poem clutched in his hand, frozen to death, underneath a bridge by the Thames.

I don't even know if that story is completely true.  But, what an incredible idea.  Just read and see for yourself.  I wish I could stick a recording of Don Miller saying these words right here, so that you could hear it as well.  He pronounced them with such intent, and with such warming meaning.  A beautiful poem.  A beautiful idea.
The Kingdom of God 

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 estranged 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 Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Gennesareth, but Thames! 

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