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 The Christian Year
by Blessed John Keble 

(This poem relates to the Epistle reading for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany) 


Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know, what, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He Is.                                                                             1 St. John iii.2,3. 
THERE are, who darkling and alone, 
Would wish the weary night were gone, 
Though dawning morn should only shew 
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, 
Then if th’ 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 pledg’d her own and sure t’ abide; 
Dearer than every past noon-day 
That twilight gleam to her, though faint and far away. 

So have I seen some tender flower 
Priz’d above all the vernal bower, 
Shelter’d beneath the coolest shade, 
Upon the softest bosom laid, 
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 promis’d 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 th’ unapproached LORD, once made for them so low. 

Unseen, unfelt their earthly growth, 
And self-accus’d 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 od’rous bloom. 

Then on th’ incarnate SAVIOUR’s breast, 
The fount of sweetness, they shall rest, 
Their spirits every hour imbu’d 
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.