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St. John Baptist's Day

John Keble 1792 (Fairford) – 1866 (Bournemouth)

Twice in her season of decay
The fallen Church hath felt Elijah's eye
  Dart from the wild its piercing ray:
Not keener burns, in the chill morning sky,
  The herald star,
  Whose torch afar
  Shadows and boding night-birds fly.

  Methinks we need him once again,
That favoured seer--but where shall he be found?
  By Cherith's side we seek in vain,
In vain on Carmel's green and lonely mound:
  Angels no more
  From Sinai soar,
  On his celestial errands bound.

  But wafted to her glorious place
By harmless fire, among the ethereal thrones,
  His spirit with a dear embrace
Thee the loved harbinger of Jesus owns,
  Well-pleased to view
  Her likeness true,
  And trace, in thine, her own deep tones.

  Deathless himself, he joys with thee
To commune how a faithful martyr dies,
  And in the blest could envy be,
He would behold thy wounds with envious eyes,
  Star of our morn,
  Who yet unborn
  Didst guide our hope, where Christ should rise.

  Now resting from your jealous care
For sinners, such as Eden cannot know,
  Ye pour for us your mingled prayer,
No anxious fear to damp Affection's glow,
  Love draws a cloud
  From you to shroud
  Rebellion's mystery here below.

  And since we see, and not afar,
The twilight of the great and dreadful day,
  Why linger, till Elijah's car
Stoop from the clouds? Why sheep ye? Rise and pray,
  Ye heralds sealed
  In camp or field
  Your Saviour's banner to display.

  Where is the lore the Baptist taught,
The soul unswerving and the fearless tongue?
  The much-enduring wisdom, sought
By lonely prayer the haunted rocks among?
  Who counts it gain
  His light should wane,
  So the whole world to Jesus throng?

  Thou Spirit, who the Church didst lend
Her eagle wings, to shelter in the wild,
  We pray Thee, ere the Judge descend,
With flames like these, all bright and undefiled,
  Her watch-fires light,
  To guide aright
  Our weary souls by earth beguiled.

  So glorious let thy Pastors shine,
That by their speaking lives the world may learn
  First filial duty, then divine,
That sons to parents, all to Thee may turn;
  And ready prove
  In fires of love,
  At sight of Thee, for aye to burn.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:53 min read

John Keble

John Keble was an English churchman and poet, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Keble College, Oxford was named after him. more…

All John Keble poems | John Keble Books

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