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Francis Thompson’s Verse & Works. Based on Facts.

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  • Francis Thompson’s Verse & Works. Based on Facts.

    When looking at candidates for Jack the Ripper, if my suspect where a cart driver, like Charles Lechmere, we would expect research into his routes to work. This would be to see if they were close to the murder scenes. If my suspect where a butcher such as Jacob Levy, we would hope that someone had looked into butchering practices. This would be to see if they were consistent with the types of wounds the victims suffered. If my suspect were a politician we would expect people would look at his speeches to determine if their content showed a hatred of the class of women that were killed. My suspect is a writer and a poet so I have looked into what he wrote about to see if they show any affiliation to the crimes. People might argue that we cannot analyse Francis Thompson’s poetry or prose. This is because we tread a dangerous path in judging motive on what may be the purely imaginative writing of an artist. Taking Shakespeare as an example, just because he wrote from the point of view of a villain does not at all mean he himself is guilty of anything but great writing. Thompson is different though. He actually admitted that he based his written work on events in his own life.

    In a letter to his editor, Thompson told of his fears that his writings would display more than mere artistic license,

    'I am painfully conscious that they display me, in every respect, at my morally weakest...often verse written as I write it is nothing less than a confessional, a confessional far more intimate than the sacerdotal one. That touches only your sins….if I wrote further in poetry, I should write down my own fame.'

    Having been a Catholic student priest for several years the term ‘confessional’ had a special meaning. In another letter to his editor, this is how Thompson explained of his poetry,

    ‘The poems were, in fact, a kind of poetic diary; or rather a poetic substitute for letters.’

    Thompson’s only story was his ‘End Crowning Work’. This was a murder story in which the narrator admits to stabbing a woman to death. It was written in the autumn of 1889. In the light that his poetry and prose was autobiographical, we should be seriously asking if Thompson was conveying more than entertaining words when he began it with these words.

    If confession indeed give ease, I who am deprived of all other confession, may yet find some appeasement in confessing to this paper.’

    To use an analogy with the great writer Stephen King. His killer car novel, ‘Christine’ was a wonderful read. I had never considered King thought that the car was real. If near the same time he had written it five jogging enthusiasts were the victims of hit and run accidents in the same quarter mile that he lived, then I might think he did. If he also had trained as trick car or racing driver for six years previously and had vehicle that could cause the same type of injuries I might as well. Especially if he had been dumped by a jogging enthusiast that he claimed to have fallen in love with. These points, weapon, motive, location, skill, can be found in Thompson.
    Last edited by Richard Patterson; 03-05-2015, 04:46 PM.
    Author of

    "Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson"

  • #2
    Did T.S Eliot Think that Francis Thompson was Jack the Ripper?

    One of the twentieth century's major poets might have come to the conclusion that Thompson was the Ripper, in 1913, after reading Everard Meynell's biography on Thompson.

    An objection to the premise that the English poet, Francis Thompson, (1859-1907) was Jack the Ripper is the consideration that he would have been weak to commit these murders. He was not the muscular brute that many would commonly ascribe to the culprit. Instead he was a man whose arms and legs were weak and thin. Another objection is that surely someone in the last one hundred years would have come to the same conclusion. This essay examines this idea. So who would have found out? It is reasonable to assume such a person would have been both intelligent and learned. They would have had to have a keen understanding of poetry, to enable them to correctly interpret Thompson’s poetry. They would have to know how to look for the hidden connotations hinting at his involvement in Whitechapel murders. Essentially we should be seeking a person with the right mixture of literary appreciation and an interest in criminology. For so many years the best and brightest have tried to solve the Ripper murders. This person would have to possess an exceptional intellect. Now, even if we put a name to this person, it would have be someone who dared not tell anyone of his discovery or the identity of the murder would not be the mystery it is to this day. There is such a person. His name was T.S Eliot.

