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John keble

John Keble

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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.

O Lord my God, do thou Thy holy will -
  I will lie still -
I will not stir, lest I forsake Thine arm,
  And break the charm
Which lulls me, clinging to my Father’s breast,
  In perfect rest.

Wild fancy, peace! thou must not me beguile
  With thy false smile:
I know thy flatteries and thy cheating ways;
  Be silent, Praise,
Blind guide with siren voice, and blinding all
  That hear thy call.

Come, Self-devotion, high and pure,
Thoughts that in thankfulness endure,
Though dearest hopes are faithless found,
And dearest hearts are bursting round.
Come, Resignation, spirit meek,
And let me kiss thy placid cheek,
And read in thy pale eye serene
Their blessing, who by faith can wean
Their hearts from sense, and learn to love
God only, and the joys above.

They say, who know the life divine,
And upward gaze with eagle eyne,
That by each golden crown on high,
Rich with celestial jewelry,
Which for our Lord’s redeemed is set,
There hangs a radiant coronet,
All gemmed with pure and living light,
Too dazzling for a sinner’s sight,
Prepared for virgin souls, and them
Who seek the martyr’s diadem.

Nor deem, who to that bliss aspire,
Must win their way through blood and fire.
The writhings of a wounded heart
Are fiercer than a foeman’s dart.
Oft in Life’s stillest shade reclining,
In Desolation unrepining,
Without a hope on earth to find
A mirror in an answering mind,
Meek souls there are, who little dream
Their daily strife an Angel’s theme,
Or that the rod they take so calm
Shall prove in Heaven a martyr’s palm.

And there are souls that seem to dwell
Above this earth—so rich a spell
Floats round their steps, where’er they move,
From hopes fulfilled and mutual love.
Such, if on high their thoughts are set,
Nor in the stream the source forget,
If prompt to quit the bliss they know,
Following the Lamb where’er He go,
By purest pleasures unbeguiled
To idolise or wife or child;
Such wedded souls our God shall own
For faultless virgins round His throne.

Thus everywhere we find our suffering God,
  And where He trod
May set our steps:  the Cross on Calvary
  Uplifted high
Beams on the martyr host, a beacon light
  In open fight.

To the still wrestlings of the lonely heart
  He doth impart
The virtue of his midnight agony,
  When none was nigh,
Save God and one good angel, to assuage
  The tempest’s rage.

Mortal! if life smile on thee, and thou find
  All to thy mind,
Think, who did once from Heaven to Hell descend,
  Thee to befriend:
So shalt thou dare forego, at His dear call,
  Thy best, thine all.

“O Father! not My will, but Thine be done” -
  So spake the Son.
Be this our charm, mellowing Earth’s ruder noise
  Of griefs and joys:
That we may cling for ever to Thy breast
  In perfect rest!

Hold up thy mirror to the sun,
  And thou shalt need an eagle’s gaze,
So perfectly the polished stone
  Gives back the glory of his rays:

Turn it, and it shall paint as true
  The soft green of the vernal earth,
And each small flower of bashful hue,
  That closest hides its lowly birth.

Our mirror is a blessed book,
  Where out from each illumined page
We see one glorious Image look
  All eyes to dazzle and engage,

The Son of God:  and that indeed
  We see Him as He is, we know,
Since in the same bright glass we read
  The very life of things below. -

Eye of God’s word! where’er we turn
  Ever upon us! thy keen gaze
Can all the depths of sin discern,
  Unravel every bosom’s maze:

Who that has felt thy glance of dread
  Thrill through his heart’s remotest cells,
About his path, about his bed,
  Can doubt what spirit in thee dwells?

“What word is this?  Whence know’st thou me?”
  All wondering cries the humbled heart,
To hear thee that deep mystery,
  The knowledge of itself, impart.

The veil is raised; who runs may read,
  By its own light the truth is seen,
And soon the Israelite indeed
  Bows down t’ adore the Nazarene.

So did Nathanael, guileless man,
  At once, not shame-faced or afraid,
Owning Him God, who so could scan
  His musings in the lonely shade;

In his own pleasant fig-tree’s shade,
  Which by his household fountain grew,
Where at noon-day his prayer he made
  To know God better than he knew.

Oh! happy hours of heavenward thought!
  How richly crowned! how well improved!
In musing o’er the Law he taught,
  In waiting for the Lord he loved.

