From “Poem for St. Thomas’ Day,” The Christian Year (1827)
We were not by when Jesus came,
But round us, far and near,
We see His trophies, and His name
In choral echoes hear.
In a fair ground our lot is cast,
As in the solemn week that past,
While some might doubt, but all adored,
Ere the whole widowed Church had seen her risen Lord.
Slowly, as then, His bounteous hand
The golden chain unwinds,
Drawing to Heaven with gentlest band
Wise hearts and loving minds.
Love sought Him first-at dawn of morn
From her sad couch she sprang forlorn,
She sought to weep with Thee alone,
And saw Thine open grave, and knew that thou wert gone.
Reason and Faith at once set out
To search the SAVIOR’S tomb;
Faith faster runs, but waits without,
As fearing to presume,
Till Reason enter in, and trace
Christ’s relics round the holy place —
“Here lay His limbs, and here His sacred head,
And who was by, to make his new-forsaken bed?”
Both wonder, one believes — but while
They muse on all at home,
No thought can tender Love beguile
From Jesus’ grave to roam.
Weeping she stays till He appear —
Her witness first the Church must hear —
All joy to souls that can rejoice
With her at earliest call of His dear gracious voice.
Joy too to those, who love to talk
In secret how He died,
Though with sealed eyes awhile they walk,
Nor see him at their side:
Most like the faithful pair are they,
Who once to Emmaus took their way,
Half darkling, till their Master shied
His glory on their souls, made known in breaking bread.
Thus, ever brighter and more bright,
On those He came to save
The Lord of new-created light
Dawned gradual from the grave;
Till passed th’ enquiring day-light hour,
And with closed door in silent bower
The Church in anxious musing sate,
As one who for redemption still had long to wait.
Then, gliding through th’ unopening door,
Smooth without step or sound,
“Peace to your souls,” He said-no more-
They own Him, kneeling round.
Eye, ear, and hand, and loving heart,
Body and soul in every part,
Successive made His witnesses that hour,
Cease not in all the world to show His saving power.
Is there, on earth, a spirit frail,
Who fears to take their word,
Scarce daring, through the twilight pale,
To think he sees the Lord?
With eyes too tremblingly awake
To bear with dimness for His sake?
Read and confess the Hand Divine
That drew thy likeness here so true in every line.
For all thy rankling doubts so sore,
Love thou thy Savior still,
Him for thy Lord and God adore,
And ever do His will.
Though vexing thoughts may seem to last,
Let not thy soul be quite o’ercast; —
Soon will He show thee all His wounds, and say,
“Long have I known Thy name — know thou My face alway.”
John Keble (1792-1866) was an Anglican priest, theologian, and poet, one of the principal leaders of the Oxford Movement, Anglicanism’s nineteenth century Catholic Revival. He is best known for The Christian Year, a popular set of devotional poems that inspired support for liturgical renewal, and for his 1833 Assize Sermon, widely regarded as the spark of the Oxford Movement. He was among the principal authors of The Tracts for the Times, a series of 90 pamphlets that announced the Oxford Movement’s aims to the wider church. Keble is commemorated on March 29 on the liturgical calendars of many Anglican churches.