"Poor Thief of Song" disastrous speech; and all this in motion and turmoil, like the sands of a fretted pool. Such is the Apocalypse as it inscribes itself on the verges of my childish memories. In early youth it again drew me to itself, giving to my mind a permanent and shaping direction. In maturer years Ecclesiastes (casually opened during a week of solitude in the Fens) masterfully affected a temperament in key with its basic melancholy. But not till quite later years did the Bible as a whole become an influence. Then, however, it came with decisive power. But not as it had influenced most writers. My style, being already formed, could receive no evident impress from it: its vocabulary had come to me through the great writers of our language. In the first place its influence was mystical; it revealed to me a whole scheme of existence, and lit up life like a lantern."
" Assumpta Maria " is " vamped " from the office of Our Lady; he had no notion of concealing its origin, but rather sought to point it out. The prayer to the Virgin is itself a confession-
Remember me, poor Thief of Song!
He wrote in 1893, with an enclosure of poems, including the " Assumpta Maria " :-
"They are almost entirely taken from the Office of the Assumption, some from the Canticle, a few images from the heathen mythology. Some very beautiful images are from a hymn by St. Nerses the Armenian, rendered in Carmina Mariana. You will perceive therefore the reason of the motto from Cowley : ' Thou needst not make new songs, but say the old.'"
It is at the close of the poem that Francis calls himself " poor Thief of Song." The theme put honesty out of reach. It has been treated too often. Even Donne's 173
Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre
" Immensity cloistered in the dear womb" is part of " the great conspiracy " of Marian Song.
The lines most in question in St. Nerses's hymn, thus rendered in English by W. H. Kent, are-
Dwelling-place of light, be gladsome ; Temple, where the true Sun dwelleth ; Throne of God, rejoice, thou bearest Him, the Word of the Almighty . . . Home of him whom none may compass ; Hostel, where the sun finds resting . . . Daniel's great Stone-bearing Mountain ; Solomon's fair Hill of Incense ; Fountain sealed for him that keeps it; Garden closed for him that plants."
" I remember," Francis writes, " Father Anselm's expression of comical surprise at a passage in' Her Portrait,' where I had employed the terms of Canon Law relating to ecclesiastical property. Why, he said, here's a whole page of De Contractibus in poetry. His surprise was increased when I remarked that I had never read any work on the subject. ... I said I got the terms where any one else could get them-from English history.
" Equal was the surprise of another person at finding a whole passage of Anna Kingsford in my poetry. It was a passage describing the earth's aura, really remarkably like a passage in a book I had not at the time read."
In all these cases he is an imitator by choice-independent in taking only what suits him and depending only where he will. In one case he was an imitator not by choice but by compulsion, a slavish follower. There was no more choice for him in following Patmore than for a son born like his father. Such a poem as "By Reason of Thy Law " was born of the Unknown Eros odes.
Here are quoted various sentences from F. T.'s notebooks, letters, and published prose bearing on metre, or allied subjects.
Of the learning of poets :-
" I have studied and practised metre with arduous love since I was sixteen; reviewed poets and poetasters this twenty years or more, and never yet impeached one of such a matter as infraction or ignorance of academic metrical rule. For I know they don't do it-either poet or poetaster. Poetasters least of all men, because they are your metrical Tybalts and fight by the book-one, two, and the third in your bosom; poets because they have the law in their members, assimilated by eager obedience from their practised youth ; their liberty is such liberty won by absorption of law, and is kept in its orbit by their sensitive feodality to the invisible-the hidden-sun of inspiration. 'They do not wrong but with just cause': such faults as they may commit in metre belong not to this elementary class. I have criticised poets' metre, but ever in the broader and larger things where blemish accused them not of ignorance or the carelessness that comes of inattention to rule. I repeat, they don't do those things, and my study of metre, poetry, and poets early taught me that."
And he cites an unjustified attack on Stephen Phillips as a case in point.
Of " Heard on the Mountain," a translation from Hugo in New Poems-a metrical experiment:-
" That splendid f ourteen-syllable metre of Chapman, to which Mr. Kipling has given a new vitality, I have here treated after the manner of Drydenian rhyming heroics ; not only with the occasional triplet, but also the occasional Alexandrine, represented by a line of eight accents. Students of metre will see the analogy to be strict, the
Of Words ; Of Origins ; Of Metre line of eight being merely the carrying to completion of the catalectic line of seven, as the Alexandrine is merely the filling out of the catalectic line of five accents."
Of "The Ode to the Setting Sun " :-
"An ode I have thought not unworthy of preservation, though it was my first published poem of any importance. In view of the considerable resemblance between the final stanza and a well-known stanza in Mr. Davidson's ' Ballad of a Nun,' it is right to state that ' The Ode to the Setting Sun' was published as long ago as 1889. The poem has some interest to me in view of the frequent statement that I modelled the metre of 'The Hound of Heaven' on the ode metre of Mr. Patmore. 'The Ode to the Setting Sun' was published before I had seen any of Mr. Patmore's work; and a comparison of the two poems will therefore show exactly the extent to which the later poem was affected by that great poet's practice. The ode metre of New Poems is, with this exception, completely based on the principles which Mr. Patmore may virtually be said to have discovered."