The hound of heaven

by Francis Thompson

Pamphlet, 1953



Call number

AA THO small


London : A. R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd., 1953.

User reviews

LibraryThing member keylawk
One of the great odes in the English language, written while the author was . Thompson was born in 1859 into the middle classes of England, in part of that vein of gold romanticism. But through the same little casement which laudanum opened and through which DeQuincey ("Confessions of an Opium Eater") and Coleridge had crawled, clearly Thompson toppled head-first.
Other than in the title, little is said of the Hound. It is only a relentless pursuer -- I love this image of God as a dog! We pray to the God who pursues the soul-prey. The soul is dogged to ground; by grace, it is love's Heaven that is found.
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LibraryThing member Michael.Rimmer
Three starts for the writing (on a first reading, possibly to be revised), with an extra half-star for the woodcut illustrations, though it may well end up at four stars eventually.

I spotted this one on the shelf of Great Grandfather's Bookshop in Leyland, Lancashire, struck by the front cover illustration, then half remembering the title, then fully remembering the opening lines, though I can't quite place from where: the introduction to another book of poetry, I'm sure, but which one I can't recall. The disappointment of the slightly torn dust jacket and internal staining were ameliorated by the £1.50 price mark penciled in the front, so it ended up chiming home with me.

I recognised the author's name, too, and looking him up I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he was born in Winkley Street in Preston, a street I walk down each week, and his name I recognise from the plaque hung there to commemorate his birth in the city. I'll pay more attention to it on my next visit.

As for the poem itself, it's written in a highly wrought Romantic style. I'm not entirely adverse to that, but at times it feels like it was laid on a bit thick. However, in the vastly more important opinion of J.R.R. Tolkien, Thompson is to be "ranked amongst the very greatest of poets" (The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Volume 1: Chronology, page 51), so there's that to recommend him.

Tolkien would, I'm sure, be drawn to the Catholic sentiment of The Hound of Heaven, in which the Hound is Christ, who lovingly hunts the lost soul of the poem's narrator, a biographical theme given Thompson's loss of faith, destitution, drug-addiction and ultimate return to the Christian fold. For myself, if I'm to get anything from the poem beyond the poetic imagery, and the rhythm and rhyme, it will be as symbolic of the finding of the Self in a psychological sense. I didn't find it in this, my first, reading, but I strongly suspect it's lying in wait for me in there, somewhere.
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Original publication date

1900 (stand-alone)
1893 (collection)

Call number

AA THO small


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