We must not mar with earthly praise
  What God’s approving word hath sealed:
Enough, if might our feeble lays
  Take up the promise He revealed;

“The child-like faith, that asks not sight,
  Waits not for wonder or for sign,
Believes, because it loves, aright -
  Shall see things greater, things divine.

”Heaven to that gaze shall open wide,
  And brightest angels to and fro
On messages of love shall glide
  'Twixt God above and Christ below.”

So still the guileless man is blest,
  To him all crooked paths are straight,
Him on his way to endless rest
  Fresh, ever-growing strengths await.

God’s witnesses, a glorious host,
  Compass him daily like a cloud;
Martyrs and seers, the saved and lost,
  Mercies and judgments cry aloud.

Yet shall to him the still small voice,
  That first into his bosom found
A way, and fixed his wavering choice,
  Nearest and dearest ever sound.

Well may I guess and feel
           Why Autumn should be sad;
     But vernal airs should sorrow heal,
           Spring should be gay and glad:
  Yet as along this violet bank I rove,
     The languid sweetness seems to choke my breath,
  I sit me down beside the hazel grove,
And sigh, and half could wish my weariness were death.

        Like a bright veering cloud
           Grey blossoms twinkle there,
     Warbles around a busy crowd
           Of larks in purest air.
  Shame on the heart that dreams of blessings gone,
     Or wakes the spectral forms of woe and crime,
  When nature sings of joy and hope alone,
Reading her cheerful lesson in her own sweet time.

        Nor let the proud heart say,
           In her self-torturing hour,
     The travail pangs must have their way,
           The aching brow must lower.
  To us long since the glorious Child is born
     Our throes should be forgot, or only seem
  Like a sad vision told for joy at morn,
For joy that we have waked and found it but a dream.

        Mysterious to all thought
           A mother’s prime of bliss,
     When to her eager lips is brought
           Her infant’s thrilling kiss.
  O never shall it set, the sacred light
     Which dawns that moment on her tender gaze,
  In the eternal distance blending bright
Her darling’s hope and hers, for love and joy and praise.

        No need for her to weep
           Like Thracian wives of yore,
     Save when in rapture still and deep
           Her thankful heart runs o’er.
  They mourned to trust their treasure on the main,
     Sure of the storm, unknowing of their guide:
  Welcome to her the peril and the pain,
For well she knows the bonus where they may safely hide.

        She joys that one is born
           Into a world forgiven,
     Her Father’s household to adorn,
           And dwell with her in Heaven.
  So have I seen, in Spring’s bewitching hour,
     When the glad Earth is offering all her best,
  Some gentle maid bend o’er a cherished flower,
And wish it worthier on a Parent’s heart to rest.

Not till the freezing blast is still,
Till freely leaps the sparkling rill,
And gales sweep soft from summer skies,
As o’er a sleeping infant’s eyes
A mother’s kiss; ere calls like these,
No sunny gleam awakes the trees,
Nor dare the tender flowerets show
Their bosoms to th’ uncertain glow.

Why then, in sad and wintry time,
Her heavens all dark with doubt and crime,
Why lifts the Church her drooping head,
As though her evil hour were fled?
Is she less wise than leaves of spring,
Or birds that cower with folded wing?
What sees she in this lowering sky
To tempt her meditative eye?

She has a charm, a word of fire,
A pledge of love that cannot tire;
By tempests, earthquakes, and by wars,
By rushing waves and falling stars,
By every sign her Lord foretold,
She sees the world is waxing old,
And through that last and direst storm
Descries by faith her Saviour’s form.

Not surer does each tender gem,
Set in the fig-tree’s polish’d stem,
Foreshow the summer season bland,
Than these dread signs Thy mighty hand:
But, oh, frail hearts, and spirits dark!
The season’s flight unwarn’d we mark,
But miss the Judge behind the door,
For all the light of sacred lore:

Yet is He there; beneath our eaves
Each sound His wakeful ear receives:
Hush, idle words, and thoughts of ill,
Your Lord is listening:  peace, be still.
Christ watches by a Christian’s hearth,
Be silent, “vain deluding mirth,”
Till in thine alter’d voice be known
Somewhat of Resignation’s tone.

But chiefly ye should lift your gaze
Above the world’s uncertain haze,
And look with calm unwavering eye
On the bright fields beyond the sky,
Ye, who your Lord’s commission bear
His way of mercy to prepare:
Angels He calls ye:  be your strife
To lead on earth an Angel’s life.

