Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Chimes by Francis Thompson

Although it is Sunday, I thought it best to post this today. As a meditation for the transition from 2006 to 2007, I wish to offer an amazing poem by a mystic poet - one who was greatly admired by GKC:
With [the passing of] Francis Thompson we lose the greatest poetic energy since Browning. His energy was of somewhat the same kind. Browning was intellectually intricate because he was morally simple. He was too simple to explain himself; he was too humble to suppose that other people needed any explanation. But his real energy, and the real energy of Francis Thompson, was best expressed in the fact that both poets were at once fond of immensity and also fond of detail. Any common Imperialist can have large ideas so long as he is not called upon to have small ideas also. Any common scientific philosopher can have small ideas so long as he is not called upon to have large ideas as well. But great poets use the telescope and also the microscope. Great poets are obscure for two opposite reasons; now, because they are talking about something too large for anyone to understand, and now again because they are talking about something too small for anyone to see. Francis Thompson possessed both these infinities. He escaped by being too small, as the microbe escapes; or he escaped by being too large, as the universe escapes. Anyone who knows Francis Thompson's poetry knows quite well the truth to which I refer.
[GKC, ILN Dec 14, 1907 CW27:603]
Perhaps, after you read this deep, amazing, and very moving, poem, you will understand...

Best wishes for 2007, on this seventh day of Christmas!
Dr. Thursday

New Year's Chimes
by Francis Thompson

What is the song the stars sing?
(And a million songs are as song of one)
This is the song the stars sing:
(Sweeter song's none).

One to set, and many to sing.
(And a million songs are as song of one)
One to stand, and many to cling,
The many things and the one Thing,
The one that runs not, the many that run.

The ever new weaveth the ever old,
(And a million songs are as song of one)
Ever telling the never told;
The silver saith, and the said is gold,
And done ever the never done.

The Chase that's chased is the Lord o' the chase,
(And a million songs are as song of one)
And the Pursued cries on in the race;
And the hounds in leash are the hounds that run.

Hidden stars by the shown stars' sheen;
(And a million suns are but as one)
Colours unseen by the colours seen,
And sounds unheard heard sounds between.
And a night is in the light of the sun.

An ambuscade of light in night,
(And a million secrets are but as one)
And a night is dark in the sun's light,
And a world in the world man looks upon.

The world above in the world below,
(And a million worlds are but as one)
And the One in all; as the sun's strength so
Strives in all strength, glows in all glow
Of the earth that wits not, and man thereon.

Braced in its own fourfold embrace
(and a million worlds are but as one)
And round it all God's arms of grace,
The world, so as the Vision says,
Doth with its great lightning tramples on.

And the thunder bruiteth into thunder,
(And a million sounds are as sound of one)
From stellate peak to peak is tossed a voice of wonder
And the height stoops down to the depths thereunder,
And sun leans forth to his brother sun.

And the more ample years unfold
(With a million songs as song of one)
A little new of the ever old,
A little told of the never told,
Added act of the never done.

Loud the descant, and low the theme,
(A million songs are as song of one)
And the dream of the world is dream in dream,
But the one Is is, or nought could seem;
And the song runs round to the song begun.

This is the song the stars sing,
(Tunèd all in time)
Tintinnabulous, tuned to ring
A multitudinous-single thing
(Rung all in rhyme).

[Quoted from the wonderful anthology Return To Tradition, which also contains GKC's "Lepanto" and excerpts from his other works; I mention this because this book played an important role in my own "discovery" of GKC. I should also note that the RTT version differs slightly from that in the 3-volume collection of FT's works. -- Dr. T.]

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