    Thomas Sterns Eliot, the poet, playwright, critic and editor, was born on September 26 1888, in St. Louis, Missouri. He was born during the reign of the Jack the Ripper, and four days before the double murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. Eliot died on January 4 1965, in London. Coming from a well-known New England family T.S. Eliot, studied at the Smith Academy, in St. Louis, Milton, in Massachusetts and Harvard in 1906. Eliot graduated, with a Bachelor of Arts, in 1909. His teachers included George Santayana and Bertrand Russell. Eliot had managed to compile a small library of books mostly garnered from gifts by colleagues. One volume Eliot treasured was of the poetry of Francis Thompson. In 1911, Eliot visited Europe and London. Noted biographer of Eliot, Peter Ackroyd, wrote in his book on Eliot,

    'He apparently travelled to London in April 1911 - there is at least, one short poem 'Interlude in London,' bearing that date in which, with that melancholic lyric music which Eliot seems able to summon at will, a damp and apathetic life is evoked. (This may have not been his first trip; since he had a Baedeker guide, 'London and the Environs,' which has a date 14 October 1910 written on it, it is possible that he travelled to Munich where he completed 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock''’

    In the autumn of 1911, T.S. Eliot returned to Harvard as a graduate student in philosophy. He became fascinated in the crucifixion and pinned a picture called 'Yellow Christ' on his wall. While at Harvard, T.S Eliot delved into Indian philosophy and studied Sanskrit. He became interested in mysticism and the psychology of religion. In 1914 and for some months after he left, he wrote a number of poems. They include one in which a man fantasies suicide and another called “The Love Song of St. Sebastian,” in which the speaker describes whipping himself and then strangling a woman. Of course this may be of interest to those who study the Jack the Ripper murders, since all his victims were partially strangled before their throats were cut. In 1914, Eliot left America and after studying briefly in Germany, he settled in London and, in June of 1915, he married Vivien Haigh-Wood. Eliot's friendship to Ezra Pound was part of circle of English intellectualism, which included many of Ezra Pounds associates. This included Wilfrid Blunt, who had Francis Thompson reside, in 1907, for a while at his country estate. In London, in 1911, Eliot became a clerk for Lloyds Bank. Ezra Pound was thrilled by T.S Eliot’s “Prufrock” in the August edition of “Poetry”, he spoke of its merits, 'the best thing in poetry since-{for the sake of peace I will leave that date to the imagination}'. In the same year, the second and final issue, of “Blast,” was released. T.S. Eliot's poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” was published in 1917, on the ten-year anniversary of the death of Francis Thompson, in the “Dial”. The poem was dedicated to Ezra Pound. Eliot's poem opens with an epigraph, originally in Latin, of a stanza from 'Dante's “Divine Comedy,” in the “Inferno”. Many people, even today, ponder on the meaning of much of Eliot’s clouded poems, most agree that his stanza, is directed to an unnamed, dead individual. I would suggest this was a message to Francis Thompson.

    'If I thought my reply were to someone
    who could ever return to the world,
    this flame would shake no longer.
    But since no-one ever returned
    alive from this pit,
    if what I hear is true,
    I answer thee without fear of infamy.'

    Eliot, like Ezra, behaved strangely. Whilst in the company of close friends or when alone, Eliot would practice the wearing of makeup. The colour chosen by Eliot was green. Lending to him what was said to be a 'cadaverous' appearance. In the 1920's Ezra came to call Eliot ‘Possum’ and a 'fine old Marsupial' due to his, 'Ability to appear dead while it is still alive'. Eliot’s most well-known poem “The Wasteland” made its first appearance in the November 1922 issue of the “Dial'”. Ezra Pound, in 1922, wrote the following stanza on Eliot's poetry,

    'These are the poems of Eliot
    By the Uranian Muse begot; [Uranian-heavenly] & [begot-born)
    A Man their Mother was.
    A Muse their Sire.
    How did the printed Infancies result
    From Nuptials thus doubly difficult? [Nuptials-marriage]
    If you must needs enquire
    Know diligent Reader
    That on each Occasion
    Ezra performed the Caesarean Operation.'

