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Poem by John Keble


Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity


On Sinai's top, in prayer and trance,
  Full forty nights and forty days
The Prophet watched for one dear glance
  Of thee and of Thy ways:

Fasting he watched and all alone,
  Wrapt in a still, dark, solid cloud,
The curtain of the Holy One
  Drawn round him like a shroud:

So, separate from the world, his breast
  Might duly take and strongly keep
The print of Heaven, to be expressed
  Ere long on Sion's steep.

There one by one his spirit saw
  Of things divine the shadows bright,
The pageant of God's perfect law;
  Yet felt not full delight.

Through gold and gems, a dazzling maze,
  From veil to veil the vision led,
And ended, where unearthly rays
  From o'er the ark were shed.

Yet not that gorgeous place, nor aught
  Of human or angelic frame,
Could half appease his craving thought;
  The void was still the same.

"Show me Thy glory, gracious Lord!
  'Tis Thee," he cries, "not Thine, I seek."
Na, start not at so bold a word
  From man, frail worm and weak:

The spark of his first deathless fire
  Yet buoys him up, and high above
The holiest creature, dares aspire
  To the Creator's love.

The eye in smiles may wander round,
  Caught by earth's shadows as they fleet;
But for the soul no help is found,
  Save Him who made it, meet.

Spite of yourselves, ye witness this,
  Who blindly self or sense adore;
Else wherefore leaving your own bliss
  Still restless ask ye more?

This witness bore the saints of old
  When highest rapt and favoured most,
Still seeking precious things untold,
  Not in fruition lost.

Canaan was theirs; and in it all
  The proudest hope of kings dare claim:
Sion was theirs; and at their call
  Fire from Jehovah came.

Yet monarchs walked as pilgrims still
  In their own land, earth's pride and grace:
And seers would mourn on Sion's hill
  Their Lord's averted face.

Vainly they tried the deeps to sound
  E'en of their own prophetic thought,
When of Christ crucified and crowned
  His Spirit in them taught:

But He their aching gaze repressed,
  Which sought behind the veil to see,
For not without us fully blest
  Or perfect might they be.

The rays of the Almighty's face
  No sinner's eye might then receive;
Only the meekest man found grace
  To see His skirts and live.

But we as in a glass espy
  The glory of His countenance,
Not in a whirlwind hurrying by
  The too presumptuous glance,

But with mild radiance every hour,
  From our dear Saviour's face benign
Bent on us with transforming power,
  Till we, too, faintly shine.

Sprinkled with His atoning blood
  Safely before our God we stand,
As on the rock the Prophet stood,
  Beneath His shadowing hand. -

Blessed eyes, which see the things we see!
  And yet this tree of life hath proved
To many a soul a poison tree,
  Beheld, and not beloved.

So like an angel's is our bliss
  (Oh! thought to comfort and appal)
It needs must bring, if used amiss,
  An angel's hopeless fall.



John Keble


John Keble's other poems:
  1. Third Sunday in Advent
  2. Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
  3. First Sunday in Lent
  4. Third Sunday after Trinity
  5. St. Matthew


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