In honour of All Soul’s Day, a day in which we remember all those we have loved and lost, I here reproduce the words of the great poet Francis Thompson, who lived a life of great drama, and great devotion. His poem The Kingdom of God (a reference to the saying of Jesus in Luke 17:21), also known as In No Strange Land, evokes in inimitable and incomparable fashion a feeling of the closeness of the spiritual world to the material. The deeply immanent (and indeed incarnational) language Thompson uses produces a powerful sense of the vitality of God and His angels, and the thinness of the veil that separates us from them, as well as all the faithful departed. And so, on this day, as we remember those we love who have died, and entrust them in our prayers to the infinite mercy of God (which will always be greater than our understanding may allow), may these words of Thompson help us to feel closer to them, who are in reality closer than we can possibly know, by virtue of Him in whom we ‘live and move and have our being’:
O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air–
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?
Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!–
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.
The angels keep their ancient places–
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.
But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry–and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.
Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry–clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!