Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Hound of Heaven

Above is a photo of the cover of one of the most famous poems penned by Francis Thompson (pictured edition published by Morehouse-Barlow Co. in 1980 and illustrated by Jean Young). Thompson was born in 1859 in Lancashire, England and led a troubled life of ill-health, poverty and an addiction to opium; he died at age 48 from Tuberculosis (Wikipedia). He moved to London in 1885 and sent a manuscript to Wilfred Meynell who edited the Catholic periodical “Merry England.” Meynell and his wife Alice evidently recognized Thompson’s talent and subsequently published “Poems” which included “The Hound of Heaven.” (

Religious in overtone, Thompson’s poetry received some criticism for verbosity and lack of originality in thought. ( However, for those interested in the derivation of sayings and titles, the U.S. Supreme Court allegedly took its “with all deliberate speed” (Brown v. Board of Education II, remedy) from a stanza in this poem: “Nigh and nigh draws the chase, With unperturbed pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy…” (Wikipedia) And a phrase from another poem “The Kingdom of God,” allegedly provided the title for Han Suyin’s novel and subsequent movie “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.” (Wikipedia) While neither rare nor particularly expensive, publications such as the above pamphlet often provide interesting tidbits with which to bore your friends. I leave you with a few more words from Thompson:

“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

(last three lines from “The Hound of Heaven,” by Francis Thompson)