To the juvenilia of the London period belongs a poem on an allied problem of the streets :-
Hell's gates revolve upon her yet alive; To her no Christ the beautiful is nigh : The stony world has daffed His teaching by; " Go ! " saith it; " sin on still that you may thrive, , Let one sin be as queen for all the hive Of sins to swarm around;"
The gates of Hell have shut her in alive.
It was not improbably written while he was befriended by the girl who, having noticed his forlorn state, did all in her power to assist him.
A monastic segregation of the sexes is often the hard rule of the outcast's road. Francis had no other friends among the women-folk or children of London, and often passed months without having speech of any save men. When he was again among friends and knew the children of Sister Songs he wrote :-
All vanished hopes, and all most hopeless bliss
Came with thee to my kiss. And ah ! so long myself had strayed afar From child, and woman, and the boon earth's green, And all wherewith life's face is fair beseen ;
Journeying its journey bare Five suns, except of the all-kissing sun
Unkissed of one;
Almost I had forgot
The healing harms. And whitest witchery, a-lurk in that Authentic cestus of two girdling arms.
This girl gave out of her scant and pitiable opulence, consisting of a room, warmth, and food, and a cab thereto. When the streets were no longer crowded with shameful possibilities she would think of the only tryst that her heart regarded and, a sister of charity, would take her beggar into her vehicle at the appointed place and cherish him with an affection maidenly and motherly, and passionate in both these capacities. Two outcasts, they sat marvelling that there were joys for them to unbury and to share. Then, in a Chelsea room such as that of Rossetti's poem would they sit:-
Your lamp, my Jenny, kept alight, Like a wise virgin's, all one night! And in the alcove coolly spread Glimmers with dawn your empty bed.
Weakness and confidence, humility and reverence, were gifts unknown to her except at his hands, and she repaid them with graces as lovely as a child's, and as unhesitating as a saint's. In his address to a child, in a later year, he remembers this poor girl's childishness :- Forlorn, and faint, and stark I had endured through watches of the dark
The abashless inquisition of each star, Yea, was the outcast mark
Of all those heavenly passers' scrutiny; Stood bound and helplessly For Time to shoot his barbed minutes at me; Suffered the trampling hoof of every hour In night's slow-wheeled car; Until the tardy dawn dragged me at length From under those dread wheels ; and, bled of strength, I waited the inevitable last. Then there came past A child; like thee, a spring-flower; but a flower Fallen from the budded coronal of Spring, And through the city-streets blown withering. She passed,-0 brave, sad, lovingest, tender thing ! And of her own scant pittance did she give,
That I might eat and live: Then fled, a swift and trackless fugitive.
Therefore I kissed in thee The heart of Childhood, so divine for me; And her, through what sore ways And what unchildish days. Borne from me now, as then, a trackless fugitive. Therefore I kissed in thee Her, child ! and innocency.
" Swift and Trackless Fugitive"
Her sacrifice was to fly from him : learning he had found friends, she said that he must go to them and leave her. After his first interview with my father he had taken her his news. "They will not understand our friendship," she said, and then, " I always knew you were a genius." And so she strangled the opportunity ; she killed again the child, the sister; the mother had come to life within her-she went away. Without warning she went to unknown lodgings and was lost to him. In " the mighty labyrinths of London " he lay in wait for her, nor would he leave the streets, thinking that in doing so he would make a final severance. Like de Quincey's Ann, she was sought, but never found, along the pavements at the place where she had been used to find him.
With de Quincey Thompson could have said, " During some years I hoped that she did live; and I suppose in the literal and unrhetorical use of the word myriad, I must, on my visits to London, have looked at myriads of female faces, in the hope of meeting Ann." And, again, that this incident of friendship " more than any other, coloured, or (more truly I should say) shaped, moulded and remoulded, composed and decomposed, the great body of opium dreams." Pursuit and search have been matters of much nocturnal and poetic moment; such was Patmore's recurring dream of the dead whom-
I, dreaming, night by night seek now to see,
And, in a mortal sorrow, still pursue
Through sordid streets and lanes,
And houses brown and bare,
And many a haggard stair,
Ochrous with ancient stains,
And infamous doors, opening on hapless rooms,
In whose unhaunted glooms
Dead pauper generations, witless of the sun,
Their course have run.
As with de Quincey, so with Patmore, so with Francis. To the dream, or sense, of pursuit, was added the suspicion of balking interference. De Quincey says that throughout his dreams he was conscious "of some shadowy malice which withdrew her, or attempted to withdraw her, from restoration and from hope." And Patmore:-
And ofttimes my pursuit
Is check'd of its dear fruit
By things brimful of hate, my kith and kin,
Furious that I should keep
Their forfeit power to weep.
Pursuit circles after flight, and flight circles before pursuit, and they go about and meet and are confounded -as when children play round a tree-in the dreams that were common to de Quincey and Thompson, in the "Daughter of Lebanon" of the one and "The Hound of Heaven " of the other.
It was loyalty, the loyalty of one who knew what benefits he bestowed in receiving the alms of his forlorn friend, rather than love, that kept him so fast to his tryst with her that even when the chance offered for him to leave the streets, he refused at first to do that which would put an end to the possibility of their meetings. But he had not yet loved, nor met her whom he was destined to love-the unknown She for whom in Manchester he had prayed every night.
In an account of charities among the outcasts he quotes: "To be nameless in worthy deeds exceeds an infamous history. The Canaanitish woman lives more happily without a name than Herodias with one."