1827
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Third Sunday after Epiphany.

The Christian Year: Thoughts in Verse for the Sundays and Holydays throughout the Year. 2 Vols.

Rev. John Keble


Twelve irregular Spenserians (ababcC) anonymously published by the Rev. John Keble, Tractarian divine and Oxford professor of poetry. Many poems in this once-popular volume are written in stanzas of alternating rhymes with a concluding alexandrine (ababcC, ababccdD, ababcdcD).

Monthly Repository: "The Christian Year is rather a book of imitations than of originals. The author's mind appears to have been guided by affection for the worthies of his church, such men as George Herbert, Isaac Walton, Sir Henry Wotton, and Donne, full as much as by attachment to the church itself; and he has fallen into an antique and occasionally affected manner of writing. In other ways this partiality has been of service to him, for he seems largely imbued with the devout and fervent spirit of these elder writers. The whole character of the poetry, indeed, is of a very meditative, amiable, and soothing cast — happy in its power of applying and illustrating Scripture, and drawing largely on the stores of nature for imagery of the most beautiful kind. Looking into it at random, we might almost fancy that the author had never read poetry more modern than the age of the Restoration, unless a few pieces from the pen of Wordsworth and Walter Scott might have chanced to meet his eye, so entirely are they free from the partialities of later writers. It may well occasion a smile to see that King Charles the Martyr and the Restoration Days are held in such devout remembrance by good Churchmen, even now: yet in the pieces which commemorate them, there is not an acrimonious word, and the volume is wholly free from 'damnatory clauses' against those who are without the pale of the church, either in matters of doctrine or of discipline" NS 3 (December 1829) 822



I mark'd a rainbow in the north,
What time the wild autumnal sun
From his dark veil at noon look'd forth,
As glorying in his course half done,
Flinging soft radiance far and wide
Over the dusky heaven and bleak hill-side.

It was a gleam to Memory dear,
And as I walk and muse apart,
When all seems faithless round and drear,
I would revive it in my heart,
And watch how light can find its way
To regions farthest from the fount of day.

Light flashes in the gloomiest sky,
And Music in the dullest plain,
For there the lark is soaring high
Over her flat and leafless reign,
And chanting in so blithe a tone,
It shames the weary heart to feel itself alone.

Brighter than the rainbow in the north,
More cheery than the matin lark,
Is the soft gleam of Christian worth,
Which on some holy house we mark;
Dear to the pastor's aching heart
To think, where'er he looks, such gleam may have a part;

May dwell, unseen by all but Heaven,
Like diamond blazing in the mine;
For ever, where such grace is given,
It fears in open day to shine,
Lest the deep stain it owns within
Break out, and faith be shamed by the believer's sin.

In silence and afar they wait,
To find a prayer their Lord may hear:
Voice of the poor and desolate,
You best may bring it to his ear;
Your graceful intercessions rise
With more than royal pomp, and pierce the skies.

Happy the soul whose precious cause
You in the sovereign Presence plead—
"This is the lover of thy laws,
The friend of thine in fear and need"—
For to the poor thy mercy lends
That solemn style, "thy nation and thy friends."

He too is blest whose outward eye
The graceful lines of art may trace,
While his free spirit, soaring high,
Discerns the glorious from the base;
Till out of dust his magic raise
A home for prayer and love, and full harmonious praise,

Where far away and high above,
In maze on maze the tranced sight
Strays, mindful of that heavenly love
Which knows no end in depth or height,
While the strong breath of Music seems
To waft us ever on, soaring in blissful dreams.

What though in poor and humble guise
Thou here didst sojourn, cottage-born?
Yet from thy glory in the skies
Our earthly gold Thou dost not scorn—
For Love delights to bring her best,
And where Love is, that offering evermore is blest.

Love on the Saviour's dying head
Her spikenard drops unblam'd may pour,
May mount his cross, and wrap him dead
In spices from the golden shore;
Risen, may embalm his sacred name
With all a Painter's art, and all a Minstrel's flame.

Worthless and lost our offerings seem,
Drops in the ocean of his praise;
But Mercy with her genial beam
Is ripening them to pearly blaze,
To sparkle in His crown above,
Who welcomes here a child's as there an angel's love.

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