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John Keble: Sixth Sunday After Epiphany

12 February 2012

[Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it
doth not yet appear what we shall be: but
we know that, when He shall appear, we shall
be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is.--St. John iii. 2.]
There are, who darkling and alone,
Would wish the weary night were gone,
Though dawning morn should only show
The secret of their unknown woe:
Who pray for sharpest throbs of pain
To ease them of doubt’s galling chain:
“Only disperse the cloud,” they cry,
“And if our fate be death, give light and let us die.”

Unwise I deem them, Lord, unmeet
To profit by Thy chastenings sweet,
For Thou wouldst have us linger still
Upon the verge of good or ill.
That on Thy guiding hand unseen
Our undivided hearts may lean,
And this our frail and foundering bark
Glide in the narrow wake of Thy beloved ark.

‘Tis so in war–the champion true
Loves victory more when dim in view
He sees her glories gild afar
The dusky edge of stubborn war,
Than if the untrodden bloodless field
The harvest of her laurels yield;
Let not my bark in calm abide,
But win her fearless way against the chafing tide.

‘Tis so in love–the faithful heart
From her dim vision would not part,
When first to her fond gaze is given
That purest spot in Fancy’s heaven,
For all the gorgeous sky beside,
Though pledged her own and sure to abide:
Dearer than every past noon-day
That twilight gleam to her, though faint and far away.

So have I seen some tender flower
Prized above all the vernal bower,
Sheltered beneath the coolest shade,
Embosomed in the greenest glade,
So frail a gem, it scarce may bear
The playful touch of evening air;
When hardier grown we love it less,
And trust it from our sight, not needing our caress.

And wherefore is the sweet spring-tide
Worth all the changeful year beside?
The last-born babe, why lies its part
Deep in the mother’s inmost heart?
But that the Lord and Source of love
Would have His weakest ever prove
Our tenderest care–and most of all
Our frail immortal souls, His work and Satan’s thrall.

So be it, Lord; I know it best,
Though not as yet this wayward breast
Beat quite in answer to Thy voice,
Yet surely I have made my choice;
I know not yet the promised bliss,
Know not if I shall win or miss;
So doubting, rather let me die,
Than close with aught beside, to last eternally.

What is the Heaven we idly dream?
The self-deceiver’s dreary theme,
A cloudless sun that softly shines,
Bright maidens and unfailing vines,
The warrior’s pride, the hunter’s mirth,
Poor fragments all of this low earth:
Such as in sleep would hardly soothe
A soul that once had tasted of immortal Truth.

What is the Heaven our God bestows?
No Prophet yet, no Angel knows;
Was never yet created eye
Could see across Eternity;
Not seraph’s wing for ever soaring
Can pass the flight of souls adoring,
That nearer still and nearer grow
To the unapproached Lord, once made for them so low.

Unseen, unfelt their earthly growth,
And self-accused of sin and sloth,
They live and die; their names decay,
Their fragrance passes quite away;
Like violets in the freezing blast
No vernal steam around they cast. -
But they shall flourish from the tomb,
The breath of God shall wake them into odorous bloom.

Then on the incarnate Saviour’s breast,
The fount of sweetness, they shall rest,
Their spirits every hour imbued
More deeply with His precious blood.
But peace–still voice and closed eye
Suit best with hearts beyond the sky,
Hearts training in their low abode,
Daily to lose themselves in hope to find their God.

 

By John Keble

 

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