" Amen, Amen, I say to thee; when thou wert younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands and another shall gird thee, and lead thee where thou wouldst not."
To this he adds : "Apply to spiritual maturity."
The barriers down, they quickly recognised cause for intimacy. It was during Patmore's first visit that Francis made the discovery. He seems at first hardly to have known it. Writing of it to A. M. :-
" Dear Lady, I thank you for your kind letter, though it observed an impenitent silence on the subject of your songs unsent. (That last phrase has a ring of the only Lewis.)1 I have had a charming visit from Mr. Patmore. He bore himself towards me with a dignity and magnanimity which are not of this age's stature. By the way, he repeated to me two or three short poems addressed to yourself. I hope there may be a series of such songs. You would then have a triple tiara indeed-crowned by yourself, by me, and highest crowned by him."
But afterwards in the more vivid light of memory, he said :-
" Though never a word on either side directly touched or explained the exceptional nature of the proposal, it was well understood between us-by me no less than by him-that it was no common or conventional friendship he asked of me. Not therefore has he sought out my Welsh hermitage ; and scalpelled the fibres of me."
As a rule Francis found as much solitude among the Welsh mountains as in the desolation of the Harrow Road, but now Patmore walked with him.
F. T. notes their common pleasure in the landscape, " particularly beautiful-something to do with the light, Patmore thinks." To be in common light is even better preparation for the communion of poets than to be on common ground. Friar and seer between them enclosed him at evening in the monastic parlour. Patmore writes :-
" Francis Thompson and all the Fathers spent two hours last night in my room, and we had excellent talk. Father Anselm, the Superior, and a profound contemplative, said he had never read anything so fine as the ' Precursor.' He and I had a long talk about nuptial love, and he went all lengths with me in honour of the marriage embrace. The Fathers help me to get through my cigarettes, of which I should like to have another consignment as soon as possible."
1 An allusion to Lewis Morris's Songs Unsung. 190
Sanctity Essential Song
" I spend part of my day with Francis Thompson, who is a delightful companion, full of the best talk."
With the reading of Religio PoetcB and the little book of St. Bernard translations, Francis discovers their author to be " deeply perceptive of the Scriptures' symbolic meanings, scouted by moderns; and his instant intuitional use of the symbolic imagery gives his work the quality of substantial poetry. In proportion to the height of their sanctity the Saints are inevitable poets. Sanctity is essential song." These essays moved Francis to the rare point of letter-writing :-
"The Monastery, Pantasaph, June 15, '93. " Dear Sir,-The esoteric essays-which I naturally turned to first-could only have come from the writer of The Unknown Eros. One alone I have gracelessness- not to dispute-but to wish to extend. It is that on the ' Precursor,' where I quite admit the interpretation, but am inclined to stickle for an interpretation which would cover and include your own. Against one reprehensible habit of yours, however, revealed in this book, I feel forced to utter a protest. In a fragment of a projected article, which has remained a fragment, I had written of 'poets born with an instinctive sense of veritable correspondences hidden from the multitude.' Then I went on thus : ' In this, too, lies real distinction and fancy. Leigh Hunt, interpreting Coleridge as shallowly as Charmian interpreted the Soothsayer, said that fancy detected outward analogies, but imagination inward ones. The truth is that inward resemblance may be as superficial as outward resemblance; and it is then the product of fancy, or fantasy. When the resemblance is more than a resemblance, when it is rooted in the hidden nature of things, its discernment is the product of imagination. This is the real distinction: fancy detects resemblances, imagination identities.' Now if you will return to your own Religio Poetcs, you will see of what I accuse you. Masters have privileges, I admit, but I draw the line at looking over their pupils' shoulders various odd leagues away.
" To be serious; your little book stands by a stream of current literature like Cleopatra's Needle by the dirt-eating Thames.
" I fear, alas ! it will not receive the mysterious hieroglyph of the British Artisan. I remain, yours sincerely,
And a little later, of his own " Orient Ode " :-
" Dear Mr. Patmore,-I shall either send you with this, or later, a small poem of my own; not for its literary merit, but because, without such a disclaimer, I fear you would think I had been the first to find your book ' d-d good to steal from.' As a matter of fact, it was written soon after Easter, and was suggested by passages in the liturgies of Holy Saturday, some of which-at rather appalling length-I have quoted at the head of its two parts. That was done for the sake of those who might cavil at its doctrines. Indeed -with superfluous caution-I intended much of it to be sealed; but your book has mainly broken the seals I had put upon it. There is quite enough in it of yours, without the additional presumption that I had hastened to make immediate use of your last book. As far as others are concerned, it must rest under that imputation to which the frequent coincidence in the selection of symbolism - as an example, the basing of a whole passage on the symbolic meaning of the West-very naturally leads. To yourself such coincidence is explicable, it will not be to ' outsiders.'-Yours always,