Francis_Thompson_at_19

On a short trip by train to the North Norfolk coast, I stopped at the lovely seaside town of Sheringham – a place I hadn’t been to for a number of years.  I didn’t really know what I would feel as I was probably a teenager the last time I had been there.  Loving Cromer so much, it was a joy to find Sheringham a lovely little town with a nice front, a good mix of new and traditional shops (no hipster gentrification!) and a very brilliant and eccentric bookshop known as ‘Peter’s Books’ tucked away in a road running from the Church back up to the historic railway station.

As you walk into Peter’s Bookshop, you step into a parallel world, a goldmine of books and a genuine browsing experience.  Its a small(ish) bookshop, but it is stacked full to the rafters of books.  There was a small sign up that boasted the shop houses 20,000 books (no mean feat) and the owner has yet more in storage.  He also suggests that he sells 200 books a week which I am thinking for the second hand book trade is probably good?

As I wandered around there after lunch and a cup of tea I found loads of books to my interest and vowed to go back (often).  I found a selection of translated poems by Geogre Szirtes, an old hard back volume of T S Eliot’s Four Quartets, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and an old volume of Francis Thompson’s poems.  All this for just over £10.00.

Having read the small antiquarian volume of Francis Thompson’s poems, I was struck by just how much of a remarkable spirit he was and began wondering why he simply wasn’t better known.  His imagery is striking, rigorous and textured by the heart of deep experience.  And yet you do no see his name mentioned much in re-issues, or collections, like other worthy Victorian poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Like Hopkins, he is an original of style.  He is also a mystic.  A catholic mystic, so that too he shares with Hopkins.  His collocations of images are often so striking, that they bring you a new awareness of an unseen paradox, or a paradoxical tension in something you thought so obvious of face and literal.  He was a tormented soul, and so that too strikes through his imagery with utter beauty.  When he talks of love, and being in love, and sees a creator source drown a star in someone’s eyes – you know you are in good company!

And with that falling image I say goodbye, noting that the falling star always trails the light, and I offer you my recommendations!

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