Sunday next before Advent—Keble's "The Christian Year"
Sunday next before Advent.
Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. St. John vi. 12.
Will God indeed with fragments bear,
Snatched late from the decaying year?
Or can the Saviour’s blood endear
The dregs of a polluted life?
When down th’ o’erwhelming current tossed
Just ere he sink for ever lost,
The sailor’s untried arms are crossed
In agonizing prayer, will Ocean cease her strife?
Sighs that exhaust but not relieve
Heart-rending sighs, O spare to heave
A bosom freshly taught to grieve
For lavished hours and love misspent!
Now through her round of holy thought
The Church our annual steps has brought,
But we no holy fire have caught—
Back on the gaudy world our wilful eyes were bent.
Too soon th’ ennobling carols, poured
To hymn the birth-night of the Lord,
Which duteous Memory should have stored
For thankful echoing all the year—
Too soon those airs have passed away;
Nor long within the heart would stay
The silence of Christ’s dying day,
Profaned by worldly mirth, or scared by worldly fear.
Some strain of hope and victory
On Easter wings might lift us high
A little while we sought the sky:
And when the Spirit’s beacon fires
On every hill began to blare,
Lightening the world with glad amaze,
Who but must kindle while they gaze?
But faster than she soars, our earth-bound Fancy tires.
Nor yet for these, nor all the rites,
By which our Mother’s voice invites
Our God to bless our home delights,
And sweeten every secret tear:—
The funeral dirge, the marriage vow,
The hollowed font where parents bow,
And now elate and trembling now
To the Redeemer’s feet their new-found treasures bear:—
Not for this Pastor’s gracious arm
Stretched out to bless—a Christian charm
To dull the shafts of worldly harm:—
Nor, sweetest, holiest, best of all
For the dear feast of Jesus dying,
Upon that altar ever lying,
Where souls with sacred hunger sighing
Are called to sit and eat, while angels prostrate fall:—
No, not for each and all of these,
Have our frail spirits found their ease.
The gale that stirs the autumnal trees
Seems tuned as truly to our hearts
As when, twelve weary months ago,
’Twas moaning bleak, so high and low,
You would have thought Remorse and Woe
Had taught the innocent air their sadly thrilling parts.
Is it, Christ’s light is too divine,
We dare not hope like Him to shine?
But see, around His dazzling shrine
Earths gems the fire of Heaven have caught;
Martyrs and saints—each glorious day
Dawning in order on our way—
Remind us, how our darksome clay
May keep th’ ethereal warmth our new Creator brought.
These we have scorned, O false and frail!
And now once more th’ appalling tale,
How love divine may woo and fail,
Of our lost year in Heaven is told—
What if as far our life were past,
Our weeks all numbered to the last,
With time and hope behind us cast,
And all our work to do with palsied hands and cold?
O watch and pray ere Advent dawn!
For thinner than the subtlest lawn
’Twixt thee and death the veil is drawn.
But Love too late can never glow:
The scattered fragments Love can glean
Refine the dregs, and yield us clean
To regions where one thought serene
Breathes sweeter than whole years of sacrifice below.