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

By Critical and Biographical Essay by Alfred H. Miles

Richard Chenevix Trench (1807–1886)

THE POETRY of Richard Chenevix Trench is represented, with that of the general poets of his time, in Vol. IV. of the Poets and Poetry of the Century, where particulars of his life and work in literature are given. Though scarcely claiming double representation, it is impossible, in view of the religious and didactic character of much of his verse, to omit him from a volume devoted to the sacred poetry of the period. Two or three examples of his more definitely religious verse are therefore added here.

A firm faith in an all-wise, all-loving, over-ruling providence, and a sense of human unworthiness and weakness, in view of divine love and power, find tender expression in his religious verse, as the following nameless fragments will show:—

  • I.
  • Not Thou from us, O Lord, but we
  • Withdraw ourselves from Thee.
  • When we are dark and dead,
  • And Thou art covered with a cloud,
  • Hanging before Thee, like a shroud,
  • So that our prayer can find no way,
  • Oh! teach us that we do not say,
  • “Where is Thy brightness fled?”
  • But that we search and try
  • What in ourselves has wrought this blame,
  • For thou remainest still the same,
  • But earth’s own vapours earth may fill
  • With darkness and thick clouds, while still
  • The sun is in the sky.
  • II.
  • If there had anywhere appeared in space
  • Another place of refuge, where to flee,
  • Our hearts had taken refuge in that place,
  • And not with Thee.
  • For we against creation’s bars had beat
  • Like prisoned eagles, through great worlds had sought
  • Though but a foot of ground to plant our feet,
  • Where Thou wert not.
  • And only when we found in earth and air,
  • In heaven or hell, that such might nowhere be—
  • That we could not flee from Thee anywhere,
  • We fled to Thee.
  • III.
  • Lord, many times I am aweary quite
  • Of mine own self, my sin, my vanity—
  • Yet be not Thou, or I am lost outright,
  • Weary of me.
  • And hate against myself I often bear,
  • And enter with myself in fierce debate:
  • Take Thou my part against myself, nor share
  • In that just hate.
  • Best friends might loathe us, if what things perverse
  • We know of our own selves, they also knew:
  • Lord, Holy One! if Thou who knowest worse
  • Should loathe us too!
  • Aspiration after purer, truer life, through the tempered discipline of divine mercy, is beautifully expressed in the selections which follow.