    In 1922, Ezra attempted to form a fighting fund for Eliot to enable him to quit Lloyds of London. Ezra proclaimed that Eliot would head a drive to restart civilisation. Donations of five pounds were solicited. Ezra's strong wording caused Eliot to threat repudiation unless Lloyds was removed from the circulars that Ezra sent. Eliot became very concerned about the business of murder. In 1923, Eliot wrote a letter to the “Daily Mail” with his opinions on the 'Ilford Murder'. In which he urged that Edith Thompson and her young lover be executed by hanging, the lovers Edward Bywater and Edith Thompson, who had previously been convicted of murdering Edith's husband. Apparently, Eliot held a hunch that Thompson was guilty. In 1925, Eliot banned all official biographies of his life. In 1927, Eliot was editor for the “Criterion” between January and June of 1927, Eliot reviewed twenty-four detective and crime novels at the rate of one review per fortnight. Eliot could recall lengthy passages of “Sherlock Holmes. After becoming a fan of the 'Dr Crippen murder case’ Eliot went to a costume ball dressed as the captured murderer. A friend of Eliot, Herbert Read told Eliot. ‘I always felt that I was in the presence of a remorseful man, of one who had some secret sorrow or guilt.’ In 1948, Eliot was awarded the Order of Merit by the King and the Noble Prize for Literature. Eliot, whom had read Thompson while at Harvard, found Francis Thompson’s poems to be very influential and made a footnote attributing part of his poem “The Rock”, to Thompson’s poem “The Kingdom of God”.

    Excerpt of Thompson’s “Kingdom of God”,

    ‘O world invisible, we view thee
    O world intangible, we touch thee,
    O world unknowable, we know thee,
    Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
    The angels keep their ancient places;-
    Turn but a stone, and start a wing!’

    Excerpt of Eliot’s, “The Rock”,

    ‘"The light that slants over stagnant pools at batlight
    Moon light and star light, owl and moth light,
    Glow-worm glowlight on a grassblade.
    O Light Invisible, we worship Thee!"

    As chance would have it, both Eliot and Thompson were 29 when they first became published poets with Eliot’s “Prufrock” and Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven” They were both 34 when their most famous poems were published with Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and Thompson’s “Sister Songs”.

    After his rescue from the streets and while Francis Thompson was asked to both write poetry and wean him off from opium, he wrote of how he felt to his publisher, ‘I am sometimes like a dispossessed hermit crab, looking about for a new shell, and quivering at every touch’. His rescue happened sometime after Thompson became delirious on the streets in which Everard Meynell wrote of Thompson that, ‘He sees things pass as silently as the figures on a cinematograph screen; one set of nerves, out of time and on another plane, responds to things heard.’ In Thompson poem, “Her Portrait”, is written,

    ‘But here the gates we burst, and to the temple go.
    Their praise were her dispraise; who dare, who dare,
    Adulate the seraphim for their burning hair?
    How, if with them I dared, here should I dare it?
    How praise the woman, who but know the spirit?
    How praise the colour of her eyes, uncaught
    While they were coloured with her varying thought
    How her mouth's shape, who only use to know
    What tender shape her speech will fit it to?
    Or her lips' redness, when their joined veil
    Song's fervid hand has parted till it wore them pale?...
    The rustle of a robe hath been to me
    The very rattle of love's musketry;’

    By far the greatest resource on information upon Francis Thompson comes from Everard Meynell’s 1913, “The Life of Francis Thompson”. In his book, he wrote of his memories of Thompson whose poem “the Hound of Heaven”, had Thompson boast, ‘I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,’ Of course Thompson’s writing was not confined to poetry, for instance he wrote essays on Shakespeare. Such essays included an article for the “Academy” on October 8, 1898, seven months after his father's death. It was upon his identification with William Shakespeare's Hamlet in terms of his own experience. He wrote of his experience of the sudden loss his own father in 1896. Thompson claimed in the article that Hamlet feigned madness and pretended to be fool, due to his hatred against the beautiful Ophelia, rather than a wish to avenge his father’s death. Thompson was also an avid letter writer on any topic- no matter how trivial. In 1893, when he found that his trousers where not to his liking, he wrote of how his wide-ranging talents solved the difficulty,

    ‘I have received the clothes which were very welcome. The trousers alone bothered me, proving ludicrously wide, and too short. After a strategical survey of them, I shut myself up and went in for three days of daring tailoring operations. As a result, they are now reformed in a sufficiently tolerable manner which reflects great credit on my versatile genius.’

