Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
Extracts from The Christian Year: Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
By John Keble (1792–1866)
 
(The Lilies of the Field)

SWEET nurslings of the vernal skies,
  Bathed in soft airs, and fed with dew,
What more than magic in you lies,
  To fill the heart’s fond view?
In childhood’s sports, companions gay,        5
In sorrow, on Life’s downward way,
How soothing! in our last decay
  Memorials prompt and true.
 
Relics ye are of Eden’s bowers,
  As pure, as fragrant, and as fair,        10
As when ye crowned the sunshine hours
  Of happy wanderers there.
Fall’n all beside—the world of life,
How is it stained with fear and strife!
In Reason’s world what storms are rife,        15
  What passions range and glare!
 
But cheerful and unchanged the while
  Your first and perfect form ye show,
The same that won Eve’s matron smile
  In the world’s opening glow.        20
The stars of heaven a course are taught
Too high above our human thought;
Ye may be found if ye are sought,
  And as we gaze, we know.
 
Ye dwell beside our paths and homes,        25
  Our paths of sin, our homes of sorrow,
And guilty man, where’er he roams,
  Your innocent mirth may borrow.
The birds of air before us fleet,
They cannot brook our shame to meet—        30
But we may taste our solace sweet
  And come again to-morrow.
 
Ye fearless in your nests abide—
  Nor may we scorn, too proudly wise,
Your silent lessons, undescried        35
  By all but lowly eyes:
For ye could draw th’ admiring gaze
Of Him who worlds and hearts surveys:
Your order wild, your fragrant maze,
  He taught us how to prize.        40
 
Ye felt your Maker’s smile that hour,
  As when He paused and owned you good;
His blessing on earth’s primal bower,
  Ye felt it all renewed.
What care ye now, if winter’s storm        45
Sweep ruthless o’er each silken form?
Christ’s blessing at your heart is warm,
  Ye fear no vexing mood.
 
Alas! of thousand bosoms kind,
  That daily court you and caress,        50
How few the happy secret find
  Of your calm loveliness!
‘Live for to-day! to-morrow’s light
To-morrow’s cares shall bring to sight,
Go sleep like closing flowers at night,        55
  And Heaven thy morn will bless.’
 
 
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