by Francis Thompson (1859 - 1907)
Little Jesus, wast Thou shy
Once, and just so small as I?
And what did it feel like to be
Out of Heaven, and just like me?
Didst Thou sometimes think of there,
And ask where all the angels were?
I should think that I would cry
For my house all made of sky;
I would look about the air,
And wonder where my angels were;
And at waking ’twould distress me–
Not an angel there to dress me!
Hadst thou ever any toys,
Like us little girls and boys?
And dist Thou play in Heaven with all
The angels that were not too tall,
With stars for marbles? Did the things
Play Can you see me? through their wings?
And did Thy Mother let Thee spoil
Thy robes, with playing on our soil?
How nice to have them always new
In Heaven, because ‘twas quite clean blue!
Thou canst not have forgotten all
That it feels like to be small:
And Thou know’st I cannot pray
To Thee in my father’s way–
When Thou was so little, say,
Couldst Thou talk Thy Father’s way?–
So, as a little child, come down
And hear a child’s tongue like Thy own;
Take me by the hand and walk,
And listen to my baby-talk.
To Thy Father show my prayer
(He will look, Thou art so fair),
And say: "O Father, I Thy Son,
Bring the prayer of a little one."
And He will smile, that childrens’ tongue
Hast not changed since Thou was young!
Who was that man who could write such sweet words? You will be surprised. He was born in London in the winter of 1859. His father was a doctor. Francis studied for six years, haphazardly, to become a doctor, too, but failed the medical exams three times. Somewhere during that time he became addicted to opium. After the third exam failure, he set off to London to be a poet and enjoy opium at his leisure. Soon he was destitute and a homeless bum on the streets near Charing Cross. In 1887, Wilfrid Meynell, the editor of a magazine called Merry England, received a parcel with an essay and some poems with a cover letter:
In enclosing the accompanying article for your inspection, I must ask pardon for the soiled state of the manuscript. It is due, not to slovenliness, but to the strange places and circumstances under which it has been written . . .I enclose a stamped envelope for a reply .. regarding your judgement of its worthlessness as quite final ... Apologizing very sincerely for my intrusion on your valuable time, I remain,
Yours with little hope,
Kindly address your rejection to the Charing Cross Post Office.
Francis Thompson is best known for his poem, The Hound of Heaven. If you can ever admit that you, too, are fleeing God, equally to him, then this poem will mean very much to you. It’s first few lines are as follows:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind;
And in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped; And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed,
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat – and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet –
"All things betray thee, Who betrayest Me."
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