Francis Thompson1 was a nineteenth century English poet. He was widely acclaimed as a genius, and yet he suffered from a crippling opium addiction. He would spend his days on the streets of a rough section of London known as Charing Cross and his nights sleeping alongside the River Thames. I’ve heard this poem quote a few times, and I love it more and more each time. The language is old and a bit complicated, but focus on the theme of God’s Kingdom being both cosmic and eternal and yet near to us, ever-present, and our natural habitat.
“The Kingdom of God”2
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 rumor 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 estranged 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!