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

By John Keble (1792–1866)

The Winter Thrush

SWEET 1 bird! up earliest in the morn,
  Up earliest in the year,
Far in the quiet mist are borne
  Thy matins soft and clear.
As linnet soft, and clear as lark,        5
  Well hast thou ta’en thy part,
Where many an ear thy notes may reach,
  And here and there a heart.
The first snow wreaths are scarcely gone,
  (They stayed but half a day,)        10
The berries bright hang ling’ring on,
  Yet thou hast learnt thy lay.
One gleam, one gale of western air,
  Has hardly brushed thy wing;
Yet thou hast given thy welcome fair,        15
  Good-morrow to the spring!
Perhaps within thy carol’s sound
  Some wakeful mourner lies,
Dim roaming days and years around,
  That ne’er again may rise.        20
He thanks thee with a tearful eye,
  For thou hast winged his spright
Back to some hour when hopes were nigh
  And dearest friends in sight;
That single fearless note of thine        25
  Has pierced the cloud of care,
And lit awhile the gleam divine
  That blessed his infant prayer;
Ere he had known, his faith to blight,
  The scorner’s withering smile,        30
While hearts, he deemed, beat true and right
  Here in our Christian Isle.
That sunny morning glimpse is gone,
  That morning note is still;
The dun dark day comes lowering on,        35
  The spoilers roam at will;
Yet calmly rise, and boldly shrive;
  The sweet bird’s early song
Ere evening fall shall oft revive,
  And cheer thee all day long.        40
Are we not sworn to serve our King?
  He sworn with us to be?
The birds that chant before the spring
  Are truer far than we.
Note 1. “The Winter Thrush” and the “Watch by Night” are from the “Lyra Apostolica.”
  As the “Christian Year” is well known to all readers of religious verse, the editor has felt at liberty to print a collection of “beauties” which might escape notice, rather than complete poems. The unrhymed ode at the end seems to reach Keble’s high-water mark. [back]