Think not of rest; though dreams be sweet,
Start up, and ply your heavenward feet.
Is not God’s oath upon your head,
Ne’er to sink back on slothful bed,
Never again your loans untie,
Nor let your torches waste and die,
Till, when the shadows thickest fall,
Ye hear your Master’s midnight call?

When Nature tries her finest touch,
  Weaving her vernal wreath,
Mark ye, how close she veils her round,
Not to be traced by sight or sound,
  Nor soiled by ruder breath?

Who ever saw the earliest rose
  First open her sweet breast?
Or, when the summer sun goes down,
The first soft star in evening’s crown
  Light up her gleaming crest?

Fondly we seek the dawning bloom
  On features wan and fair,
The gazing eye no change can trace,
But look away a little space,
  Then turn, and lo! ’tis there.

But there’s a sweeter flower than e’er
  Blushed on the rosy spray -
A brighter star, a richer bloom
Than e’er did western heaven illume
  At close of summer day.

’Tis Love, the last best gift of Heaven;
  Love gentle, holy, pure;
But tenderer than a dove’s soft eye,
The searching sun, the open sky,
  She never could endure.

E’en human Love will shrink from sight
  Here in the coarse rude earth:
How then should rash intruding glance
Break in upon HER sacred trance
  Who boasts a heavenly birth?

So still and secret is her growth,
  Ever the truest heart,
Where deepest strikes her kindly root
For hope or joy, for flower or fruit,
  Least knows its happy part.

God only, and good angels, look
  Behind the blissful screen -
As when, triumphant o’er His woes,
The Son of God by moonlight rose,
  By all but Heaven unseen:

As when the holy Maid beheld
  Her risen Son and Lord:
Thought has not colours half so fair
That she to paint that hour may dare,
  In silence best adored.

The gracious Dove, that brought from Heaven
  The earnest of our bliss,
Of many a chosen witness telling,
On many a happy vision dwelling,
  Sings not a note of this.

So, truest image of the Christ,
  Old Israel’s long-lost son,
What time, with sweet forgiving cheer,
He called his conscious brethren near,
  Would weep with them alone.

He could not trust his melting soul
  But in his Maker’s sight -
Then why should gentle hearts and true
Bare to the rude world’s withering view
  Their treasure of delight!

No—let the dainty rose awhile
  Her bashful fragrance hide -
Rend not her silken veil too soon,
But leave her, in her own soft noon,
  To flourish and abide.

Sun of my soul, Thou Savior dear,
It is not night if Thou be near;
O may no earthborn cloud arise
To hide Thee from Thy servant’s eyes.

When the soft dews of kindly sleep
My wearied eyelids gently steep,
Be my last thought, how sweet to rest
Forever on my Savior’s breast.

Abide with me from morn till eve,
For without Thee I cannot live;
Abide with me when night is nigh,
For without Thee I dare not die.

If some poor wandering child of Thine
Has spurned today the voice Divine,
Now, Lord, the gracious work begin;
Let him no more lie down in sin.

Watch by the sick, enrich the poor
With blessings from Thy boundless store;
Be every mourner’s sleep tonight,
Like infants’ slumbers, pure and right.

Come near and bless us when we wake,
Ere through the world our way we take,
Till in the ocean of Thy love
We lose ourselves in heaven above.

The voice that breathed o’er Eden,
That earliest wedding day
The primal marriage blessing,
It hath not passed away.
Still in the pure espousal
Of Christian man and maid,
The holy Three are with us,
The threefold grace is said.

Be present, aweful Father,
To give away this bride,
As Eve thou gav’st to Adam
Out of his own pierced side:

Be present, Son of Mary,
To join their loving hands,
As thou didst bind two natures
In thine eternal bands!

Be present, holiest Spirit,
To bless them as they kneel,
As thou, for Christ the Bridegroom,
The heavenly Spouse dost seal!

O spread thy pure wing o’er them,
Let no ill power find place,
When onward to thine altar
Their hallowed path they trace,

To cast their crowns before thee
In perfect sacrifice,
Till to the home of gladness
With Christ’s own Bride they rise. Amen

Why blow’st thou not, thou wintry wind,
     Now every leaf is brown and sere,
  And idly droops, to thee resigned,
     The fading chaplet of the year?
  Yet wears the pure aerial sky
  Her summer veil, half drawn on high,
  Of silvery haze, and dark and still
The shadows sleep on every slanting hill.

