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 midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated
Adown titanic glooms of chasmèd fears
From those strong feet that followed, followed after
But with unhurrying chase and unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat, and a Voice beat,
More instant than the feet:
‘All things betray thee who betrayest me.’
The author of this poem spends a lifetime fleeing, feeling desperate, raw terror. In the poem, he knows all along it is the love of God from which he flees.
What am I running from? Why is it uncomfortable to sit still? Why do feel always that I’m waiting for the next thing?
In the end, he loses the chase and feels the enveloping feeling of love together with an overpowering humility. Perhaps it is the humility from which I am fleeing…
‘Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest me.’
Perhaps Francis Thompson sensed his life would be cut short. Unable to support himself as a young writer, he battled mental dissolution and addiction, was picked up off the street and sheltered for a time by a prostitute. After three years homeless on the streets of London, he was discovered by a literary magazine, and cared for while his health returned.
How many other geniuses have had equally poignant lives? Poe, Schumann, Coleridge, George Price, Steve Jobs… How many more whose genius was never ‘discovered’, and lived out lives of silent desperation to the end?