To the departed visitors the poet himself wrote :-
" Bishop's House, Pantasaph.
" Dearest Wilfrid and Alice,-As you are together in my thoughts, so let me join you together in this note. I cannot express to you what deep happiness your visit gave me; how dear it was to see your faces again. I think 'the leaves fell from the day' indeed when your train went out of the station ; and I never heard the birds with such sad voices.
" I send you herewith the poem I have been at work on. It is very long, as you will see-as long, I think, as Wordsworth's great ode. That would not matter- ' so I were equal with him in renown.' But as it is-!
" My fear is that thought in it has strangled poetic impulse. However of all that you are better judges than I.
1 " After Her Going" was written in these days.
" Does the dear Singer still refuse me her songs ? My health is better again, though unfortunately more fluctuant than I could wish. Love to all the chicks. With very best love to yourselves, dear ones,-Yours ever,
In another letter F. T. tells of his recurring powers of composition.
"Am overflowing with a sudden access of literary impulse. I think I could write a book in three months, if thoughts came down in such an endless avalanche as they are doing at present. But the collecting and recasting of my later poems for Lane blocks the way for the next month, so that 1 can only write an essay in an odd hour or two when I lie awake in bed."
He heralds the coming of his sacred poetry in " From the Night of Forebeing"-
. . . The wings Hear I not in prsevenient winnowings Of coming songs, that lift my hair and stir it ?
That-but low breathe it, lest the Nemesis
Unchild me, vaunting this-
Is bliss, the hid, hugged, swaddled bliss !
O youngling Joy caressed,
That on my now first-mothered breast
Pliest the strange wonder of thine infant lip.
From the highlands of his poetry, from the glory of height in which he wrote " The Dread of height" and other poems of " Sight and Insight," he looked down upon his former poetry :-
Therefore I do repent That with religion vain, And misconceived pain, I have my music bent
To waste on bootless things its skiey-gendered rain.
The writing done, he is again cast down :-
"I should be very glad if you will send me the Edinburgh. It would do me good; I never since I knew you felt so low-hearted and empty of all belief in myself. I could find it in my heart to pitch my book into the fire ; and I shall be thoroughly glad to get it off to you, for my heart sinks at the sight or thought of it. The one remaining poem which had stuck in my gizzard at the last I succeeded in polishing off last night, sitting up all night to do it; and I must start on the preface as soon as this letter is off."
A neighbour's reminiscence is that given by Fr. David Bearne, S. J., in The Irish Monthly, November 1908, who
" recalls two occasions on which I had the privilege of chatting w^th the poet-once tete-a-tete in the delightful seclusion of the gardens at St. Beuno's College, within sight of Snowdon and of the sea ; once in the thick of the pious crowd that throng each year to Pantasaph for the Portiuncula. Of each occasion I retain the happiest memories, though I cannot recall the exact words of any single sentence that he uttered. He knew me only as a Jesuit student of theology, and though I longed to tell him how much I loved his work, I failed to do so, partly from a sort of reverential shyness, and partly because, though he was no chatterer, he led the conversation. On one occasion I know he had just been making a pilgrimage to St. Winefride's Well. He spoke of it at length and with great enthusiasm. But my own mind was occupied with the man, rather than with what he said. ... As men commonly understand the word there was no ' fascination' about Thompson. There was something better. There was the sancta simplicitas of the true poet and the real child."
In 1893 his father was at Rhyl, and Francis sought him there, but without invitation. He writes :-
" I went over on Monday-only to find that he had left the previous Wednesday, after having been there for a month, which things are strange."
To Dr. Thompson the strangeness would be in Francis's unwontedly active desire to see him. It is probable that each exaggerated the other's feeling of estrangement. When, in April 1896, Francis heard that his father was dying, he went to Ashton, but too late. After the funeral he writes :-
" I never saw my father again, I cannot speak about it at present.--made it very bitter for me. It has been nothing but ill-health and sorrow lately, but I must not trouble you with these things. I saw my sister looking the merest girl still, and sweeter than ever. She did not look a day older than ten years ago. She said I looked very changed and worn."1
At Downing he had neighbours in the Feilding family, and it was to the monastery church that Lady Denbigh came to "make her soul" at the penitential seasons of the year. This church her husband began to build when he was an Anglican ; then, changing his religion, he had changed the dedication of his bricks and mortar. From a letter of the Hon. Everard Feilding to W. M. after F. T.'s death :-
" Your letter reached me at a time when my mind, like that, I think, of many others, was full of Francis Thompson; and during the preceding three nights I had been reading and re-reading aloud to two or three friends certain of his poems which had specially touched me, including the Nocturn, infinitely pathetic from my knowledge, however slight, of the man.
1 The mortuary card, preserved in F. T. 's prayer-book, runs:-
" Of your charity pray for the soul of Charles Thompson, M.R.C.S., L.S.A., who departed this life April 9th, 1896, aged 72, fortified by the rites of Holy Church"-with the motto "The silent and wise man shall be honoured."