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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Francis Thompson 1859–1907

To a Poet Breaking Silence


TOO wearily had we and song

Been left to look and left to long,

Yea, song and we to long and look,

Since thine acquainted feet forsook

The mountain where the Muses hymn

For Sinai and the Seraphim.

Now in both the mountains’ shine

Dress thy countenance, twice divine!

From Moses and the Muses draw

The Tables of thy double Law!

His rod-born fount and Castaly

Let the one rock bring forth for thee,

Renewing so from either spring

The songs which both thy countries sing:

Or we shall fear lest, heavened thus long,

Thou shouldst forget thy native song,

And mar thy mortal melodies

With broken stammer of the skies.

Ah! let the sweet birds of the Lord

With earth’s waters make accord;

Teach how the crucifix may be

Carven from the laurel-tree,

Fruit of the Hesperides

Burnish take on Eden-trees,

The Muses’ sacred grove be wet

With the red dew of Olivet,

And Sappho lay her burning brows

In white Cecilia’s lap of snows!

Thy childhood must have felt the stings

Of too divine o’ershadowings;

Its odorous heart have been a blossom

That in darkness did unbosom,

Those fire-flies of God to invite,

Burning spirits, which by night

Bear upon their laden wing

To such hearts impregnating.

For flowers that night-wings fertilize

Mock down the stars’ unsteady eyes,

And with a happy, sleepless glance

Gaze the moon out of countenance.

I think thy girlhood’s watchers must

Have took thy folded songs on trust,

And felt them, as one feels the stir

Of still lightnings in the hair,

When conscious hush expects the cloud

To speak the golden secret loud

Which tacit air is privy to;

Flasked in the grape the wine they knew,

Ere thy poet-mouth was able

For its first young starry babble.

Keep’st thou not yet that subtle grace?

Yea, in this silent interspace,

God sets His poems in thy face!

The loom which mortal verse affords,

Out of weak and mortal words,

Wovest thou thy singing-weed in,

To a rune of thy far Eden.

Vain are all disguises! ah,

Heavenly incognita!

Thy mien bewrayeth through that wrong

The great Uranian House of Song!

As the vintages of earth

Taste of the sun that riped their birth.

We know what never cadent Sun

Thy lampèd clusters throbbed upon,

What plumèd feet the winepress trod;

Thy wine is flavorous of God.

Whatever singing-robe thou wear

Has the Paradisal air;

And some gold feather it has kept

Shows what Floor it lately swept!