A Question

by Francis Thompson

O bird with heart of wassail,
That toss the Bacchic branch,
And slip your shaken music,
An elfin avalanche;

Come tell me, O tell me,
My poet of the blue!
What’s YOUR thought of me, Sweet?––
Here’s MY thought of you.

A small thing, a wee thing,
A brown fleck of nought;
With winging and singing
That who could have thought?

A small thing, a wee thing,
A brown amaze withal,
That fly a pitch more azure
Because you’re so small.

Bird, I’m a small thing––
My angel descries;
With winging and singing
That who could surmise?

Ah, small things, ah, wee things,
Are the poets all,
Whose tour’s the more azure
Because they’re so small.

The angels hang watching
The tiny men-things:-
‘The dear speck of flesh, see,
With such daring wings!

‘Come, tell us, O tell us,
Thou strange mortality!
What’s THY thought of us, Dear?––
Here’s OUR thought of thee.’

‘Alack! you tall angels,
I can’t think so high!
I can’t think what it feels like
Not to be I.’

Come tell me, O tell me,
My poet of the blue!
What’s YOUR thought of me, Sweet?–
Here’s MY thought of you.

______

Commentary:

This is a sweet, beautiful way to express the limit of thinking, especially in the context of finding out who it is that is really living. The personal-me sense is all I know to be me, and though it’s obviously an experience, and therefore cannot be the one who is living, I find myself clinging to it, though it has become nightmarish. Familiarity is a strong bind indeed. I know of no other way to know. I suppose the poem appealed to my sore head because it served as a kind of soothing balm. And it’s also an inspiring example of a way, a cathartic or creative one, to channel and transform the frustrating question that is myself–––other than my own personal favorite of keeping on banging my head against the wall followed by, well, angry frustration (then eating a pack of cookies).

“Alack, you tall angels, / I can’t think so high!”
Amen, Francis Thompson, indeed. Realizing that relying on the mind alone, I’ll always be cornered, praying for help is the rational course of action. “Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.”

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