  How quiet shows the woodland scene!
     Each flower and tree, its duty done,
  Reposing in decay serene,
     Like weary men when age is won,
  Such calm old age as conscience pure
  And self-commanding hearts ensure,
  Waiting their summons to the sky,
Content to live, but not afraid to die.

  Sure if our eyes were purged to trace
     God’s unseen armies hovering round,
  We should behold by angels’ grace
     The four strong winds of Heaven fast bound,
  Their downward sweep a moment stayed
  On ocean cove and forest glade,
  Till the last flower of autumn shed
Her funeral odours on her dying bed.

  So in Thine awful armoury, Lord,
     The lightnings of the judgment-day
  Pause yet awhile, in mercy stored,
     Till willing hearts wear quite away
  Their earthly stains; and spotless shine
  On every brow in light divine
  The Cross by angel hands impressed,
The seal of glory won and pledge of promised

  Little they dream, those haughty souls
     Whom empires own with bended knee,
  What lowly fate their own controls,
     Together linked by Heaven’s decree; -
  As bloodhounds hush their baying wild
  To wanton with some fearless child,
  So Famine waits, and War with greedy eyes,
Till some repenting heart be ready for the skies.

  Think ye the spires that glow so bright
     In front of yonder setting sun,
  Stand by their own unshaken might?
     No—where th’ upholding grace is won,
  We dare not ask, nor Heaven would tell,
  But sure from many a hidden dell,
  From many a rural nook unthought of there,
Rises for that proud world the saints’ prevailing prayer.

  On, Champions blest, in Jesus’ name,
     Short be your strife, your triumph full,
  Till every heart have caught your flame,
     And, lightened of the world’s misrule,
  Ye soar those elder saints to meet
  Gathered long since at Jesus’ feet,
  No world of passions to destroy,
Your prayers and struggles o’er, your task all praise and joy.

They know the Almighty’s power,
  Who, wakened by the rushing midnight shower,
     Watch for the fitful breeze
  To howl and chafe amid the bending trees,
     Watch for the still white gleam
  To bathe the landscape in a fiery stream,
  Touching the tremulous eye with sense of light
Too rapid and too pure for all but angel sight.

     They know the Almighty’s love,
  Who, when the whirlwinds rock the topmost grove,
     Stand in the shade, and hear
  The tumult with a deep exulting fear,
     How, in their fiercest sway,
  Curbed by some power unseen, they die away,
  Like a bold steed that owns his rider’s arm,
Proud to be checked and soothed by that o’er-mastering chains.

     But there are storms within
  That heave the struggling heart with wilder din,
     And there is power and love
  The maniac’s rushing frenzy to reprove,
     And when he takes his seat,
  Clothed and in calmness, at his Savour’s feet,
  Is not the power as strange, the love as blest,
As when He said, “Be still,” and ocean sank to rest?

     Woe to the wayward heart,
  That gladlier turns to eye the shuddering start
     Of Passion in her might,
  Than marks the silent growth of grace and light; -
     Pleased in the cheerless tomb
  To linger, while the morning rays illume
  Green lake, and cedar tuft, and spicy glade,
Shaking their dewy tresses now the storm is laid.

     The storm is laid—and now
  In His meek power He climbs the mountain’s brow,
     Who bade the waves go sleep,
  And lashed the vexed fiends to their yawning deep.
     How on a rock they stand,
  Who watch His eye, and hold His guiding hand!
  Not half so fixed, amid her vassal hills,
Rises the holy pile that Kedron’s valley fills.

     And wilt thou seek again
  Thy howling waste, thy charnel-house and chain,
     And with the demons be,
  Rather than clasp thine own Deliverer’s knee?
     Sure ’tis no Heaven-bred awe
  That bids thee from His healing touch withdraw;
  The world and He are struggling in thine heart,
And in thy reckless mood thou bidd’st thy Lord depart.

     He, merciful and mild,
  As erst, beholding, loves His wayward child;
     When souls of highest birth
  Waste their impassioned might on dreams of earth,
     He opens Nature’s book,
  And on His glorious Gospel bids them look,
  Till, by such chords as rule the choirs above,
Their lawless cries are tuned to hymns of perfect love.

