A Judgment In Heaven

Francis Thompson 1859 (City of Preston, Lancashire) – 1907 (London)

Athwart the sod which is treading for God * the poet paced with his
splendid eyes;
Paradise-verdure he stately passes * to win to the Father of
Paradise,
Through the conscious and palpitant grasses * of inter-tangled
relucent dyes.

The angels a-play on its fields of Summer * (their wild wings
rustled his guides' cymars)
Looked up from disport at the passing comer, * as they pelted each
other with handfuls of stars;
And the warden-spirits with startled feet rose, * hand on sword, by
their tethered cars.

With plumes night-tinctured englobed and cinctured, * of Saints, his
guided steps held on
To where on the far crystelline pale * of that transtellar Heaven
there shone
The immutable crocean dawn * effusing from the Father's Throne.

Through the reverberant Eden-ways * the bruit of his great advent
driven,
Back from the fulgent justle and press * with mighty echoing so was
given,
As when the surly thunder smites * upon the clanged gates of Heaven.

Over the bickering gonfalons, * far-ranged as for Tartarean wars,
Went a waver of ribbed fire *--as night-seas on phosphoric bars
Like a flame-plumed fan shake slowly out * their ridgy reach of
crumbling stars.

At length to where on His fretted Throne * sat in the heart of His
aged dominions
The great Triune, and Mary nigh, * lit round with spears of their
hauberked minions,
The poet drew, in the thunderous blue * involved dread of those
mounted pinions.

As in a secret and tenebrous cloud * the watcher from the disquiet
earth
At momentary intervals * beholds from its ragged rifts break forth
The flash of a golden perturbation, * the travelling threat of a
witched birth;

Till heavily parts a sinister chasm, * a grisly jaw, whose verges
soon,
Slowly and ominously filled * by the on-coming plenilune,
Supportlessly congest with fire, * and suddenly spit forth the
moon:-

With beauty, not terror, through tangled error * of night-dipt
plumes so burned their charge;
Swayed and parted the globing clusters * so,--disclosed from their
kindling marge,
Roseal-chapleted, splendent-vestured, * the singer there where God's
light lay large.

Hu, hu! a wonder! a wonder! see, * clasping the singer's glories
clings
A dingy creature, even to laughter * cloaked and clad in patchwork
things,
Shrinking close from the unused glows * of the seraphs'
versicoloured wings.

A rhymer, rhyming a futile rhyme, * he had crept for convoy through
Eden-ways
Into the shade of the poet's glory, * darkened under his prevalent
rays,
Fearfully hoping a distant welcome * as a poor kinsman of his lays.

The angels laughed with a lovely scorning: *--'Who has done this
sorry deed in
The garden of our Father, God? * 'mid his blossoms to sow this weed
in?
Never our fingers knew this stuff: * not so fashion the looms of
Eden!'

The singer bowed his brow majestic, * searching that patchwork
through and through,
Feeling God's lucent gazes traverse * his singing-stoling and spirit
too:
The hallowed harpers were fain to frown * on the strange thing come
'mid their sacred crew,
Only the singer that was earth * his fellow-earth and his own self
knew.

But the poet rent off robe and wreath, * so as a sloughing serpent
doth,
Laid them at the rhymer's feet, * shed down wreath and raiment both,
Stood in a dim and shamed stole, * like the tattered wing of a musty
moth.

'Thou gav'st the weed and wreath of song, * the weed and wreath are
solely Thine,
And this dishonest vesture * is the only vesture that is mine;
The life I textured, Thou the song *--MY handicraft is not divine!'

He wrested o'er the rhymer's head * that garmenting which wrought
him wrong;
A flickering tissue argentine * down dripped its shivering silvers
long:-
'Better thou wov'st thy woof of life * than thou didst weave thy
woof of song!'

Never a chief in Saintdom was, * but turned him from the Poet then;
Never an eye looked mild on him * 'mid all the angel myriads ten,
Save sinless Mary, and sinful Mary *--the Mary titled Magdalen.

'Turn yon robe,' spake Magdalen, * 'of torn bright song, and see and
feel.'
They turned the raiment, saw and felt * what their turning did
reveal -
All the inner surface piled * with bloodied hairs, like hairs of
steel.

'Take, I pray, yon chaplet up, * thrown down ruddied from his head.'
They took the roseal chaplet up, * and they stood astonished:
Every leaf between their fingers, * as they bruised it, burst and
bled.

'See his t
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Francis Thompson

The Rt Rev Francis William Banahene Thompson was Bishop of Accra from 1983 to 1996. more…

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    "A Judgment In Heaven" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 28 Nov. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/13880/a-judgment-in-heaven>.

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