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John keble

John Keble

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Where is the land with milk and honey flowing,
  The promise of our God, our fancy’s theme?
Here over shattered walls dank weeds are growing,
  And blood and fire have run in mingled stream;
     Like oaks and cedars all around
     The giant corses strew the ground,
And haughty Jericho’s cloud-piercing wall
Lies where it sank at Joshua’s trumpet call.

These are not scenes for pastoral dance at even,
  For moonlight rovings in the fragrant glades,
Soft slumbers in the open eye of Heaven,
  And all the listless joy of summer shades.
     We in the midst of ruins live,
     Which every hour dread warning give,
Nor may our household vine or fig-tree hide
The broken arches of old Canaan’s pride.

Where is the sweet repose of hearts repenting,
  The deep calm sky, the sunshine of the soul,
Now Heaven and earth are to our bliss consenting,
  And all the Godhead joins to make us whole.
     The triple crown of mercy now
     Is ready for the suppliant’s brow,
By the Almighty Three for ever planned,
And from behind the cloud held out by Jesus’ hand.

“Now, Christians, hold your own—the land before ye
  Is open—win your way, and take your rest.”
So sounds our war-note; but our path of glory
  By many a cloud is darkened and unblest:
     And daily as we downward glide,
     Life’s ebbing stream on either side
Shows at each turn some mouldering hope or joy,
The Man seems following still the funeral of the Boy.

Open our eyes, Thou Sun of life and gladness,
  That we may see that glorious world of Thine!
It shines for us in vain, while drooping sadness
  Enfolds us here like mist:  come Power benign,
     Touch our chilled hearts with vernal smile,
     Our wintry course do Thou beguile,
Nor by the wayside ruins let us mourn,
Who have th’ eternal towers for our appointed bourne.

It is so—ope thine eyes, and see -
  What viewest thou all around?
A desert, where iniquity
  And knowledge both abound.

In the waste howling wilderness
  The Church is wandering still,
Because we would not onward press
  When close to Sion’s hill.

Back to the world we faithless turned,
  And far along the wild,
With labour lost and sorrow earned,
  Our steps have been beguiled.

Yet full before us, all the while,
  The shadowing pillar stays,
The living waters brightly smile,
  The eternal turrets blaze,

Yet Heaven is raining angels’ bread
  To be our daily food,
And fresh, as when it first was shed,
  Springs forth the SAVIOUR’S blood.

From every region, race, and speech,
  Believing myriads throng,
Till, far as sin and sorrow reach,
  Thy grace is spread along;

Till sweetest nature, brightest art,
  Their votive incense bring,
And every voice and every heart
  Own Thee their God and King.

All own; but few, alas! will love;
  Too like the recreant band
That with Thy patient spirit strove
  Upon the Red-sea strand.

O Father of long-suffering grace,
  Thou who hast sworn to stay
Pleading with sinners face to face
  Through all their devious way:

How shall we speak to Thee, O LORD,
  Or how in silence lie?
Look on us, and we are abhorred,
  Turn from us, and we die.

Thy guardian fire, Thy guiding cloud,
  Still let them gild our wall,
Nor be our foes and Thine allowed
  To see us faint and fall.

Too oft, within this camp of Thine,
  Rebellions murmurs rise;
Sin cannot bear to see Thee shine
  So awful to her eyes.

Fain would our lawless hearts escape,
  And with the heathen be,
To worship every monstrous shape
  In fancied darkness free.

Vain thought, that shall not be at all!
  Refuse we or obey,
Our ears have heard the Almighty’s call,
  We cannot be as they.

We cannot hope the heathen’s doom
  To whom GOD’S Son is given,
Whose eyes have seen beyond the tomb,
  Who have the key of Heaven.

Weak tremblers on the edge of woe,
  Yet shrinking from true bliss,
Our rest must be “no rest below,”
  And let our prayer be this:

“LORD, wave again Thy chastening rod,
  Till every idol throne
Crumble to dust, and Thou, O GOD,
  Reign in our hearts alone.

