The Hound of Heaven

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"The Hound of Heaven" is a 182-line poem written by English poet Francis Thompson (1859–1907). The poem became famous and was the source of much of Thompson's posthumous reputation. The poem was first published in Thompson's first volume of poems in 1893.[1] It was included in the Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse (1917). It was also an influence on J. R. R. Tolkien, who read it a few years before it was published in 1917.

One of the most loved and possibly one of the more difficult Christian poems to read and appreciate, "The Hound of Heaven" has been loved for over a century. It is not, however, a poem that most people cannot read without some background. ... [D]o not be dissuaded from reading it.

"The name is strange. It startles one at first. It is so bold, so new, so fearless. It does not attract, rather the reverse. But when one reads the poem this strangeness disappears. The meaning is understood. As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and imperturbed pace, so does God follow the fleeing soul by His Divine grace. And though in sin or in human love, away from God it seeks to hide itself, Divine grace follows after, unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit." The Neumann Press Book of Verse, 1988[2]


  • Thompson's poem was the inspiration for a series of 23 paintings by the American painter R. H. Ives Gammell (1893–1981). Titled, A Pictorial Sequence Painted by R. H. Ives Gammell Based on The Hound of Heaven, it is considered Gammell's magnum opus. Gammell began making plans to execute the pictorial sequence during World War II and completed the series in 1956. For his paintings, Gammell used symbols drawn from C. G. Jung, primitive and medieval cultures, and biblical and mythological sources, to give visual form to Thompson's poem. The Pictorial Sequence was recently (March 15, 2013 through May 27, 2013) housed at the Maryhill Museum of Art, Goldendale, Washington, USA.[3]
  • Thompson's poem is also the source of the phrase, "with all deliberate speed," used by the Supreme Court in Brown II, the remedy phase of the famous decision on school desegregation.[4]
  • "The Hound of Heaven" was mentioned in the suicide note of George R. Price, a geneticist who pioneered the evolutionary theory of altruism and suicide (among other things), before becoming a committed Christian and giving away all his possessions to the poor.[7]
  • Kamala Silva, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, received the gift of a printing of the "Hound of Heaven" from Yogananda and he also recited it for her. In 1935, the East Indian spiritual master included "The Hound of Heaven" in one of his phonographic albums, "Songs of My Heart". Today, his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, offers this album in the form of a CD.[8][9]


  1. ^ Thomson, John (1912). Francis Thompson, the Preston-Born Poet, with Notes on Some of His Works. Read Books. ISBN 978-1-4086-6531-2. 
  2. ^ The Hound of Heaven: Part I
  3. ^ See also the Maryhill Museum of Art's website.
  4. ^ Chen, Jim. Poetic Justice, 29 Cardozo Law Review (2007)
  5. ^ Barry Alfonso, The Billboard Guide to Contemporary Christian Music Watson-Guptil Publications (2002) ISBN 0-8230-7718-7
  6. ^ Sarah Boxer, Charles M. Schulz, 'Peanuts' Creator, Dies at 77 The New York Times – On This Day (February 14, 2000)
  7. ^ Oren, Harman (2011). The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393339994. 
  8. ^ Silva, Kamala (1964). The Flawless Mirror. Kamala. ISBN 978-1565890541. 
  9. ^ "Songs of My Heart: The Hound of Heaven". Retrieved 2013-07-31. 

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