Wednesday Poetry: For Whom The Hound Chases

I guess the best introduction to this poem is to suggest that my Jesuit schooling is showing. This poem, The Hound of Heaven, by Francis Thompson was required reading in high school. Fortunately, we were not required to memorize it or tested on it so when I first came upon it I realized it would take too much time to read so I read a couple of lines here and there.

As a lawyer I recognized the phrase “deliberate speed” in Brown v. Board of Education seemed to have come from this poem. It entered that decision at the suggestion of Justice Felix Frankfurter who borrowed it from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who used it five times. Holmes said it was an old term used in the English equity courts.  The term the courts used was “all convenient speed.” The precise language though appears to be that of  Thompson.  Its use in the equity practice followed the idea expressed by the Latin term festina lente (make haste slowly). President Abraham Lincoln’s referred to it when he was asked when he was going to emancipate the slaves.

Francis Thompson led an unusual life. Some suggest he may have been Jack the Ripper when he was impoverished and in the clutches of opium.  Was it because of that he could only find peace considering himself  “ignoble” and “little worthy of any love” in the arms of the Hound.

As the years passed I would sometimes think of the title and return to the poem. It has always proved challenging. I suggest it has to be read with all deliberate speed.

The Hound of Heaven

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 chasmed 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’.

I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followed,
Yet was I sore a dread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of His approach would clash it to:
Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateway of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clanged bars;
Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.
I said to Dawn: Be sudden—to Eve: Be soon;
With thy young skiey blossom heap me over
From this tremendous Lover—
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue;
Or, whether, Thunder-driven,
They clanged his chariot ‘thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o’ their feet:—
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following Feet,
And a Voice above their beat—
‘Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.’

I sought no more after that which I strayed
In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children’s eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
Come then, ye other children, Nature’s—share
With me’ (said I) ‘your delicate fellowship;
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses,
With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses,
With her in her wind-walled palace,
Underneath her azured dais,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.’
So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one—
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies.
          I knew all the swift importings
On the wilful face of skies;
I knew how the clouds arise
Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings;
All that’s born or dies
Rose and drooped with; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful divine;
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the even,
When she lit her glimmering tapers
Round the day’s dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine:
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
I laid my own to beat, And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
These things and I; in sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
The breasts o’ her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
My thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
With unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
And past those noisèd Feet
A voice comes yet more fleet—
‘Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me.’

Naked I wait Thy love’s uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou has hewn from me,
And smitten me to my knee;
I am defenceless utterly.
I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amidst the dust o’ the mounded years—
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist;
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
Ah! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amarinthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
Ah! must—
Designer infinite!—
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again.
But not ere him who summoneth
I first have seen, unwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man’s heart or life it be which yields
Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
Be dunged with rotten death?

Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
‘And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!

‘Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught’ (He said),
‘And human love needs human meriting:
How hast thou merited—
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
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.’


9 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry: For Whom The Hound Chases

  1. Meryl Nass MD

    Just posted….

    Sunday, October 25, 2020
    WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON? These 4 are the best videos to explain it to us–please don’t miss them!
    1. Robert F Kennedy Jr. wraps up everything in 18 minutes–maybe the best speech I have ever heard

    2. Vandana Shiva tells Joe Mercola the background to the current state of things, how Indian farmers successfully fought back, gives us perspective and hope

    3. James Corbett explains the Great Reset, which is the rebranding of technocracy and central control, for the sake of central control

    4. Shoshana Zuboff explains how social media companies’surveillance of our online behaviors have taught them to read our emotions and fears to sell us products, candidates, and more. Does this help explain why there is such a great divide in the US?

  2. News,nuns,nouns at noon

    Possible defense in alleged Gretchen Whitmer kidnap case could be suspects weren’t really serious

    OCT 24, 2020

    A Special Agent: Gay and Inside the FBI Hardcover
    by Frank Buttino (Author), Lou Buttino (Author)

    Dillon Read (5): Narco Dollars & Mena, Arkansas

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation Records Relating to the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy: The Challenge of Abbreviations and Euphemisms
    October 27, 2017 By Daniel, Posted In FBI Records, Presidents

    Caroline Myss: We Are Each Other’s Caretakers

  3. Meryl Nass has a new post at her blogspot.

    Stay Safe

    Thursday, October 22, 2020
    My interview discussing the origin of Coronavirus, “gain of function” research, and key people aligned with creating and prolonging the pandemic
    Here’s the one hour video:

    Ronnie Cummins and Alexis Baden-Mayer of the Organic Consumers Association were wonderful to speak with about Covid-19, its murky origins, and the murky response. Both the Organic Consumers Association and I are trying to get out critical information on all aspects of coronavirus and the pandemic.

    I encourage all readers to consider signing one of two petitions calling for a ban on biological warfare (a.k.a. gain of function) research:

    1. For doctors, lawyers, scientists and policy experts to sign

    2. For everyone else to sign

  4. I always liked that phrase: God “chased my down the labyrinth of my own mind.” I think we create our own labyrinths, our own mazes, our own intellectual rationalizations to justify our wrongful acts. But our consciences call us to right.

  5. Matt


    Please watch the video with deliberate speed

    In other news….

    We Shouldn’t Trust the FBI’s Narrative on the Gretchen Whitmer Kidnapping Scheme

    Also see

    ‘Our Goal Is To Get The Truth Before People Have A Chance To Lie’: Former FBI Agent Jack Schafer On Book ‘The Truth Detector’
    By CBS Baltimore Staff
    October 20, 2020 at


    New Evidence Implicates CIA in 1971 Attack on Cuba with African Swine Fever Virus
    By Ken Lawrence – October 5, 2020

    Chris Hedges “The Politics of Cultural Despair”

      1. Abe

        Thanks for picking up on it .About 2 minutes into
        his talk he apologizes to the audience, most of
        whom left and walked out because of it.

        In other news and nouns…..

        Pope Francis calls for civil union laws for same-sex couples

        Cop may face charges in killing of autistic Palestinian

        Florida cop’s Trump 2020 mask ‘unacceptable,’ PD says
        The uniformed officer wore the campaign facemask at the polls

        Second Look at Life Without Parole Sentences

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