”Bring all our wandering fancies home,
  For Thou hast every spell,
And 'mid the heathen where they roam,
  Thou knowest, LORD, too well.

“Thou know’st our service sad and hard,
  Thou know’st us fond and frail;
Win us to be loved and spared
  When all the world shall fail.

”So when at last our weary days
  Are well-nigh wasted here,
And we can trace Thy wondrous ways
  In distance calm and clear,

“When in Thy love and Israel’s sin
  We read our story true,
We may not, all too late, begin
  To wish our hopes were new.

”Long loved, long tried, long spared as they,
  Unlike in this alone,
That, by Thy grace, our hearts shall stay
  For evermore Thine own.”

Red o’€™er the forest peers the setting sun;
The line of yellow light dies fast away
That crown’€™d the eastern copse; and chill and dun
Falls on the moor the brief November day.

Now the tired hunter winds a parting note,
And Echo bids good-night from every glade;
Yet wait awhile and see the calm leaves float
Each to his rest beneath their parent shade.

How like decaying life they seem to glide
And yet no second spring have they in store;
And where they fall, forgotten to abide
Is all their portion, and they ask no more.

Soon o’€™er their heads blithe April airs shall sing,
A thousand wild-flowers round them shall unfold,
The green buds glisten in the dews of Spring,
And all be vernal rapture as of old.

Unconscious they in waste oblivion lie,
In all the world of busy life around
No thought of them’€”in all the bounteous sky
No drop, for them, of kindly influence found.

Man’€™s portion is to die and rise again:
Yet he complains, while these unmurmuring part
With their sweet lives, as pure from sin and stain
As his when Eden held his virgin heart.

And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto
her, Weep not.  And He came and touched the bier; and they that
bare him stood still.   And He said, Young man, I say unto thee,
Arise.—St. Luke VII. 13, 14.

Who says, the wan autumnal soon
  Beams with too faint a smile
To light up nature’s face again,
And, though the year be on this wane,
  With thoughts of spring the heart beguile?

Waft him, thou soft September breeze,
  And gently lay him down
Within some circling woodland wall,
Where bright leaves, reddening ere they fall,
  Wave gaily o’er the waters brown.

And let some graceful arch be there
  With wreathed mullions proud,
With burnished ivy for its screen,
And moss, that glows as fresh and green
  As thought beneath an April cloud. -

Who says the widow’s heart must break,
  The childless mother sink? -
A kinder truer voice I hear,
Which e’en beside that mournful bier
  Whence parents’ eyes would hopeless shrink,

Bids weep no more—O heart bereft,
  How strange, to thee, that sound!
A widow o’er her only son,
Feeling more bitterly alone
  For friends that press officious round.

Yet is the voice of comfort heard,
  For Christ hath touched the bier -
The bearers wait with wondering eye,
The swelling bosom dares not sigh,
  But all is still, 'twixt hope and fear.

E’en such an awful soothing calm
  We sometimes see alight
On Christian mourners, while they wait
In silence, by some churchyard gate,
  Their summons to this holy rite.

And such the tones of love, which break
  The stillness of that hour,
Quelling th’ embittered spirit’s strife -
“The Resurrection and the Life
  Am I:  believe, and die no more.”

Unchanged that voice—and though not yet
  The dead sit up and speak,
Answering its call; we gladlier rest
Our darlings on earth’s quiet breast,
  And our hearts feel they must not break.

Far better they should sleep awhile
  Within the Church’s shade,
Nor wake, until new heaven, new earth,
Meet for their new immortal birth
  For their abiding-place be made,

Than wander back to life, and lean
  On our frail love once more.
’Tis sweet, as year by year we lose
Friends out of sight, in faith to muse
  How grows in Paradise our store.

Then pass, ye mourners, cheerly on,
  Through prayer unto the tomb,
Still, as ye watch life’s falling leaf,
Gathering from every loss and grief
  Hope of new spring and endless home.

Then cheerly to your work again
  With hearts new-braced and set
To run, untired, love’s blessed race.
As meet for those, who face to face
  Over the grave their Lord have met.