    Apart from his memories of Francis Thompson another recollection Everard had was of his mother Alice that involved his regular trips to the local candy store, on Kensington High Street near Kensington Church. Everard remembered the store with the mirrored ceiling, 'She would sit with me while we dealt with our sponge-cakes which broke into yellow crumbs on our suits and tasted warm between mouthfuls of ice. I see her bright eyes smile at first and then become slightly abstracted as she resigns herself to ten minutes at the little table...We understand our mother's abstracted look when she has her pencil and writing-pad’

    Here are some sections of Eliot’s very imaginative poem, “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”, which has within it the smoky spectre of a hound on the streets. Nobody has been able to explain the meaning of this poem, or why it has somehow captured the collective imagination – Until Now. Here is a reading of his poem with the assumption that his poem was written to Francis Thompson. Let us go, you and I with the scenario that Eliot knew Thompson was Jack the Ripper and wrote about his thoughts within this poem. One that debates telling the world of his discovery and risk being the center of the world-wide attention and controversy, or instead hide it, buried in its lines.

    ‘Let us go then, you and I,
    When the evening is spread out against the sky
    Like a patient etherised upon a table;
    Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
    The muttering retreats
    Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
    Streets that follow like a tedious argument
    Of insidious intent
    To lead you to an overwhelming question...
    Oh, do not ask, 'What is it?'
    Let us go and make our visit…’

    Eliot sets the scene. The dingy streets of Whitechapel mixed with the Thompson an ex-medical student.

    The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
    Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
    Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,…

    He portrays the air thick with the spirit of am all-encompassing hound – Thompson, the famed author of ‘The Hound of Heaven’. Today, even as I right this essay Ripperologists argue the finer points of the crimes, when bickering over suspects, such as the circumstances surrounding the pools of blood that flowed into the gutters and drains of Bucks Row, besides where the body Mary Ann Nichol’s were found.

    And indeed there will be time
    For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
    Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
    There will be time, there will be time
    To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
    There will be a time to murder and create,…

    And indeed there will be time
    To wonder, 'Do I dare?' and 'Do I dare?'…
    My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
    My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin-
    (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
    Do I dare
    Disturb the universe?...
    In a minute there is time
    For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
    And I have known the eyes already, known them all-..

    Does he dare follow his instinct and tell the world of his discovery? Or does he wait for there will be time? Or is it really Thompson who controls him, influencing every action, working within him? Do I dare? Or is it even I who dares? What if nobody can bring themselves to believe him? What if they say, like people do today, when faced with the idea that Thompson managed to kill these five women. No. They respond, that he would have been far too weak. – but how his arms and legs are thin. How can Eliot begin to tell anyone when his everyday actions, even the way his dresses, mimics the manner and ways of Thompson. Stifling his very utterances with a necktie, like Thompson, who was sometimes called the necktie poet. (How easily the Ripper victims seemed to have been strangled.)

    And I have known the arms already, known them all-…
    Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl,
    And should I then presume?
    And how should I begin?..

    Whose shawls? Those worn by the Ripper’s victims. What tables? The mortuary slabs.

    I should have been a pair of ragged claws
    Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.


    I recall the words of Francis Thompson, right after the last Ripper murder, writing from the country priory where he had been confined, ‘I am sometimes like a dispossessed hermit crab, looking about for a new shell, and quivering at every touch’.

    Should I, after and cakes and ices,
    Have the strength to force a moment to its crises?...
    I am no prophet- and here's no great matter;…
    And in short, I was afraid….
    Would it have been worth it, after all,
    Would it have been worth while,
    To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
    To have squeezed the universe into a ball
    To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
    To say: 'I am Lazarus, come from the dead,…

    After cake and ices, like Thompson’s early biographer, Everard Meynell, who soothed by post dentist excursions, is pained to learn that his father’s friend, Francis Thompson was a killer. Does he tell the world and bring a crisis, with the question of Thompson’s guilt. Or does it all come down to simply being to afraid to act.

