Poem 20

It is hard to say just to whom this poem is directed. It would seem to be directed to a human lover and to carry an elegiac message of farewell as the poet moves into realms of the imagination where the lady cannot follow, being limited to more everyday things.

Anyway it is quite beautiful and evocative, almost like an invitation into a dream realm.

However ‘the sheep are in your teeth’ strikes me as a distinctly odd image.

Does anyone have any explanations or ideas? It is so unlike other Francis poems one has to wonder about its authorship.

The stars are in your hair as flowers of memory,
the sea is round your throat with pearls of memory,
the sheep are in your teeth for shepherds of memory,
the hills are in your eyes as lighthouses of memory.

But you will not want to know me
when I am beyond the sea
and the stars and the shepherds
on the Hill of the Leopards.

You will not want to be with me where the leopard
roams in the Valley of a Hundred Perfumes,
or in the Mansion of Forty Musical Rooms:

For your pleasure is still in flowers and pearls and sheep
and the songs of the shepherds in the pastures of memory
before you draw the curtains and give yourself to sleep.

But hold on , I think I do see now! As usual Francis is addressing his Beloved Lord. Stanza 1 deals with memory of the past. Next stanza looks to the future, while Stanza 3 deals with the unlimited imaginings of the planes and dreams. The conclusion brings us to the reality of His presence in a simple pastoral celebration of the moment, accepting that it is God who gives the dream and who will end it. But I still have problems with those sheep in the teeth!