Oh ! wherefore come ye forth, in triumph from the North, With your hands, and your feet, and your raiment all red ?
And wherefore doth your rout send forth a joyous shout ? And whence be the grapes of the wine-press which ye tread ?
Oh ! evil was the root, and bitter was the fruit, And crimson was the juice of the vintage that we trod ;
For we trampled on the throng of the haughty and the strong, Who sate in the high places, and slew the saints of God !- supply the model for the ecclesiastical ballad "The Veteran of Heaven" which begins -
O Captain of the wars, whence won Ye so great scars ?
In what fight did Ye smite, and what manner was the foe ? Was it on a day of rout they compassed Thee about,
Or gat Ye these adornings when Ye wrought their overthrow ?
" I am disposed to put in a good word for Macaulay's ballads," F. T. has said.
A fair thought, a keen observation, a neat phrase are seldom strictly preserved. If accident does not take two or more writers to the same hill, show them the same sunset, and charge their minds with the same words, plagiarism will serve the purpose. Even
Of Words ; Of Origins; Of Metre if Cowley's rare wit had remained in manuscript unseen, its turns would not have been for many centuries entirely his own. Literature will out. To one or the other, to plagiarism or accident, is due a likeness between Thompson's
So fearfully the sun doth sound, Clanging up beyond Cathay; For the great earthquaking sunrise rolling up beyond Cathay, and Mr. Kipling's "And the sun came up like thunder out of China, 'cross the Bay."
A wind got up frae off the sea. It blew the stars as clear could be. It blew in the een of a' the three,
And the mune was shining clearly ! sang Stevenson's Highlander years before Thompson wrote
And a great wind blew all the stars to flare.
But in neither case is Thompson, though the dates are against him, proved a thief.
Of a review of his Poems in the St. James's Gazette:-
" I only deprecate in it the implied comparison to Dante, and the to-me-bewildering comparison to Matthew Arnold. 'Tis not merely that I have studied no poet less ; it is that I should have thought we were in the sharpest contrast. His characteristic fineness lies in that very form and restraint to which I so seldom attain : his characteristic drawback in the lack of that full stream which I am seldom without. The one needs and becomes strict banks-for he could not fill wider ones; the other too readily overflows all banks. But these are casual specks on an appreciative article-an article as unusually appreciative as that in the Chronicle."
"French poetry-all modern European poetry-may in the ultimate analysis be found derivable from the Latin hymn," says an Edinburgh reviewer (January 1911). Francis Thompson in that case was familiar with the remote ancestry of his house. He helped himself from the hymns.
Of the prose of the Vulgate he wrote in a review of a paper by Dr. Barry on St. Jerome's revision :-
"No tongue can say so much in so little. And literary diffuseness is tamed in our Vulgate not only by the terser influence of the rustic Latin, but by the needs begotten of Hebrew brevity. Nor to any unprejudiced ear can this Vulgate Latin be unmusical. For such an ear the authority of John Addington Symonds (though Dr. Barry adduces that authority) is not needed to certify its fine variety of new movement. ' Surge, propera, arnica mea, columba mea, formosa mea, et veni;' that and the whole passage which follows, or that preceding strain closing in-' Fulcite me floribus, stipate me malts, quia amore langueo': could prose have more impassioned loveliness of melody ? Compare it even with the beautiful corresponding English of the Authorised (Protestant) Version ; the advantage in music is not to the English, but to the soft and wooing fall of these deliciously lapsing syllables. Classic prose, could it even have forgotten its self-conscious living-up to foreign models, had never the heart of passion for movement such as this, or as the queenly wail of the Lamentations -' Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo ! facta est quasi vidua domina gentium !'
" If the Vulgate be the fountain-source, the rivers are numerous-and neglected. How many outside the ranks of ecclesiastics ever open the Breviary, with its Scriptural collocations over which has presided a wonderful symbolic insight, illuminating them by passages from the Fathers and significant prayers ? The offices 171
Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre of the Church are suggested poetry-that of the Assumption, for example, the ' Little Office,' and almost all those of Our Lady. The very arrangement of the liturgical year is a suggested epic, based as it is on a deep parallel between the evolution of the seasons and that of the Christian soul of the human race."
And further on :-
" It is a pedant who cannot see in St. Augustine one of the great minds of the world, master of a great style. Some flights in the Confessions are almost lyric, such as the beautiful ' Sero te amavi,' or the magnificent discourse on memory. The last books especially of the City of God would sometimes be no wise incongruous beside the Paradiso of Dante. St. Bernard's prose rises at times into a beauty which is essentially that of penetratingly ethereal poetry : not for nothing has Dante exalted him in the Paradiso; not for nothing does such a man exalt such men. In them is the meat and milk and honey of religion ; and did we read them our souls would be larger-boned."
Of his early acquaintance with the Bible he writes :-
" The Bible as an influence from the literary standpoint has a late but important date in my life. As a child I read it, but for its historical interest. Nevertheless, even then I was greatly, though vaguely, impressed by the mysterious imagery, the cloudy grandeurs, of the Apocalypse. Deeply uncomprehended, it was, of course, the pageantry of an appalling dream ; insurgent darkness, with wild lights flashing through it; terrible phantasms, insupportably revealed against profound light, and in a moment no more ; on the earth hurryings to and fro, like insects of the earth at a sudden candle ; unknown voices uttering out of darkness darkened and 172