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

The Fishermen of Bethsaida

John Keble (1792–1866)

‘And Simon answering said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net; and when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.’—LUKE V. 56.

“THE LIVELONG night we’ve toiled in vain,

But at Thy gracious word

I will let down the net again:

Do Thou Thy will, O Lord!”

So spake the weary fisher, spent

With bootless darkling toil,

Yet on his Master’s bidding bent

For love, and not for spoil.

So day by day and week by week,

In sad and weary thought,

They muse, whom God hath sent to seek

The souls His Christ hath bought.

For not upon a tranquil lake

Our pleasant task we ply,

Where all along our glistening wake

The softest moonbeams lie;

Where rippling wave and dashing oar

Our midnight chant attend,

Or whispering palm-leaves from the shore

With midnight silence blend.

Sweet thoughts of peace! ye may not last:

Too soon some ruder sound

Calls us from where ye soar so fast

Back to our earthly round.

For wildest storms our ocean sweep:

No anchor but the Cross

Might hold; and oft the thankless deep

Turns all our toil to loss.

Full many a dreary, anxious hour,

We watch our nets alone,

In drenching spray and driving shower,

And hear the night-bird’s moan.

At morn we look, and nought is there;

Sad dawn of cheerless day!

Who then from pining and despair

The sickening heart can stay?

There is a stay—and we are strong;

Our Master is at hand,

To cheer our solitary song,

And guide us to the strand.

In His own time; but yet awhile

Our bark at sea must ride;

Cast after cast, by force or guile,

All waters must be tried.

By blameless guile or gentle force,

As when He deign’d to teach

(The lode-star of our Christian course)

Upon this sacred beach.

Should e’er Thy wonder-working grace

Triumph by our weak arm,

Let not our sinful fancy trace

Aught human in the charm.

To our own nets ne’er bow we down,

Lest on the eternal shore

The angels, while our draught they own,

Reject us evermore

Or, if for our unworthiness

Toil, prayer, and watching fail,

In disappointment Thou canst bless,

So love at heart prevail.