    And would have been worth it, after all,
    Would it have been worthwhile,
    After the sunsets and dooryards and sprinkled streets,
    After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail
    along the floor.
    And this, and so much more?-
    It is impossible to say just what I mean!
    But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:

    The murders happened after dark, with streets sprinkled with blood, prostitutes and predator watching from doorways, bodies dragged over-cobblestone, their skirts trailing on ground. How does Eliot begin to explain to the general population, how it was simply Thompson’s poems that gave him away, let alone Everard Meynell’s 1913 biography? A biography that described Thompson’s mind, altered by opium, during the time of the murders, ‘He sees things pass as silently as the figures on a cinematograph screen; one set of nerves, out of time and on another plane, responds to things heard.’

    No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
    Am an attendant lord, one that will do
    To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
    Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
    Deferential, glad to be use,
    Polite, cautious, and meticulous-
    Almost, at times, the Fool…

    I grow old...I grow old...
    I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled…’

    What is Eliot’s conclusion? No, he is not the hero. Like Thompson who hid behind Shakespeare, to display his own thoughts, so will he. He is not a king or prince, he will play the fool. He is resigned to play the joker -the Jack in the deck of cards. He must let the world’s pantomime, over the Ripper mystery continue, and the charade of Thompson’s innocence to linger. Eliot is beneath the evil mastermind Francis Thompson, the ‘versatile genius.’
    Author of

    "Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson"


    • #3
      And why would Eliot's opinion carry any more weight on who Jack was than my Great Aunt Flo's opinion?
      G U T

      There are two ways to be fooled, one is to believe what isn't true, the other is to refuse to believe that which is true.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Richard Patterson View Post

        To use an analogy with the great writer Stephen King. His killer car novel, ‘Christine’ was a wonderful read. I had never considered King thought that the car was real. If near the same time he had written it five jogging enthusiasts were the victims of hit and run accidents in the same quarter mile that he lived, then I might think he did. If he also had trained as trick car or racing driver for six years previously and had vehicle that could cause the same type of injuries I might as well. Especially if he had been dumped by a jogging enthusiast that he claimed to have fallen in love with. These points, weapon, motive, location, skill, can be found in Thompson.
        So you ARE using his creative works as "proof" he is the Ripper? There's a surprise.

        I laughed out loud at the Stephen King analogy, I really did. Serial hit and runs? Police immediately suspect nearby author who wrote about a killer car! I can just see the local police all immediately piling round to Mr. King's house, Keystone style.

        This same argument was made about Sickert and his paintings. I think his paintings show that he had a horrible way of looking things sometimes, and they give me the creeps (it dawns on me that the same has been said about some of my own less than cheerful poems). But was he the Ripper, based on his paintings?

        If you expect people to buy this, you'd also have to expect them to hold Patty Cornwell in better regard.


        • #5
          Oh dear gods. No.


          • #6
            This is the nail in the coffin, folks.


            • #7
              The Poems Thompson’s Publishers did not want you to see.

              By 1888 there had been an established tradition of dark Gothic poetry and there are many poets who proscribed to its form, but none as much as Francis Thompson. Thompson’s incessant love of death abounds in his poems. His ghoulish horror verse is even considered to strong for most readers today. With Thompson, there has also been a tradition, by those who gained the rights of his work to burn, destroy and alter so to ‘suppress any hint of unorthodoxy’. Meaning anything that would make Thompson appear anything but a gentle poet of innocence.

              A biographer of Thompson, Bridget Boardman in her book, ‘The Letters of Francis Thompson told of how after Thompson died anything that might make readers questions Thompson’s pure image should be destroyed,

              ‘Terence L. Conolly, set up the Francis Thompson Collection in a specially constructed room. He devoted much of his time to promoting Thompson an his work…But in making the donation there were two conditions, subsequently recorded by Connolly: “I was admonished that if I discovered anything unpleasant in the notebooks it should be burned.”’

              Boardman again, in her biography, ‘Between Heaven and Charing Cross. The Life of Francis Thompson.’ touches on this subject of the destruction of Thompson more questionable writing.

              ‘By today’s standards the editing performed by Wilfrid Meynell and Connolly is indefensible. The felt free to make omissions, deletions and alterations.

              Considering these circumstances it is remarkable that anything survived. His editor’s destruction and changes to Thompson’s poems were because Thompson himself said that they were his true confessions and like a diary records of his daily doings. Here are some examples of his poetry.