Oh! who shall dare in this frail scene
On holiest happiest thoughts to lean,
  On Friendship, Kindred, or on Love?
Since not Apostles’ hands can clasp
Each other in so firm a grasp
  But they shall change and variance prove.

Yet deem not, on such parting sad
Shall dawn no welcome dear and glad:
  Divided in their earthly race,
Together at the glorious goal,
Each leading many a rescued soul,
  The faithful champions shall embrace.

For e’en as those mysterious Four,
Who the bright whirling wheels upbore
  By Chebar in the fiery blast.
So, on their tasks of love and praise
This saints of God their several ways
  Right onward speed, yet join at last.

And sometimes e’en beneath the moon
The Saviour gives a gracious boon,
  When reconciled Christians meet,
And face to face, and heart to heart,
High thoughts of holy love impart
  In silence meek, or converse sweet.

Companion of the Saints! ’twas thine
To taste that drop of peace divine,
  When the great soldier of thy Lord
Called thee to take his last farewell,
Teaching the Church with joy to tell
  The story of your love restored.

O then the glory and the bliss,
When all that pained or seemed amiss
  Shall melt with earth and sin away!
When saints beneath their Saviour’s eye,
Filled with each other’s company,
  Shall spend in love th’ eternal day!

The Son of God in doing good
  Was fain to look to Heaven and sigh:
And shall the heirs of sinful blood
  Seek joy unmixed in charity?
God will not let Love’s work impart
Full solace, lest it steal the heart;
Be thou content in tears to sow,
Blessing, like Jesus, in thy woe:

He looked to Heaven, and sadly sighed -
  What saw my gracious Saviour there,
“With fear and anguish to divide
  The joy of Heaven-accepted prayer?
So o’er the bed where Lazarus slept
He to His Father groaned and wept:
What saw He mournful in that grave,
Knowing Himself so strong to save?”

O’erwhelming thoughts of pain and grief
  Over His sinking spirit sweep; -
What boots it gathering one lost leaf
  Out of yon sere and withered heap,
Where souls and bodies, hopes and joys,
All that earth owns or sin destroys,
Under the spurning hoof are cast,
Or tossing in th’ autumnal blast?

The deaf may hear the Saviour’s voice,
  The fettered tongue its chain may break;
But the deaf heart, the dumb by choice,
  The laggard soul, that will not wake,
The guilt that scorns to be forgiven; -
These baffle e’en the spells of Heaven;
In thought of these, His brows benign
Not e’en in healing cloudless shine.

No eye but His might ever bear
  To gaze all down that drear abyss,
Because none ever saw so clear
  The shore beyond of endless bliss:
The giddy waves so restless hurled,
The vexed pulse of this feverish world,
He views and counts with steady sight,
Used to behold the Infinite.

But that in such communion high
  He hath a fount of strength within,
Sure His meek heart would break and die,
  O’erburthened by His brethren’s sin;
Weak eyes on darkness dare not gaze,
It dazzles like the noonday blaze;
But He who sees God’s face may brook
On the true face of Sin to look.

What then shall wretched sinners do,
  When in their last, their hopeless day,
Sin, as it is, shall meet their view,
  God turn His face for aye away?
Lord, by Thy sad and earnest eye,
When Thou didst look to Heaven and sigh:
Thy voice, that with a word could chase
The dumb, deaf spirit from his place;

As Thou hast touched our ears, and taught
  Our tongues to speak Thy praises plain,
Quell Thou each thankless godless thought
  That would make fast our bonds again.
From worldly strife, from mirth unblest,
Drowning Thy music in the breast,
From foul reproach, from thrilling fears,
Preserve, good Lord, Thy servants’ ears.

From idle words, that restless throng
  And haunt our hearts when we would pray,
From Pride’s false chime, and jarring wrong,
  Seal Thou my lips, and guard the way:
For Thou hast sworn, that every ear,
Willing or loth, Thy trump shall hear,
And every tongue unchained be
To own no hope, no God, but Thee.

