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W. Garrett Horder, comp. The Poets’ Bible: New Testament. 1895.

Christ Departing

John Keble (1792–1866)

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”—JOHN XVI. 7.

MY Saviour, can it ever be

That I should gain by losing Thee?

The watchful mother tarries nigh

Though sleep have clos’d her infant’s eye,

For should he wake, and find her gone,

She knows she could not bear his moan.

But I am weaker than a child,

And Thou art more than mother dear;

Without Thee heaven were but a wild:

How can I live without Thee here?

“’Tis good for you that I should go,

You lingering yet awhile below;”—

’Tis Thine own gracious promise, Lord!

Thy saints have prov’d the faithful word.

When Heaven’s bright boundless avenue

Far opened on their eager view,

And homeward to Thy Father’s throne,

Still lessening, brightening on their sight,

Thy shadowy car went soaring on;

They track’d Thee up th’ abyss of light.

Thou bidd’st rejoice; they dare not mourn

But to their home in gladness turn,

Their home and God’s, that favour’d place

Where still He shines on Abraham’s race,

In prayers and blessings there to wait

Like suppliants at their monarch’s gate,

Who, bent with bounty rare to aid

The splendours of his crowning day,

Keeps back awhile his largess, made

More welcome for that brief delay:

In doubt they wait, but not unblest;

They doubt not of their Master’s rest,

Nor of the gracious will of Heaven—

Who gave His Son, sure all has given—

But in ecstatic awe they muse

What course the genial stream may choose,

And far and wide their fancies rove,

And to their height of wonder strain,

What secret miracle of love

Should make their Saviour’s going gain.

The days of hope and prayer are past,

The day of comfort dawns at last,

The everlasting gates again

Roll back, and lo! a royal train—

From the far depth of life once more

The floods of glory earthward pour:

They part like shower-drops in mid air,

But ne’er so soft fell noontide shower,

Nor evening rainbow gleam’d so fair

To weary swains in parched bower.

Swiftly and straight each tongue of flame

Through cloud and breeze unwavering came,

And darted to its place of rest

On some meek brow of Jesus blest.

Nor fades it yet, that living gleam,

And still those lambent lightnings stream;

Where’er the Lord is, there are they;

In every heart that gives them room,

They light His altar every day,

Zeal to inflame, and vice to consume.

Soft as the plumes of Jesus’ Dove

They nurse the soul to heavenly love:

The struggling spark of good within,

Just smother’d in the strife of sin,

They quicken to a timely glow,

The pure flame spreading high and low.

Said I that prayer and hope were o’er?

Nay, blessed Spirit! but by Thee

The Church’s prayer finds wings to soar,

The Church’s hope finds eyes to see.

Then, fainting soul, arise and sing;

Mount, but be sober on the wing;

Mount up, for Heaven is won by prayer,

Be sober, for thou art not there;

Till Death the weary spirit free,

Thy God hath said, ’Tis good for thee

To walk by faith and not by sight:

Take it on trust a little while;

Soon shalt thou read the mystery right

In the full sunshine of His smile.

Or if thou yet more knowledge crave,

Ask thine own heart, that willing slave

To all that works thee woe or harm:

Shouldst thou not need some mighty charm

To win thee to thy Saviour’s side,

Though He had deign’d with thee to bide?

The Spirit must stir the darkling deep,

The Dove must settle on the Cross,

Else we should all sin on or sleep

With Christ in sight, turning our gain to loss.