              Most you will not find in a book of Thompson’s poems apart from his 1897 “The Anthem of Earth” relates Thompson's distaste of the world's adoration of science. He equates science to a decrepit pig with a surgeon's knife cutting away flesh in vain. Going on to describe the interior of his mind, Thompson tells of how he sees himself as a stranger lost in a vast maze of dark burial chambers. In verses typical of Thompson, he asks a hungry world to be patient for soon it will feed on the flesh of the slaughtered until it vomits. He wonders if the reader can hear the rattle of knives crying to be set free. Finally, he says that humankind is of no importance and he promises that we will all perish in blood,

              "An Anthem of Earth" by Francis Thompson,

              'Science, old noser in its prideful straw,
              That with anatomizing scalpel tents
              Its three-inch of thy skin and brags 'All's bare'-...
              All which I am; that am a foreigner
              In mine own region? Who the chart shall draw
              Of strange courts and vaulty labyrinths
              The spacious tenements and wide pleasances,
              Innumerable corridors far-withdrawn,
              Wherin I wander darkling, of myself?
              Darkling I wander, nor dare explore

              The long arcane of those dim catacombs,
              Where the rat memory does its burrows make,...
              Tarry awhile lean Earth, for thou shalt drink,
              Even till thy dull throat sicken,
              The draught thou grow'st most fat on; hear'st thou not
              The worlds knives bickering in their sheaths? O patience!
              Much offal of a foul world comes thy way
              And man's superfluous cloud shall soon be laid
              In a little blood...'

              Here are some of his verses that escaped the flames. On December the 19th, 1880, in the family home at Ashton, after suffering a complaint of the liver, Mary Morton Thompson, Francis' mother died. Mary was aged fifty-eight. It was the day after Francis Thompson's twenty-first birthday. Here were his thoughts on that.

              'Died; and horribly
              Saw the mystery
              Saw the grime of it-...
              Saw the sear of it,
              Saw the fear of it,
              Saw the slime of it,
              Saw it whole!
              Son of the womb of her,
              Loved till the doom of her
              Thought of the brain of her.
              Heart of her side,
              Joyed in him, grieved in him-
              God grew fain [pleased] of her,
              And she died.'

              Not long after Thompson was told of his father’s plan to remarry. Here is Thompson’s poem, ‘The Ballad of Fair Weather’ to the happy couple that depicts a decapitation.

              'My father, too cruel,
              Would scorn me and beat me;
              My wicked stepmother
              Would take me and eat me,
              They looked in the deep grass
              Where it was deepest;
              They looked down the steep bank
              Where it was steepest;
              But under the bruised fern
              Crushed in its feather
              The head and the body
              Were lying together,-
              Ah, death of fair weather!
              Tell me, thou perished head,
              What hand could sever thee?...
              My evil stepmother,
              So witch-like in wish,
              She caught all my pretty blood
              Up in a dish,
              She took out my heart
              For a ghoul-meal together,
              But peaceful my body lies
              In the fern-feather,
              For now is fair weather.'

              Here is a snatch of verse he wrote, after he ran away from home and became he was homeless. In it he talks about his everyday thoughts on the world around him,

              'The shadows plot against me,
              and lie in ambush for me;
              The stars conspire
              and a net of fire
              have set for my faring o'er me.
              I ride by ways that are not
              with a trumpet sounding to me
              from goblin lists,
              and the maws of mists
              are opened to undo me.'

              Thompson did not forget to talk of the bird-life he sometimes encountered in London’s many parks, such as in his poem, “The Owl",

              ‘The owl is the witch of the cauldron of sleep
              And she stirs it and seethes it whooping deep;
              And she thrusts the witch-bits into it deep,
              Gendering ghosts for the smoke of sleep,
              She flings in toads from the money-dust,
              And feeds it thick with the dead fat of lust;’

              On February 23 1887, Thompson let fall a crumpled parcel into the "Merry England", letterbox at 44 Essex Street. The son, of the magazine’s editor, Everard Meynell, then just a child wrote of his mother's Alice Meynell's opinion, when a year later his parcel was opened.

              'Told by A.M at 21 Philimore Place, Mother read in bed the dirty ms of Paganism and along with it some witch-opium poems which she detested.'