When brothers part for manhood’s race,
  What gift may most endearing prove
To keep fond memory its her place,
  And certify a brother’s love?

’Tis true, bright hours together told,
  And blissful dreams in secret shared,
Serene or solemn, gay or bold,
  Shall last in fancy unimpaired.

E’en round the death-bed of the good
  Such dear remembrances will hover,
And haunt us with no vexing mood
  When all the cares of earth are over.

But yet our craving spirits feel,
  We shall live on, though Fancy die,
And seek a surer pledge—a seal
  Of love to last eternally.

Who art thou, that wouldst grave thy name
  Thus deeply in a brother’s heart?
Look on this saint, and learn to frame
  Thy love-charm with true Christian art.

First seek thy Saviour out, and dwell
  Beneath this shadow of His roof,
Till thou have scanned His features well,
  And known Him for the Christ by proof;

Such proof as they are sure to find
  Who spend with Him their happy days,
Clean hands, and a self-ruling mind
  Ever in tune for love and praise.

Then, potent with the spell of Heaven,
  Go, and thine erring brother gain,
Entice him home to be forgiven,
  Till he, too, see his Saviour plain.

Or, if before thee in the race,
  Urge him with thine advancing tread,
Till, like twin stars, with even pace,
  Each lucid course be duly aped.

No fading frail memorial give
  To soothe his soul when thou art gone,
But wreaths of hope for aye to live,
  And thoughts of good together done.

That so, before the judgment-seat,
  Though changed and glorified each face,
Not unremembered ye may meet
  For endless ages to embrace.

There is a book, who runs may read,
  Which heavenly truth imparts,
And all the lore its scholars need,
  Pure eyes and Christian hearts.

The works of God above, below,
  Within us and around,
Are pages in that book, to show
  How God Himself is found.

The glorious sky embracing all
  Is like the Maker’s love,
Wherewith encompassed, great and small
  In peace and order move.

The Moon above, the Church below,
  A wondrous race they run,
But all their radiance, all their glow,
  Each borrows of its Sun.

The Savour lends the light and heat
  That crowns His holy hill;
The saints, like stars, around His seat
  Perform their courses still.

The saints above are stars in heaven -
  What are the saints on earth?
Like tress they stand whom God has given,
  Our Eden’s happy birth.

Faith is their fixed unswerving root,
  Hope their unfading flower,
Fair deeds of charity their fruit,
  The glory of their bower.

The dew of heaven is like Thy grace,
  It steals in silence down;
But where it lights, this favoured place
  By richest fruits is known.

One Name above all glorious names
  With its ten thousand tongues
The everlasting sea proclaims.
  Echoing angelic songs.

The raging Fire, the roaring Wind,
  Thy boundless power display;
But in the gentler breeze we find
  Thy Spirit’s viewless way.

Two worlds are ours:  ’tis only Sin
  Forbids us to descry
The mystic heaven and earth within,
  Plain as the sea and sky.

Thou, who hast given me eyes to see
  And love this sight so fair,
Give me a heart to find out Thee,
  And read Thee everywhere.

Now is there solemn pause in earth and heaven;
     The Conqueror now
     His bonds hath riven,
And Angels wonder why He stays below:
  Yet hath not man his lesson learned,
  How endless love should be returned.

Deep is the silence as of summer noon,
     When a soft shower
     Will trickle soon,
A gracious rain, freshening the weary bower -
  O sweetly then far off is heard
  The clear note of some lonely bird.

So let Thy turtle-dove’s sad call arise
     In doubt and fear
     Through darkening skies,
And pierce, O Lord, Thy justly-sealed ear,
  Where on the house-top, all night long
  She trills her widowed, faltering song.

Teach her to know and love her hour of prayer,
     And evermore,
     As faith grows rare,
Unlock her heart, and offer all its store
  In holier love and humbler vows,
  As suits a lost returning spouse.

Not as at first, but with intenser cry,
     Upon the mount
     She now must lie,
Till Thy dear love to blot the sad account
  Of her rebellious race be won,
  Pitying the mother in the son.

