Home  »  The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century  »  John Keble (1792–1866)

Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By The Christian Year (1827). VII. “Red o’er the forest peers the setting sun”

John Keble (1792–1866)

  • (Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity)
  • “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.”
  • —Philippians iii. 21.

  • RED o’er the forest peers the setting sun,

    The line of yellow light dies fast away

    That crowned the eastern copse: and chill and dun

    Falls on the moor the brief November day.

    Now the tired hunter winds a parting note,

    And Echo bids good-night from every glade;

    Yet wait awhile, and see the calm leaves float

    Each to his rest beneath their parent shade.

    How like decaying life they seem to glide!

    And yet no second spring have they in store,

    But where they fall, forgotten to abide

    Is all their portion, and they ask no more.

    Soon o’er their heads blithe April airs shall sing

    A thousand wild-flowers round them shall unfold,

    The green buds glisten in the dews of Spring,

    And all be vernal rapture as of old.

    Unconscious they in waste oblivion lie,

    In all the world of busy life around

    No thought of them; in all the bounteous sky,

    No drop, for them, of kindly influence found.

    Man’s portion is to die and rise again—

    Yet he complains, while these unmurmuring part

    With their sweet lives, as pure from sin and stain,

    As his when Eden held his virgin heart.

    And haply half unblamed his murmuring voice

    Might sound in Heaven, were all his second life

    Only the first renewed—the heathen’s choice,

    A round of listless joy and weary strife.

    For dreary were this earth, if earth were all,

    Tho’ brightened oft by dear Affection’s kiss;—

    Who for the spangles wears the funeral pall?

    But catch a gleam beyond it, and ’tis bliss.

    Heavy and dull this frame of limbs and heart,

    Whether slow creeping on cold earth, or borne

    On lofty steed, or loftier prow, we dart

    O’er wave or field: yet breezes laugh to scorn

    Our puny speed, and birds, and clouds in heaven,

    And fish, like living shafts that pierce the main,

    And stars that shoot through freezing air at even—

    Who but would follow, might he break his chain?

    And thou shalt break it soon; the grovelling worm

    Shall find his wings, and soar as fast and free

    As his transfigured Lord with lightning form

    And snowy vest—such grace He won for thee.

    When from the grave He sprang at dawn of morn,

    And led through boundless air thy conquering road,

    Leaving a glorious track, where saints, new-born,

    Might fearless follow to their blest abode.

    But first, by many a stern and fiery blast

    The world’s rude furnace must thy blood refine,

    And many a gale of keenest woe be passed,

    Till every pulse beat true to airs divine.

    Till every limb obey the mounting soul,

    The mounting soul, the call by Jesus given.

    He who the stormy heart can so control,

    The laggard body soon will waft to Heaven.