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 rumor 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 estrangèd 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 to Heaven by the hems;
- And lo, Christ walking on the water,
- Not of Genesareth, but Thames!
And the Thames was filthy in Edwardian times. But Christ ventured to Hell itself to rescue those held there.
Thompson’s editor, Wifrid Meynell wrote:
This Poem (found among his papers when he died) Francis Thompson might yet have worked upon to remove, here a defective rhyme, there an unexpected elision. But no altered mind would he have brought to its main purport; and the prevision of ‘Heaven in Earth and God in Man’ pervading his earlier published verse, we find here accented by poignantly local and personal allusions. For in these triumphing stanzas, he held in retrospect those days and nights of human dereliction he spent beside London’s River, and in the shadow – but all radiance to him – of Charing Cross.
See also our post of June 23rd 2017, Shared Table VI.