"Nature has no heart.,. . . Did I go up to yonder hill," he writes, "and behold at my feet the spacious amphitheatre of hill-girt wood and mead, overhead the mighty aerial velarium, I should feel that my human sadness was a higher and deeper and wider thing than all." "The Hound of Heaven*' is full of the inadequacy of Nature. She " speaks by silences " ; the sea is salt unwittingly and unregretfully. F. T. quotes Coleridge, who, he says, speaks "not as Wordsworth had taught him to speak, but from his own bitter experience" :-
0 Lady, we receive but what we give, And in our life alone doth Nature live;
Ours is her wedding garment, ours her shroud !
1 may not hope from outward forms to win
The glory and the joy whose fountains are within.
It is at this point that F. T. strides from his fellows. He is not content with others' praise or overblame of Nature. She is dumb and hopeless, a confusion to thought. She tangles Meredith's verse and leaves Shelley drowned in body, stifled among clouds. Thompson draws away from the Pantheist and the Pagan. Coleridge's words are true of Nature's relation to ourselves- " not the truth with regard to Nature absolutely. Absolute Nature lives nqjt in our life, nor yet is lifeless, but lives in the life of God ; and in so far, and so far merely, as man himself lives in that life, does he come into sympathy with Nature, and Nature with him. She is God's daughter who stretches her hand only to her Father's friends. Not Shelley, not Wordsworth himself, ever drew so close to the heart of Nature as did the Seraph of Assisi, who was close to the Heart of God."
There, again, the complete reasonableness and sincerity of his poetry is put to the test of his prose. It is as if another and most essential witness vouched for the wisdom of "The Hound of Heaven"-a witness who, after focussing the different vision of a different art upon the same experience, swore to the same truth. He continues :-
"Yet higher, yet further let us go. Is this daughter of God mortal ? can her foot not pass the grave ? Is Nature, as men tell us,
... a fold Of Heaven and earth across His Face, which we must rend to behold that Face ? Do our eyes indeed close for ever on the beauty of earth when they open on the beauty of Heaven ? I think not so; I would fain beguile even death itself with a sweet fantasy. ... I believe that in Heaven is earth. Plato's doctrine of Ideals, as I conceive, laid its hand upon the very breast of truth, yet missed her breathing. For beauty-such is my faith-is beauty for eternity."
The faith of " In Heaven is Earth " is but a tentative expression of his later gospel. At first he had been alarmed at the theory-in the form in which it had reached him-of the survival of earthly love in Heaven. He had not then read Patmore or Swedenborg. Even the tentative belief is timidly qualified :-
" Earthly beauty is but heavenly beauty taking to itself flesh. . . . Within the Spirit Who is Heaven lies Earth; for within Him rests the great conception of Creation . . .
Yet there the soul shall enter which hath earned That privilege by virtue. . . .
As one man is more able than his fellows to enter into another's mind, so in proportion as each of us by virtue has become kin to God, will he penetrate the Supreme Spirit, and identify himself with the Divine Ideals. There is the immortal Sicily, there the Elysian Fields, there all visions, all fairness engirdled with the Eternal Fair. This, my faith, is laid up in my bosom."
His belief here lies close to Swedenborg, whose Con-jugial Love F. T. borrowed from my shelves with an eagerness evinced for no other book there.
At every turn he is the devoted, intentest, faithfullest interpreter of the material world. All his "copy" awaited him in nature; his translations from her tangible writings bear on every page the imprimatur of his faith. The generality of the revelation made to them did not spoil his appetite nor blur his surprising genius for detail.
His couplings of the great and the small, not always so sweetly reasonable as that set between the flower and the star, sometimes need apology. The whole scale of comparisons is unexpected in the case of one who goes to the eating-house not only for his meals, but for his images; who finds nothing outrageous in naming the Milky Way a beaten yolk of stars; who takes the setting sun for a bee that stings the west to angry red; and, when he would express the effect of an oppressive sunset upon Tom o' Bedlam's eye, who casts about in the lumber-room of memory which had been filled with oppressive images during nights endured in a common lodging-house.
Even then he was only expressing, out of a set of accidental impressions, the poet's unremitting desire to link up the sights and sensations of the universe. Drummond of Hawthornden's
Night like a drunkard reels Beyond the hills may serve as a typical instance of such arbitrary simile. From the note-books I take these unpublished lines :-
Dost thou perceive no God within the frog ?
O poor, poor Soul! Bristles and rankness only in the hog ?
0 wretched dole ! No wr/d beneficence in the fever's germ ? Nor any Heaven shut within the worm ?
Dost shudder daintily At words, in song, shaped so un-lovelily ?
To school, to school! For does it to thee seem That God in an ill dream Fashioned the twisted horrors of the standing pool ?
Mr. Chesterton surmises the mountainous significance of minute things. In Tremendous Trifles, like the lover who writes an ode to his lady's eyebrow, or the professor who gives his life to the study of the capillary glands, he delights in disproportion. When Mr. Chesterton planned a volume of poems on the things in his pocket, but desisted because the volume would have bulked too large, he was only formulating, in a manner acceptable to the man who puts his hand in his pocket for a halfpenny, the old " religio poetse." The things of the pocket constitute a pocket dictionary in more than two languages, a book of synonyms, a lexicon filled with cross references, all based upon the Word. The silly silver of men's purses is blessed, and every mortal thing assists in immortal liturgy. St. Charles was of one mind with those who sing the Magnificat of trifles. When asked how he would die, he answered : " Playing cards, as I now do, if it should so chance." Whenever such an one dies he holds trumps. And like the priest, the poet touches mysteries with his very hand ; he makes daily communion. "To some," says Patmore, "there is revealed a sacrament greater than that of the Real Presence, a sacrament of the Manifest Presence, which is, and is more than, the sum of all the sacraments." And again we have Thompson's own