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The reconciliation of the Pagan with the Christian woman was imperative. He became Mary, Mother of Christ, the Newer Eve, the After Woman, the Spouse of Christ, "to love her is to love the beauty of God's House." So once more he became The Church:
When Christ is life, and you the way;
Or as in another poem:
And she sings the songs of Sion
So in actual life Alice Meynell became his benefactress in succession to the prostitute. The poet's songs to her breathe a removed reverence and adoration though they have the Pagan title of "Love in Dian's Lap," but the analytical interpretation of these poems is again that of identification, for her spirit is
And then: (P)
As maid's breast against breast of maid.
Unveil this spirit, lady, when you will,
Unveil, and fearless gaze there, you alone,
A poem of great length and verbal magnificence called "An Anthem of Earth" gives us the psychological foundation of these types as arising in the ideal conception of the mother, and the subsequent disillusionment. I cannot do more than select two illustrative passages:
...Thought I not
Shook thy matron tresses down in fancies
As a poet's hand could twine them;
Loving thy beauty in all creatures born of thee,
We stand and eye thee in a grave dismay,
remainder flesh After our father's surfeits.
That is, the virginal and prostitute phantasies here in this poem directly connect themselves with the mother and so with the poet's own identifications already elaborated.
I would pass now to the imagery that portrays the poet's conception of the consummation of love. In the sequence "A Narrow Vessel," the poet touches a more passionate note than elsewhere in his work. The poem is in the mouth of the Lover and concerns the moment when the maiden yields.
...That falling kiss Touching long-laid expectance, all went up Suddenly into passion;
then quite swiftly the Lover identifies himself with his beloved, he is the woman and Love is the visitant to both:
...the wild train of life
Reeled by, and left us stranded on a hush.
This moment is a statue unto Love
Carved from a fair white silence.
(One thinks of Francis Thompson gazing at his Melpomene, waiting a thing divine.)
This static ecstasy, instead of dynamic ecstasy, is surely an image based upon infantile experience, not upon adult sexual maturity. The recurrence of such phrases as "enchanted movelessness," "passionless passion,' ," "wild tranquillities," are frequent throughout the poems. It seems to me they are applicable to two early child situations, both of which involve oneness with the mother, the first in time being pre-natal, the child in the womb, the other post-natal, the child at the breast. The poem "The Mistress of Vision" has this quality of static ecstasy and the imagery of the poem just quoted, "Love Declared," recurs in it:
Secret was the garden;
Set i' the pathless awe
Where no star its breath can draw.
Life, that is its warden,
Sits behind the fosse of death.
Mine eyes saw not, and I saw.
The secret garden is the womb, the symbol of birth and death. He says:
Till Time, the hidden root of change, updries,
For they are twain yet one, and Death is Birth.
This entranced hush, motionless motion, sound in silence, passionate tranquillity, by which Thompson images the consummation of love between man and maid (yet himself the maid) is paralleled by him both in the state of death and pre-natal existence. But there is one other analogous situation. It is that of the child at the breast, the immediate
post-natal experience. In speaking of his love for Alice Meynell and its swift onset, he says:
For swift it was, yet quiet as the birth
In the "Night of Forebeing" we read:
...yea, it was still
As the young Moon that bares her nightly breast,
Having reached this point I would venture the opinion that in Francis Thompson we have a unique psychical fixation of libido at the oral level. Psychically he was never weaned. Physically separated from the mother, he mourned and refused earth's meat through the remainder of his life. His life, his disasters, his poetry are all expressions both of that initial joy in gratification and that first sorrow of deprivation.
And all the springs are flash-lights of one Spring.
For her surchargèd heart.
So to Alice Meynell, speaking of his frustrated love for her:
A hand-clasp I must feed on for a night,
A noon, although the untasted feast you lay,
Then comes the incidental day
When our young mouth is weaned;
And from her arms we stray.
The analogy is, that to understand his drouth she must go unsuppered too; unconsciously he projects the same situation between herself and her husband as he wishes unconsciously between himself and the mother. So we find him speaking of the sun as
Thou genitor that all things nourishest!
The earth was suckled at thy shining breast,
He speaks elsewhere of "God focussed to a point," of "When God was stolen from men's mouths stolen was the bread." This brings me to his conception of Deity as "twi-formed":
Thou twi-form deity, nurse at once and sire.
Behold, with rod twy-serpented,
...In him allied Both parents clasp.
The nipple and the penis are one symbol. In suckling at the mother's breast he is suckled by the father too. When he is weaned "God is stolen from the mouth"-separation is weaning, which is equivalent to castration. Hence the significance of the Hound of Heaven.
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms—
i.e. at the breast of the twi-formed Deity there is union again in the Godhead.
The cycle of pursuit is clear in "New Year's Chimes":
The chase that's chased is the Lord o' the chase,
(And a million songs are as song of one)
And the pursued cries on the race;
And the hounds in leash are the hounds that run.
The world above in the world below
The cycle is in the poet himself:
My little worlded self! the shadows pass
Thou here discern'st the plan,
And note again, it is the bosom's year that is the cycle. The cycle may be represented as the circle of the sun, the moon, the breast, or the womb, "the Mystic Sun," "the Virgin's womb."
Addressing the sun he says:
To thine own shape
Thou round'st the chrysolite of the grape,
Bind'st thy gold lightnings in his veins.
The phases of this eternal cycle alternate thus:
Open wide thy gates, O Virgin,
The sun has been chasing the earth. This is the pursuit. We glimpse the wonderment of the primitive mind in the child in a riot of imagery. He sees the sinking sun touching the earth in the west. Then he thinks earth is held to the sun's bosom. "The earth is suckled at thy shining
breast." It may be that the earth mother is suckling the sun, for he says in one poem (X)
The sopped sun-toper as ever drank hard-
Totty with thine October tankard.
The sun sinks into earth. It is night, and the sun and earth are one. The sun is in the earth, and it is night with "orgiastic revelries." It is also death, as well as the "Night of Forebeing," for the sun is the child too within the womb. The chase begins again with the Resurrection of the Sun, Christ risen from the Tomb.
But for the poet the magic circle is broken by an interlude, the sentence of life. Suckled at the mother's breast, he is still one with the mother and still suckled thus by the father. Separated from her "God is robbed out of his mouth" and he "must fare forward to the dull vale, robbed of his Godhead." But, psychically one with the mother, he, like her, remains the pursued, though pursuit means chastisement and despoiling, and never love. Love comes only when the magic circle is entered again. The third phase represents this.
'Whence He sprung, there He returneth
Or, as he says in another poem, he enters "the sacred bridal gloom of death." In the nuptials of death the cycle is complete again. He is sustenant to the mother even as the sun suckles her-Father and son are one, "beyond the pillars of death and the corridors of the grave in the union of spirit to spirit within the containing Spirit of God.”
Cyclic unrest is now balanced by 'cyclic equipoise.' The conscious life of Thompson is represented by the second of these phases-unsceptred, undiademed, i.e. the weaned and castrated one.
He faring down
To the dull vale, his Godhead peels from him
That the poet is omnipotent is shown in his life and work. He is a Creator, like God.
Poet! still, still thou dost rehearse,
And what thy Maker in the whole
Song, "A Water-child like Earth," is the child he has created, as God created the earth. He calls himself a "conduit running wine of song" -a father image, or "The Four Rivers," "Fountain watering Paradise