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Henry Charles Beeching, ed. (1859–1919). Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse. 1903.

By Robert Browning (1812–1889)

The Boy and the Angel

MORNING, evening, noon, and night,
“Praise God!” sang Theocrite.
Then to his poor trade he turned,
Whereby the daily meal was earned.
Hard he laboured, long and well;        5
O’er his work the boy’s curls fell.
But ever at each period,
He stopped and sang, “Praise God.”
Then back again his curls he threw,
And cheerful turned to work anew.        10
Said Blaise, the listening monk, “Well done;
“I doubt not thou art heard, my son:
“As well as if thy voice to-day
Were praising God, the Pope’s great way.
“This Easter Day, the Pope at Rome        15
Praises God from Peter’s Dome.”
Said Theocrite, “Would God that I
Might praise him that great way, and die!”
Night passed, day shone,
And Theocrite was gone.        20
With God a day endures alway,
A thousand years are but a day.
God said in heaven, “Nor day, nor night,
Now brings the voice of my delight.”
Then Gabriel, like a rainbow’s birth,        25
Spread his wings and sank to earth;
Entered, in flesh, the empty cell,
Lived there, and played the craftsman well;
And morning, evening, noon, and night,
Praised God in place of Theocrite.        30
And from a boy to youth he grew:
The man put off the stripling’s hue:
The man matured and fell away
Into the season of decay:
And ever o’er the trade he bent,        35
And lived on earth content.
(He did God’s will; to him, all one
If on the earth or in the sun.)
God said, “A praise is in my ear;
There is no doubt in it, no fear;        40
“So sing old worlds, and so
New worlds that from my footstool go.
“Clearer loves sound other ways;
I miss my little human praise.”
Then forth sprang Gabriel’s wings, off fell        45
The flesh disguise, remained the cell.
’Twas Easter day; he flew to Rome,
And paused above St Peter’s Dome.
In the tiring room close by
The great outer gallery,        50
With his holy vestments dight,
Stood the new Pope Theocrite:
And all his past career
Came back upon him clear,
Since when, a boy, he plied his trade,        55
Till on his life the sickness weighed;
And in his cell, when death drew near,
An angel in a dream brought cheer:
And rising from the sickness drear
He grew a priest, and now stood here.        60
To the East with praise he turned,
And on his sight the angel burned.
“I bore thee from thy craftsman’s cell
And set thee here: I did not well.
“Vainly I left my angel-sphere,        65
Vain was thy dream of many a year,
“Thy voice’s praise seemed weak; it dropped—
Creation’s chorus stopped!
“Go back and praise again,
The early way, while I remain,        70
“With that weak voice of our disdain,
Take up creation’s pausing strain.
“Back to the cell and poor employ:
Resume the craftsman and the boy!”
Theocrite grew old at home;        75
A new Pope dwelt in Peter’s Dome.
One vanished as the other died:
They sought God side by side.