But chiefly (for she knows Thee angered worst
     By holiest things
     Profaned and curst),
Chiefly for Aaron’s seed she spreads her wings,
  If but one leaf she may from Thee
  Win of the reconciling tree.

For what shall heal, when holy water banes!
     Or who may guide
     O’er desert plains
Thy loved yet sinful people wandering wide,
  If Aaron’s hand unshrinking mould
  An idol form of earthly gold?

Therefore her tears are bitter, and as deep
     Her boding sigh,
     As, while men sleep,
Sad-hearted mothers heave, that wakeful lie,
  To muse upon some darling child
  Roaming in youth’s uncertain wild.

Therefore on fearful dreams her inward sight
     Is fain to dwell -
     What lurid light
Shall the last darkness of the world dispel,
  The Mediator in His wrath
  Descending down the lightning’s path.

Yet, yet awhile, offended Saviour, pause,
     In act to break
     Thine outraged laws,
O spare Thy rebels for Thine own dear sake;
  Withdraw Thine hand, nor dash to earth
  The covenant of our second birth.

’Tis forfeit like the first—we own it all -
     Yet for love’s sake
     Let it not fall;
But at Thy touch let veiled hearts awake,
  That nearest to Thine altar lie,
  Yet least of holy things descry.

Teacher of teachers!  Priest of priests! from Thee
     The sweet strong prayer
     Must rise, to free
First Levi, then all Israel, from the snare.
  Thou art our Moses out of sight -
  Speak for us, or we perish quite.

“Yes—deep within and deeper yet
  The rankling shaft of conscience hide,
Quick let the swelling eye forget
  The tears that in the heart abide.
Calm be the voice, the aspect bold,
  No shuddering pass o’er lip or brow,
For why should Innocence be told
  The pangs that guilty spirits bow?

”The loving eye that watches thine
  Close as the air that wraps thee round -
Why in thy sorrow should it pine,
  Since never of thy sin it found?
And wherefore should the heathen see
  What chains of darkness thee enslave,
And mocking say, 'Lo, this is he
  Who owned a God that could not save’?”

Thus oft the mourner’s wayward heart
  Tempts him to hide his grief and die,
Too feeble for Confession’s smart,
  Too proud to bear a pitying eye;
How sweet, in that dark hour, to fall
  On bosoms waiting to receive
Our sighs, and gently whisper all!
  They love us—will not God forgive?

Else let us keep our fast within,
  Till Heaven and we are quite alone,
Then let the grief, the shame, the sin,
  Before the mercy-seat be thrown.
Between the porch and altar weep,
  Unworthy of the holiest place,
Yet hoping near the shrine to keep
  One lowly cell in sight of grace.

Nor fear lest sympathy should fail -
  Hast thou not seen, in night hours drear,
When racking thoughts the heart assail,
  The glimmering stars by turns appear,
And from the eternal house above
  With silent news of mercy steal?
So Angels pause on tasks of love,
  To look where sorrowing sinners kneel.

Or if no Angel pass that way,
  He who in secret sees, perchance
May bid His own heart-warming ray
  Toward thee stream with kindlier glance,
As when upon His drooping head
  His Father’s light was poured from Heaven,
What time, unsheltered and unfed,
  Far in the wild His steps were driven.

High thoughts were with Him in that hour,
  Untold, unspeakable on earth -
And who can stay the soaring power
  Of spirits weaned from worldly mirth,
While far beyond the sound of praise
  With upward eye they float serene,
And learn to bear their Saviour’s blaze
  When Judgment shall undraw the screen?

I marked a rainbow in the north,
     What time the wild autumnal sun
  From his dark veil at noon looked forth,
     As glorying in his course half done,
  Flinging soft radiance far and wide
Over the dusky heaven and bleak hill-side.

  It was a gleam to Memory dear,
     And as I walk and muse apart,
  When all seems faithless round and drear,
     I would revive it in my heart,
  And watch how light can find its way
To regions farthest from the fount of day.

  Light flashes in the gloomiest sky,
     And Music in the dullest plain,
  For there the lark is soaring high
     Over her flat and leafless reign,
  And chanting in so blithe a tone,
It shames the weary heart to feel itself alone.

