ECCLESIASTICAL BALLADS Francis Thompson

Late in life Francis Thompson planned out a series of Ecclesiastical Ballads, of which, however, only two were completed: The Veteran of Heaven, Whose wounds were His victories, and The Lily of the King, the patient Church, to whom the poet foretells the miseries of the world and her own final peace. Transcribed from the Dublin Review (1910).


THE VETERAN OF HEAVEN

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?

“Twas on a day of rout they girded Me about,
       They wounded all My brow, and they smote Me through the
___side :
My hand held no sword when I met their armèd horde,
       And the conqueror fell down, and the Conquered bruised his
___pride.”

What is this, unheard before, that the Unarmed makes war,
       And the slain hath the gain, and the Victor hath the rout?
What wars, then, are these, and what the enemies,
       Strange Chief, with the scars of Thy conquest trenched about?

“The Prince I drave forth held the Mount of the North,
       Girt with the guards of flame that roll round the pole.
I drave him with My wars from all his fortress-stars,
       And the sea of death divided that My march might strike its
___goal.

“In the keep of Northern Guard, many a great dæmonian sword
       Burns as it turns round the Mount occult, apart :
There is given him power and place still for some certain days,
       And his name would turn the Sun’s blood back upon its heart.”

What is Thy Name? Oh, show!— “My Name ye may not know ;
       Tis a going forth with banners, and a baring of much swords :
But my titles that are high, are they not upon my thigh?
       ‘King of Kings!’ are the words, ‘Lord of Lords!’;
       It is written ‘King of Kings, Lord of Lords.'”

LILIUM REGIS

O Lily of the King ! low lies thy silver wing,
___And long has been the hour of thine unqueening;
And thy scent of Paradise on the night-wind spills its sighs,
___Nor any take the secrets of its meaning.
O Lily of the King ! I speak a heavy thing,
___O patience, most sorrowful of daughters !
Lo, the hour is at hand for the troubling of the land,
___And red shall be the breaking of the waters.

Sit fast upon thy stalk, when the blast shall with thee talk,
___With the mercies of the king for thine awning;
And the just understand that thine hour is at hand,
___Thine hour at hand with power in the dawning.
When the nations lie in blood, and their kings a broken brood,
___Look up, O most sorrowful of daughters !
Lift up thy head and hark what sounds are in the dark,
___For His feet are coming to thee on the waters !

O Lily of the King ! I shall not see, that sing,
___I shall not see the hour of thy queening !
But my song shall see, and wake like a flower that dawnwinds ___shake,
___And sigh with joy the odours of its meaning.
O Lily of the king, remember then the thing
___That this dead mouth sang; and thy daughters,
As they dance before His way, sing there on the Day,
___What I sang when the Night was on the waters !

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