Words: John Keble, The Christian Year 1827, pages 12–15.
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 heav’ns 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 Savior’s form.
Not surer does each tender gem,
Set in the fig tree’s polished stem,
Foreshow the summer season bland,
Than these dread signs Thy mighty hand:
But, oh! frail hearts, and spirits dark!
The season’s flight unwarned 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,
vain deluding mirth,
Till in thine altered 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 heav’nward feet.
Is not God’s oath upon your head,
Ne’er to sink back on slothful bed,
Never again your loins untie,
Nor let your torches waste and die,
Till, when the shadows thickest fall,
Ye hear your Master’s midnight call?