CSFF Blog Tour: The Hound of Heaven

Among Starflower‘s fine points is its spiritual themes. I found them interesting, and ultimately moving, and in the various devices of Christian fantasy, they were fresh. Fresh, but familiar. I had read something similar in a poem once.

In her Author’s Note, Anne Elisabeth Stengl wrote, “Many of themes found in Starflower were inspired by a beautiful poem written by Francis Thompson. The poem is called ‘The Hound of Heaven’.” Principal among those themes is the imagery of God as the Hound, and us as the quarry, fleeing His love. The conversation between Eanrin and the Hound contains lines adapted from the poem – and, one might add, lines adapted from Paul’s words and from John’s.

Here, then, is a link to the poem, with a lovely and elegant layout; beneath the poem is a brief commentary G. K. Chesterton once gave on it, and a biography of the poet. And here you may hear Richard Burton read The Hound of Heaven.

This poem is not easy reading; I think that anyone besides a Cambridge professor of literature who wants to understand all the words will have to use a Dictionary. The narrator is not afraid to say things like, “Banqueting / With [our Lady-Mother] in her wind-walled palace, / Underneath her azured dais, / Quaffing, as your taintless way is, / From a chalice / Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.”

Yet there is, first to last, something arresting about the poem. The style and the imagery are astounding – some might say confounding, but never merely dull. More even than that, the poem’s power is the story it tells of Man and of God, of the flight and the chase, the love and the fear. Hard as The Hound of Heaven is, it is worth the effort.

3 thoughts on “CSFF Blog Tour: The Hound of Heaven

  1. My one regret in reading Starflower is that I read the author’s note (for those who don’t know, this is located in the back) before I read the story. Hence, I knew the direction of the story because of the poem. I wonder if I wouldn’t have felt more of the cat’s fear of the hound otherwise.

    And yet, as an after note, it’s perfect. What a great way to have readers mulling over the story they just finished.

    It’s a beautiful image and well-played in the novel.

    Interesting that Janeen also chose to write on this aspect (primarily) in her day 3 post, too.


  2. I wondered a little about the Hound, but never much. Honestly, he made a better first impression on me than the cat.

    What caused me most to wonder about the Hound’s nature was the fact that he appeared at just the right moment to scare Eanrin into bringing the Dragonwitch into the Faerie kingdom. It’s a very interesting theological moment in the book. The Hound knew – he knew – what would happen when he showed himself to Eanrin then. He still did it – maybe because he also knew what would happen afterward.

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