  Brighter than rainbow in the north,
     More cheery than the matin lark,
  Is the soft gleam of Christian worth,
     Which on some holy house we mark;
  Dear to the pastor’s aching heart
To think, where’er he looks, such gleam may have a part;

  May dwell, unseen by all but Heaven,
     Like diamond blazing in the mine;
  For ever, where such grace is given,
     It fears in open day to shine,
  Lest the deep stain it owns within
Break out, and Faith be shamed by the believer’s sin.

  In silence and afar they wait,
     To find a prayer their Lord may hear:
  Voice of the poor and desolate,
     You best may bring it to His ear;
  Your grateful intercessions rise
With more than royal pomp, and pierce the skies.

  Happy the soul whose precious cause
     You in the Sovereign Presence plead -
  “This is the lover of Thy laws,
     The friend of Thine in fear and need,”
  For to the poor Thy mercy lends
That solemn style, “Thy nation and Thy friends.”

  He too is blest whose outward eye
     The graceful lines of art may trace,
  While his free spirit, soaring high,
     Discerns the glorious from the base;
  Till out of dust his magic raise
A home for prayer and love, and full harmonious praise,

  Where far away and high above,
     In maze on maze the tranced sight
  Strays, mindful of that heavenly love
     Which knows no end in depth or height,
  While the strong breath of Music seems
To waft us ever on, soaring in blissful dreams.

  What though in poor and humble guise
     Thou here didst sojourn, cottage-born?
  Yet from Thy glory in the skies
     Our earthly gold Thou dost not scorn.
  For Love delights to bring her best,
And where Love is, that offering evermore is blest.

  Love on the Saviour’s dying head
     Her spikenard drops unblamed may pour,
  May mount His cross, and wrap Him dead
     In spices from the golden shore;
  Risen, may embalm His sacred name
With all a Painter’s art, and all a Minstrel’s flame.

  Worthless and lost our offerings seem,
     Drops in the ocean of His praise;
  But Mercy with her genial beam
     Is ripening them to pearly blaze,
  To sparkle in His crown above,
Who welcomes here a child’s as there an angel’s love.

Lessons sweet of spring returning,
  Welcome to the thoughtful heart!
May I call ye sense or learning,
  Instinct pure, or Heaven-taught art?
Be your title what it may,
Sweet this lengthening April day,
While with you the soul is free,
Ranging wild o’er hill and lea.

Soft as Memnon’s harp at morning,
  To the inward ear devout,
Touched by light, with heavenly warning
  Your transporting chords ring out.
Every leaf in every nook,
Every wave in every brook,
Chanting with a solemn voice,
Minds us of our better choice.

Needs no show of mountain hoary,
  Winding shore or deepening glen,
Where the landscape in its glory
  Teaches truth to wandering men:
Give true hearts but earth and sky,
And some flowers to bloom and die,
Homely scenes and simple views
Lowly thoughts may best infuse.

See the soft green willow springing
  Where the waters gently pass,
Every way her free arms flinging
  O’er the moist and reedy grass.
Long ere winter blasts are fled,
See her tipped with vernal red,
And her kindly flower displayed
Ere her leaf can cast a shade.

Though the rudest hand assail her,
  Patiently she droops awhile,
But when showers and breezes hail her,
  Wears again her willing smile.
Thus I learn Contentment’s power
From the slighted willow bower,
Ready to give thanks and live
On the least that Heaven may give.

If, the quiet brooklet leaving,
  Up the stony vale I wind,
Haply half in fancy grieving
  For the shades I leave behind,
By the dusty wayside drear,
Nightingales with joyous cheer
Sing, my sadness to reprove,
Gladlier than in cultured grove.

Where the thickest boughs are twining
  Of the greenest darkest tree,
There they plunge, the light declining -
  All may hear, but none may see.
Fearless of the passing hoof,
Hardly will they fleet aloof;
So they live in modest ways,
Trust entire, and ceaseless praise.