Phoebe Waller-Bridge did the pandemic form of a “visit” with Stephen Colbert to promote the charitable streaming of a Fleabag stage performance, and Colbert revealed himself to be the kind of viewer who likes a good fan theory. More specifically, the host revealed that he’s been thinking too much about the Amazon TV show’s second-season fox. You know, the fox who stalked the Hot Priest, and the fox whose meaning was never really explained on the show, but of course, fans have speculated upon its symbolism. Maybe it represented the priest’s anxiety or conflicted state, and some have suggested that the fox chases the priest and brings him back to Fleabag. No one really knows, though!
Well, Colbert offered his best guess at what the animal signifies — “I think the fox is the Hound of Heaven” (a reference to the Francis Thompson poem) — which led Waller-Bridge’s jaw to drop. She expressed wishing that was her answer, and then Colbert started reciting the poem from memory:
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Aaaand then he skipped to the ending:
“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”
If one embraces what Colbert is suggesting, the poem’s final passage urges people not to run from God. Whether that applies to the Hot Priest or Fleabag, who knows? Fleabag was a professed athiest, and the Hot Priest chose God, so it makes more sense for this poem’s meaning to apply to him. Waller-Bridge seems thrilled to add this context to her work, but it’s not exactly Fleabag canon, just some nerdy fun.
Watch Colbert’s theorizing (and Waller-Bridge’s reaction) after the 5:00 minute mark below.