              The poem 'Nightmare of the Witch Babies', written in 1886, was withheld from publication. It was about a knight, who hunts down a female at night and then disembowels her with a knife,

              'Two witch-babies,
              Ha! Ha!
              Two witch-babies,
              Ho! Ho!
              A bedemon-ridden hag,
              With the devil pigged alone
              Begat them, laid at night
              On the bloody-rusted stone;
              And they dwell within the Land
              Of the Bare Shank-Bone,
              Where the Evil goes to and fro,
              Two witch babies, Ho! Ho! Ho!...

              A lusty knight,
              Ha! Ha!
              On a swart steed,
              Ho! Ho!
              Rode upon the land
              Where the silence feels alone,
              Rode upon the Land
              Of the Bare Shank - Bone,
              Rode upon the Strand
              Of the Dead Men's Groan,
              Where the Evil goes to and fro
              Two witch babies, Ho! Ho! Ho!
              A rotten mist,
              Ha! Ha!
              Like a dead man's flesh,
              Ho! Ho!
              Was abhorrent in the air,
              Clung a tether to the wood
              Of the wicked looking trees,
              Was a scurf [dead skin] upon the flood;
              And the reeds they were pulpy
              With blood, blood, blood!
              And the clouds were a-looming low.
              Two with babies, Ho! Ho! Ho!
              No one life there,
              Ha! Ha!
              No sweet life there,
              Ho! Ho!
              What is it sees he?
              Ha! Ha!
              There in the frightfulness?
              Ho! Ho!
              There he saw a maiden
              Fairest fair,
              Sad where her dreaming eyes,
              Misty her hair;
              And strange was her garment's flow.
              Two witch babies, Ho! Ho! Ho!...
              'Swiftly he followed her
              Ha! Ha!
              Eagerly he followed her
              Ho! Ho!
              From the rank, the greasy soil,
              Red bubbles oozed and stood;
              Till it grew a putrid slime,
              And where his horse had trod,
              The ground plash plashes,
              With a wet like blood;
              And chill terrors like fungus grow,
              Two witch babies, Ho! Ho! Ho!...
              Into the fogginess
              Ha! Ha!
              Lo, she corrupted
              Ho! Ho!
              Comes there a Death
              With the looks like a witch,
              And joins that creak
              Like a night-bird's scritch,
              And a breath that smokes
              Like a smoking pitch,
              And eyeless sockets a glow.
              Two witch babies, Ho! Ho! Ho!
              And its paunch [stomach] was rent
              Like a brasted [bursting] drum;
              And the blubbered fat
              From its belly doth come
              It was a stream ran bloodily
              Under the wall
              O Stream, you cannot run too red
              To tell a maid her widowhead!
              It was a stream ran bloodily
              Under the wall.
              With a sickening ooze-Hell made it so!
              Two witch babies, Ho! Ho! Ho!'

              Thompson, like most poets had set ideas on nighttime and our sleeping hours,

              'Adders of longing and fanged regrets;
              Winged lizards of terror and monstrous threats
              Ah. horrible terrors, the withering threats!
              And she sees with her eyes which the Fires look through
              Her deep sleep-cauldron, reeking new;
              And she laughs at sleep, tu-whit, tu-whoo!

              And so murk is the sleep-smoke of despair,
              And so awful the spectres rising there,
              And so fearful they throng on the calm night air,
              That were not sleep as brief as deep,
              It were better almost to die than sleep!’

              Here’s a little part of a poem that did make publication. It’s from his poem, ‘The House of Sorrows’. It talks about the ‘healing’ affects of removing a woman’s heart with a knife,

              'The life-gashed heart, the assassin's healing poinard [knife] draw...
              The remedy of steel has gone home to her sick heart.
              Her breast, dishabited,
              Revealed her heart above,
              A little blot of red.'

              Are not poems simply a product of intellect, some gesture in reply to a grand or sentimental thought? Exactly where did Thompson think great poems originated? The simple answer is given in biographer J.C Reid's, book, "Francis Thompson Man and Poet," It recorded a chance remark by Thompson in which the poet made an effective summary of what fed his inspiration,

              ‘Every great poem is a human sacrifice.'
              Last edited by Richard Patterson; 03-05-2015, 11:25 PM.
              Author of

              "Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson"