Monday, May 9, 2016

Lionel Johnson

Lionel Johnson (1867—1902) is a poet and literary critic, born in England to a family that thought of itself as Irish. He converted to Catholicism in 1891 after having graduated from Oxford the previous year.

He lived in London, and was a member of The Rhymers' Club. His close friend, William Butler Yeats, described the best of Johnson's poetry as "immortal". He struggled against alcoholism, and died of a stroke, after a fall in the street where he fractured his skull.

Johnson's Poetical Works were edited by Ezra Pound in 1915, and The Religious Poems of Lionel Johnson appeared in 1916.

The Darkness

Master of spirits! hear me: King of souls!
I kneel before Thine altar, the long night,
Besieging Thee with penetrable prayers;
And all I ask, light from the Face of God.
Thy darkness Thou hast given me enough,
The dark clouds of Thine angry majesty:
Now give me light! I cannot always walk
Surely beneath the full and starless night.
Lighten me, fallen down, I know not where,
Save, to the shadows and the fear of death.
Thy Saints in light see light, and sing for joy:
Safe from the dark, safe from the dark and cold.
But from my dark comes only doubt of light:
Disloyalty, that trembles to despair.
Now bring me out of night, and with the sun
Clothe me, and crown me with Thy seven stars,
Thy spirits in the hollow of Thine hand.
Thou from the still throne of Thy tabernacle
Wilt come to me in glory, O Lord God!
Thou wilt, I doubt Thee not: I worship Thee
Before Thine holy altar, the long night.
Else have I nothing in the world, but death:
Thine hounding winds rush by me day and night,
Thy seas roar in mine ears: I have no rest,
No peace, but am afflicted constantly,
Driven from wilderness to wilderness.
And yet Thou hast a perfect house of light,
Above the four great winds, an house of peace:
Its beauty of the crystal and the dew,
Guard Angels and Archangels, in their hands
The blade of a sword shaken. Thither bring
Thy servant: when the black night falls on me,
With bitter voices tempting in the gloom,
Send out Thine armies, flaming ministers,
And shine upon the night: for what I would,
I cannot, save these help me. O Lord God!
Now, when my prayers upon Thine altar lie,
When Thy dark anger is too hard for me:
Though vision of Thyself, through flying fire,
Have mercy, and give light, and stablish me!

Thanks to Burl Horniachek for suggesting Lionel Johnson for Kingdom Poets.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.