Renunciation is the better part of possession : Francis states very clearly that compulsion must have no hand in it if it is to be profitable. He writes under the heading, " A distraught maiden complaineth against enforced virginity "-
Cold is the snow of the thawless valleys, Chill as death is the lily's chalice, Only she who seeks the valleys Groweth roses amid the snow.
And he reiterated that spiritual experiences do not endure without from time to time falling back upon their base for supplies, " the confirmation and assurance of the body."1 That the lines of communication were cut was a pressing grief. I have seen the sense of isolation come up against him, hold him, and shake him. At such times he would be within sight of children, and though no angels then " snatched them from him by the hair," he could be conscious that he was less near them than their relatives. His praises of domestic relationships ring with the note of one whose comprehension is sharpened by the desire of things out of
1 " Bodily being is the analogy of the soul's being ; our temporal is our only clue to our spiritual life " ; our fleshly senses the only medium for our divine experience. We are the symbols of ourselves. To such thoughts he adds disjointed notes in confirmation from the ancient mythologies: "Bird-heads to gods with man-bodies."-" Zeus = Sky." reach. In an incomplete " Ballad of Judgement" a man, marvelling at his rewards in Heaven, asks :-
O when did I give thee drink erewhile
Or when embrace Thine unseen feet ? What gifts Thee give for my Lord Christ's smile, Who am a guest here most unmeet ?
and the answer comes :-
When thou kissedst thy wife and children sweet, (Their eyes are fair in My sight as thine)
1 felt the embraces on My feet
(Lovely their locks in thy sight, and Mine).
Other verses of the same unpublished ballad, though imperfect, enforce the idea :-
If a toy but gladden his little brothers (A touch in caress to a child's hair given)
Young Jesus' hands are filled with prayers (Sweep into music all strings of Heaven).
and further that
.... for his sweet-kissed wife
God kissed him on his blissful mouth.
Allegories of a happy road from bodily to heavenly experience fill many a more complex passage; here it is given with Chap-book directness.
Elsewhere he closely regrets his loneliness, and repudiates the merit of its heroism in this epitaph on the writer of " Love in Dian's Lap " :-
Here lies one who could only be heroic.
How little, in the sifted judgement, seems That swelling sound of vanity ! Still 'tis proved To be heroic is an easier thing Than to be just and good. If any be (As are how many daily ones !) who love With love unlofty through no lofty days Their little simple wives, and consecrate 292
The Grief-Erudite Heart
Dull deeds with undulled justice : such poor livers, Though they as little look to be admired As thou look'st to admire, are of more prizeful rate Than he who worshipped with unmortal love A nigh unmortal woman, and knew to take The pricking air of snowy sacrifice.
Being without the occasional " confirmation," he yearned for it; without that particular chance of being daily just and good, he saw in it the sum of life's purpose. And when he was threatened with the approach of too close affection, he grew alarmed, crying :-
Of pleasantness I have not any art In this grief-erudite heart.
O Sweet! no flowers have withered on my hair,
For none have wreathed them there;
And not to me, as unto others' lots,
Fell flowerful youth, but such the thorns that bare
Still faithful to my hair.
O sweet! for me pluck no forget-me-nots,
But scoop for me the Lethe water dull
Which yields the sole elixir that can bless-
And I shall know that thou art pitiful.
Another form of his painful, elaborate, and even disingenuous attitude towards happiness was distrust. " All life long he had been learning how to be wretched," he quotes from Hawthorne, " and now, with the lesson thoroughly at heart, he could with difficulty comprehend his little airy happiness " ; then, continuing in his own verse :-
In a mortal garden they set the poet With mortal maiden and mortal child ;
In a mortal garden they set the poet;
As a trapped bird he breathed wild.
He had smiled in sorrow : not now he smiled.
But into the garden pacing slowly,
Came a lady with eyes inhuman....
And the sad slow mouth of him smiled again,
This lady I know, and she is real,
I know this lady, and she is Pain !
The Lady Pain figures, in one sense, in " Love in Dian's Lap." His only real love was itself a thing most strictly circumscribed ; it existed only to be checked :-
" I yielded to the insistent commands of my conscience and uprooted my heart-as I supposed. Later, the renewed presence of the beloved lady renewed the love I thought deracinated. For a while I swung vacillant. I thought I owed it to her whom I loved more than my love of her finally to unroot that love, to pluck away the last fibres of it, that I might be beyond treachery to my resolved duty. And at this second effort I finished what the first had left incomplete. The initial agony had really been decisive, and to complete the process needed only resolution. But it left that lady still the first, the one veritable, full-orbed, and apocalyptic love of my life. Through her was shewn me the uttermost of what love could be- the possible divinities and celestial prophecies of it. None other could have taught them quite thus, for none other had in her the like unconscious latencies of utter spirituality. Surely she will one day realise them, as by her sweet, humble, and stainless life she has deserved to do."
Of one consolation he writes to her :-
"The concluding words of your letter, 'friend and child,' reminded me of some lines written at the time I was composing " Amphicypellon." They were written hastily to relieve an outburst of emotion; and, not thinking there was any poetry in them worthy of you, I never showed them you. But when I read those coneluding words of your letter, I resolved to transcribe them that you might see you could not have addressed me more according to my wish."