“Angel of wrath! why linger in mid-air,
  While the devoted city’s cry
Louder and louder swells? and canst thou spare,
  Thy full-charged vial standing by?”
Thus, with stern voice, unsparing Justice pleads:
  He hears her not—with softened gaze
His eye is following where sweet Mercy leads,
And till she give the sign, his fury stays.

Guided by her, along the mountain road,
  Far through the twilight of the morn,
With hurried footsteps from the accursed abode
  He sees the holy household borne;
Angels, or more, on either hand are nigh,
  To speed them o’er the tempting plain,
Lingering in heart, and with frail sidelong eye
Seeking how near they may unharmed remain.

“Ah! wherefore gleam those upland slopes so fair?
  And why, through every woodland arch,
Swells yon bright vale, as Eden rich and rare,
  Where Jordan winds his stately march;
If all must be forsaken, ruined all,
  If God have planted but to burn? -
Surely not yet the avenging shower will fall,
Though to my home for one last look I turn.”

Thus while they waver, surely long ago
  They had provoked the withering blast,
But that the merciful Avengers know
  Their frailty well, and hold them fast.
“Haste, for thy life escape, nor look behind” -
  Ever in thrilling sounds like these
They check the wandering eye, severely kind,
Nor let the sinner lose his soul at ease.

And when, o’erwearied with the steep ascent,
  We for a nearer refuge crave,
One little spot of ground in mercy lent,
  One hour of home before the grave,
Oft in His pity o’er His children weak,
  His hand withdraws the penal fire,
And where we fondly cling, forbears to wreak
Full vengeance, till our hearts are weaned entire.

Thus, by the merits of one righteous man,
  The Church, our Zoar, shall abide,
Till she abuse, so sore, her lengthened span,
  E’en Mercy’s self her face must hide.
Then, onward yet a step, thou hard-won soul;
  Though in the Church thou know thy place,
The mountain farther lies—there seek thy goal,
There breathe at large, o’erpast thy dangerous race.

Sweet is the smile of home; the mutual look
  When hearts are of each other sure;
Sweet all the joys that crowd the household nook,
  The haunt of all affections pure;
Yet in the world e’en these abide, and we
  Above the world our calling boast;
Once gain the mountain-top, and thou art free:
Till then, who rest, presume; who turn to look, are lost.

And wilt thou hear the fevered heart
  To Thee in silence cry?
And as th’ inconstant wildfires dart
  Out of the restless eye,
Wilt thou forgive the wayward though
By kindly woes yet half untaught
A Saviours right, so dearly bought,
  That Hope should never die?

Thou wilt:  for many a languid prayer
  Has reached Thee from the wild,
Since the lorn mother, wandering there,
  Cast down her fainting child,
Then stole apart to weep and die,
Nor knew an angel form was nigh,
To show soft waters gushing by,
  And dewy shadows mild.

Thou wilt—for Thou art Israel’s God,
  And Thine unwearied arm
Is ready yet with Moses’ rod,
  The hidden rill to charm
Out of the dry unfathomed deep
Of sands, that lie in lifeless sleep,
Save when the scorching whirlwinds heap
  Their waves in rude alarm.

These moments of wild wrath are Thine -
  Thine, too, the drearier hour
When o’er th’ horizon’s silent line
  Fond hopeless fancies cower,
And on the traveller’s listless way
Rises and sets th’ unchanging day,
No cloud in heaven to slake its ray,
  On earth no sheltering bower.

Thou wilt be there, and not forsake,
  To turn the bitter pool
Into a bright and breezy lake,
  This throbbing brow to cool:
Till loft awhile with Thee alone
The wilful heart be fain to own
That He, by whom our bright hours shone,
  Our darkness best may rule.

The scent of water far away
  Upon the breeze is flung;
The desert pelican to-day
  Securely leaves her young,
Reproving thankless man, who fears
To journey on a few lone years,
Where on the sand Thy step appears,
  Thy crown in sight is hung.

Thou, who did sit on Jacob’s well
  The weary hour of noon,
The languid pulses Thou canst tell,
  The nerveless spirit tune.
Thou from Whose cross in anguish burst
The cry that owned Thy dying thirst,
To Thee we turn, our Last and First,
  Our Sun and soothing Moon.

From darkness, here, and dreariness
  We ask not full repose,
Only be Thou at hand, to bless
  Our trial hour of woes.
Is not the pilgrim’s toil o’erpaid
By the clear rill and palmy shade?
And see we not, up Earth’s dark glade,
  The gate of Heaven unclose?