Francis Thompson

1859-1907. English poet. Born at Preston and educated at Ushaw for the Roman Catholic priesthood, he was never ordained but chose instead to study medicine at Owens College, Manchester; again, however, he did not complete the course. Moving to London, he became an opium addict and was rescued from a vagrant life by Wilfred Meynell, who with his wife cared for Thompson for the rest of his life. He wrote on Shelley and St. Ignatius; but his poems are more important than his prose. These appeared in Poems (1893), Sister Songs (1895), and New Poems (1897). Thompson is a poet of the nineties with all the overwrought emotion and colorful expression of that decade. He is now remembered almost solely for “The Hound of Heaven,” which appeared in the 1893 volume. It has the hectic intensity of the pursued fugitive that one finds in the work of other opium- afflicted poets, and like Herbert's poem “Love” it concludes in tender acceptance of the pursuing God: Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.

See Poems (1937); and J.C. Reid, Francis Thompson (1959).