1792–1866

Introduction

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Born: Ap­ril 25, 1792, Fair­ford, Glou­ces­ter­shire, Eng­land.

Died: March 29, 1866, Bourne­mouth, Hamp­shire, Eng­land.

Buried: All Saints church­yard, Hurs­ley, Hamp­shire, Eng­land.

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Biography

Keble was the son of the vi­car of Colne.

Af­ter a brill­iant ca­reer at Ox­ford Un­i­ver­si­ty, he took Ho­ly Or­ders and be­came cur­ate at East Leach and Bur­thorpe.

In 1831, Keble be­came a pro­fes­sor of po­et­ry at Ox­ford. In 1833, he laid the found­a­tion of the Ox­ford Move­ment by de­liv­er­ing his fa­mous As­size Ser­mon. In 1835, he ac­cept­ed the vi­car­age at Hurs­ley, where he stayed the rest of his life.

Keble was a mo­dest man, and prob­ab­ly thought less of his own work than did the least of his ad­mir­ers. He once ac­com­pan­ied the vi­car of a par­ish in south­ern Eng­land on his vi­sit to the Sun­day School.

The su­per­in­ten­dent asked Keble to say a few words to the child­ren, who were al­rea­dy ac­quaint­ed with his hymns, so that they might more ea­si­ly re­mem­ber them. Ke­ble de­murred, but when the su­per­in­ten­dent per­sist­ed, said May they sing some­thing? When they fin­ished, his face was beam­ing as he said:

My dear child­ren, you sang most beau­ti­ful­ly in tune; may your whole lives be equal­ly in tune, and then you will sing with the angels in hea­ven.

Publications

Poem

Awake—Again the Gospel-Trump Is Blown

Awake—again the Gospel-trump is blown—
From year to year it swells with louder tone,
From year to year the signs of wrath
Are gathering round the Judge’s path,
Strange words fulfilled, and mighty works achieved,
And truth in all the world both hated and believed.

Awake! why linger in the gorgeous town,
Sworn liegemen of the Cross and thorny crown?
Up from your beds of sloth for shame,
Speed to the eastern mount like flame,
Nor wonder, should ye find your King in tears,
E’en with the loud Hosanna ringing in His ears.

Alas! no need to rouse them: long ago
They are gone forth to swell Messiah’s show:
With glittering robes and garlands sweet
They strew the ground beneath His feet:
All but your hearts are there—O doomed to prove
The arrows winged in Heaven for Faith that will not love!

Meanwhile He passes through th’ adoring crowd,
Calm as the march of some majestic cloud,
That o’er wild scenes of ocean-war
Holds its still course in Heaven afar:
E’en so, heart-searching Lord, as years roll on,
Thou keepest silent watch from Thy triumphal throne:

E’en so, the world is thronging round to gaze
On the dread vision of the latter days,
Constrained to own Thee, but in heart
Prepared to take Barabbas’ part:
Hosanna now, to-morrow Crucify,
The changeful burden still of their rude lawless cry.

Yet in that throng of selfish hearts untrue
Thy sad eye rests upon Thy faithful few,
Children and childlike souls are there,
Blind Bartimeus’ humble prayer,
And Lazarus wakened from his four days’ sleep,
Enduring life again, that Passover to keep.

And fast beside the olive-bordered way
Stands the blessed home where Jesus deigned to stay,
The peaceful home, to Zeal sincere
And heavenly Contemplation dear,
Where Martha loved to wait with reverence meet,
And wiser Mary lingered at Thy sacred feet.

Still through decaying ages as they glide,
Thou lov’st Thy chosen remnant to divide;
Sprinkled along the waste of years
Full many a soft green isle appears:
Pause where we may upon the desert road,
Some shelter is in sight, some sacred safe abode.

When withering blasts of error swept the sky,
And Love’s last flower seemed fain to droop and die,
How sweet, how lone the ray benign
On sheltered nooks of Palestine!
Then to his early home did Love repair,
And cheered his sickening heart with his own native air.

Years roll away: again the tide of crime
Has swept Thy footsteps from the favoured clime
Where shall the holy Cross find rest?
On a crowned monarch’s mailèd breast:
Like some bright angel o’er the darkling scene,
Through court and camp he holds his heavenward course serene.

A fouler vision yet; an age of light,
Light without love, glares on the aching sight:
Oh, who can tell how calm and sweet,
Meek Walton, shows thy green retreat,
When wearied with the tale thy times disclose,
The eye first finds thee out in thy secure repose?

Thus bad and good their several warnings give
Of His approach, whom none may see and live:
Faith’s ear, with awful still delight,
Counts them like minute-bells at night.
Keeping the heart awake till dawn of morn,
While to her funeral pile this aged world is borne.

But what are Heaven’s alarms to hearts that cower
In willful slumber, deepening every hour,
That draw their curtains closer round,
The nearer swells the trumpet’s sound?
Lord, ere our trembling lamps sink down and die,
Touch us with chastening hand, and make us feel Thee nigh.

John Keble
The Christian Year, 1827

Sources

Lyrics