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True Cross! on which the dying head
MUSINGS OVER THE CHRISTIAN YEAR
AND LYRA INNOCENTIUM.
ST. PHILIP AND ST. JAMES.
MAY-DAY is one of the remarkable specimens of the greater sunniness, if it may be so called, of thought that belongs to the poetry of Mr. Keble's later years. To be sure it is the children's holiday, and he has thrown himself into their childhood; but in his earlier poem-a very early one, we believe—there is only a pensive outlook upon middle life in contrast with the charms of childhood and old age. This is a youthful feeling, that makes the verses thoroughly sympathetic and congenial to the young, though we verily believe that the dust and weariness of middle age are more in anticipation than in reality, and that where health and spirits are fair the sense of fresh youth and enjoyment goes much further on through life than these stanzas would lead one to expect. That is, of course we mean, where the conditions are fulfilled.
• Who but a Christian through all life
That blessing may prolong,
Still chant his morning song ?' Yet though experience may shew that 'a merry heart goes all the way,' the anticipation of dreariness under the heat and burthen of the day is almost universal in pensive youth; and the true answer to such a dread is here given in full force and beauty.
O shame upon thee, listless heart,
So sad a sigh to heave;
In thoughts that make thee griere.
As if along His loncsome way
He had not borne for thee
Storms on the wintry sea.
Pass'd seldom o'er His sprite;
Too deep for earthly light.' This seems to refer to the early tradition that our Blessed Lord was never seen to smile. The gay hope, the vast field of uncertain possibilities, so dear to our youthful imagination, could never be His,
For He by trial knew
To realms where all is true.'
Then, if our youthful glee is to be dimmed by sorrow and disappointment, dullness or weariness,
• Grudge not thou the anguish keen
That makes thee like thy Lord;
Thy youth's ideal hoard.' Even if misfortune and affliction beset us, and our chosen happiness be denied, we need not over lament missing the joy that Christ disdained to know. Life is not over, and joy will come out of sadness, hope brighten on us like the moon in the twilight, and
• Thus souls by nature pitched too high,
By suffering plunged too low,
Half-way 'twixt joy and woe;
That sorrow best relieves ;
Humbled by all He gives.'
Most true is this picture of the truly lowly, to whom his best deeds, and the highest honours they win, are but fresh causes of humility.
And the middle tracks of life were surely still bestrewn with flowers when the bright summons was given
• Come, ye little revellers gay,
with all its loving description of garland making. Thoroughly the Vicar of Hursley did love the garland day! The Hampshire children are wont to sing, or rather whisper, out a dull little croon consisting of
· April's gone,
and this he touched with gold in the lines
• April's gone, the king of showers,
For my garland give, I pray,
I do not know whether the children ever did sing these verses, I believe they had some carol found in a book; but they used to range themselves on the green lawn of the Vicarage, and sing together; and even the union workhouse sent its children with their garland, partly made by the old women, and after its public appearance hung up to delight their eyes even in its decline.
For the ‘May Garlands' of the Lyra, merrily as it begins, soon turns to the theme of decay
• Where are now those forms so fair ?
Yes, “They are gone, and ye must go ;' but though the flowers are for ever gone, we
' hope in joy to be new born, Lovelier than May's gleaming morn.'
And the practical lesson is, that as
• Keen March winds, soft April showers,
80 with ourselves,
'Stern self-mastery, tearful prayer,
THE 29TH OF MAY.
ANOTHER of the discarded State holidays is here; and both the commencement and the note upon it carry us back to a disused state of things—when it was needful to explain that the organ is generally silent in Holy Week, and that in some it is the custom to put up evergreen boughs. Anything more festal was not then thought of, and these verses endear the Easter yew and box of our childhood.
· The while, round altar, niche, and shrine,
And a dark brilliance cast;
The brighter for their hues of gloom,
Into high glory passid.'
To these sober tokens of death and victory is compared the return of our Church from her captivity and exile in 1660, when the absence of the martyred king was felt by all true and loyal hearts, who would dwell on his prayers and devotions as in the Eikon Basilike, and long that those intercessions might yet be returned upon their heads.
And again, the saintly Dr. Henry Hammond, whose Practical Catechism’ King Charles recommended to his daughter in his last interview, who after cherishing the faith and constancy of his countrymen by his books, counsels, and ministrations, through the long years of desolation, was lying on his most painful but most patient death-bed, in the midst of the preparations for the Restoration. He died on the 25th of April, 1660, the day on which the remnant of the Long Parliament re-assembled to decide on bringing back the King. His last sigh for rest was, a few moments before his release, “Lord, make haste.' His serious sweet farewell' to the children of the house at Westwood, where, since his deprivation, he had been cherished, was the injunction to be just to the advantages of their education, and maintain inviolate their first baptismal vows.' To their mother, when she asked what more special thing he would recommend unto her for her whole life, his answer was, “Uniform obedience.' Surely to follow these rules is the way 'after him in time to rise.'
The next verse is a perplexing one. It may, perhaps, refer to the Epiphany offering of the king in the Chapel Royal, which under George III., when it would first have grown familiar to Mr. Keble, was a really impressive ceremony, chiefly on account of the reality of the good old King's devotion. This is the only annual offering we can think of; but it may also mean more generally the entire acknowledgement that it is through God that kings reign and princes decree justice. The signification of the verse seems to be somewhat in the spirit of St. Peter's words, reminding us that we are but strangers and pilgrims in this world, and that though we are bound to 'submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake,' whether it be to the king as supreme,' and therefore all loyalty is required of us, yet our time here is too short for hope or care to be worth spending on self-aggrandisement or political ambition.
Tue Rogation Days gained a lovely hymn in the Salisbury HymnalNo. 119 in Hymns Ancient and Modern--a true hymn, simple and deep, on the blessing of the crops.
We have all learnt to look for the soft cloud in the sky almost as we do for our Church decorations, as an appropriate part of the holy-day.
The two poems in The Christian Year and Lyra both are alike on heavenly contemplation rising and soaring in the track of the ascending Lord. Most heavenly is the vision of His Presence in the first.
· I mark Him how by seraph hosts adored,
The sun and every vassal star,
He listens to the silent tear
There we are called again to descend to our own tasks of duty upon earth, not standing to gaze too long,' but bending with our Lord where human sorrow lifts her lowly moan.' In due time we shall see His glory return, when we shall see Him as He is, and gazing on Him become transformed into His likeness, from glory to glory.
Again, we have the cloud vanishing in the description of the gazing shepherd boy, to whom the poem-making him a type of other pastoral eyes,'-ascribes the wondering thought
• What, if in such array
Rose on Ascension Day ?'
A thought thus following our Lord into Heaven must be precious. (Well might he say so whose thoughts were such as were treasured up in the preceding poem.) It passes on to the future, when the Lord shall in like manner come again ; and then happy will those be whose eyes are looking upwards-watching, neither wandering idly in the ends of the earth, nor closed in pride. Happy will those be on whom the light which shall shine at once from east to west shall break either as worshippers in the House of God, or comforters in the house of mourning.
(To be continued.)