I saw Eternity the other night,

Like a great ring of pure and endless light.


I Look to you to crush all this false mysticism.

-C. P. to F. T.

Poems of " Sight and Insight," the first section of the new book, were to have been called " Mystical Poems." But the word mystical was, in the event, abandoned. As Catholic and thinker, he feared association with a label which means anything from mystification to " refined and luxurious indolence "-Mr. Edward Thomas's phrase for Maeterlinck's "Serres Chaudes." Unlike Thompson, the modern mystic shirks the rigid necessities of mental deportment. Like the swimmer who discards half his nimble faculties with his tweeds and lies, without swiftness or horizon, beating the water with heels shaped for boots and the road, the modern mystic fancies himself a better man out of his element than in it.

Even while the false mystic hopes to keep vacuity at arm's length, shadows press closely. His school is of shadows as the other of Light. Maeterlinck,on Mr. Arthur Symons's page of approval, is bidden take his place in the gloomy company. " He has realised how immeasurable is the darkness out of which he has just stepped, and the darkness into which we are about to pass. And he has realised how the thought and sense of that twofold darkness invades the little space of light, in which, for a moment, we move ; the depth in which they shadow our steps, even in that moment's partial escape." The difference is not of words only ; or if of words only, loose thinking or slack experience is abroad. The whole school of Catholic mystics insists, in opposition, upon the exterior radiance trailing clouds of glory as they come into a world that is in the shadow, whether of God's or of a sinister hand.

Apart altogether from Maeterlinck's merits, his commentator's insistence illustrates the temper of the 'nineties. It is mainly the artistic value of his mystic's sense of mystery that appeals to Mr. Symons. The void, like the sheet-iron which makes stage thunder, has specific uses ; chunks out of the abyss make his scenery; for his most effective dialogue he borrows largely from silence. Did he fight his way into the midst of mystery; did he cleave it with revelation, or morality, its artistic uses would be gone. Darkness is the stronghold of such interesting emotions as terror - "fear shivers through these plays." "The mystic, let it be remembered, has nothing in common with the moralist," asserts Mr. Symons; on the contrary, Francis Thompson's nearest exponent used the definition, " Mysticism is morality carried to the nth power."

Thompson's wariness about the word marks his respect for it. Joan, the hearer of voices, required a clear head when she stood her trial among the Theologians. Nor was the poet beguiled into the unorthodox. Compared with Meredith's philosophy-an illumination, it is true, but such illumination as candles give in his own draughty woods of Westermain- Thompson's authority is steady as the sheltered lamp of the sanctuary.

The mysticism that Thompson sought to avoid was obscuration, a thickening of the mental atmosphere by 1999 Mysticism and Imagination stray gleams, like the thickening of the air in a dusty room into which a sun-ray slants obliquely. The mysteries offer an excuse for confused thinking; the men and women who discover the doctrine of unity are lost in the jungle of its simplicity. The name of God, and the titles of His attributes must set the generations groping somewhat blindly if they carry no lantern of authority, or if the names of God and His attributes are too often taken into the babelling languages of empirics, or too anxiously conned.

" It is easy for a man to know God if he does not force himself to define Him" is a saying that covers much of a poet's reticence. For Thompson religion was never confusion ; his mysteries blurred none of the common issues; they were packed as carefully as another man's title deeds; they were, he would have claimed, tied with red tape, cut from the cloth of the College of Cardinals.

"He is," said Patmore, "of all men I have known most naturally a Catholic. My Catholicism was acquired, his inherent."

Thompson carried his demand for clarity of thought and intention, if not always of diction, to great lengths :-

" A little common-sense," he once wrote at a time of slight misunderstanding, " is the best remedy-and I at least mean to have it"-a brave vaunt for a poet, but one which he made over and over again in regard to various aspects of the poetic character. "There is something wanting in genius when it does not show a clear and strong vein of common-sense. . . . Dante, indeed, is a perfect rebuke to those who suppose that mystical genius, at any rate, must be dissociated from common-sense. Every such poet should be able to give a clear and logical prose resume" of his teaching, as terse as a page of scholastic philosophy."

If portions of New Poems prove difficult and mysterious, we must go to Patmore for the defence: " A systematic philosopher, should he condescend to read the following notes {Rod, Root and Flower), will probably say, with a little girl of mine to whom I showed the stars for the first time, ' How untidy the sky is !'"

Mysticism, as F T. knew it, " is morality carried to the nth power." Mysticism -" rational mysticism "- has been defined as " an endeavour to find God at first hand, experimentally, in the soul herself independently of all historical and philosophical presuppositions." But at the same time Von Hiigel condemns the mysticism that is self-sufficient; the constitutional and traditional factors are essential to the Church. And the religion of the Church is not, firstly, an affair between the God and the man, but an affair between God and Man; is not an affair of the heart, but an affair of Love ; not an affair of the brain, but of Mind.

That " to the Poet life is full of visions, to the Mystic it is one vision"1 was the double rule of Francis Thompson's practice. Having regarded the visions and set them down, he would, in another capacity, call them in. The Vision enfolded them all. Thus, not long after it was written, he cancels even the "Orient Ode,"2 and recants " his bright sciential idolatry," even though he had religiously adapted it to the greater glory of God before it was half confessed. " The Anthem of Earth " and the " Ode to the Setting Sun" would also come under the censorship of his anxious orthodoxy, to be in part condemned. What profiteth it a man, he asks in effect, if he gain the whole sun but lose the true Orient-Christ ?