“To see God’s ransomed world in wrath and flame”: Keble’s poem for Maundy Thursday

Thursday before Easter.

As the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.  Daniel ix. 23.

   “O Holy mountain of my God,
How do thy towers in ruin lie,
How art thou riven and strewn abroad,
Under the rude and wasteful sky!”
’Twas thus upon his fasting-day
The “Man of Loves” was fain to pray,
His lattice open toward his darling west,
Mourning the ruined home he still must love the best.

   Oh! for a love like Daniel’s now,
To wing to Heaven but one strong prayer
For God’s new Israel, sunk as low,
Yet flourishing to sight as fair,
As Sion in her height of pride,
With queens for handmaids at her side,
With kings her nursing-fathers, thronèd high,
And compassed with the world’s too tempting blazonry.

   ’Tis true, nor winter stays thy growth,
Nor torrid summer’s sickly smile;
The flashing billows of the south
Break not upon so lone an isle,
But thou, rich vine, art grafted there,
The fruit of death or life to bear,
Yielding a surer witness every day,
To thine Almighty Author and His steadfast sway.

   Oh! grief to think, that grapes of gall
Should cluster round thine healthiest shoot!
God’s herald prove a heartless thrall,
Who, if he dared, would fain be mute!
E’en such is this bad world we see,
Which self-condemned in owning Thee,
Yet dares not open farewell of Thee take,
For very pride, and her high-boasted Reason’s sake.

   What do we then? if far and wide
Men kneel to Christ, the pure and meek,
Yet rage with passion, swell with pride,
Have we not still our faith to seek?
Nay—but in steadfast humbleness
Kneel on to Him, who loves to bless
The prayer that waits for him; and trembling strive
To keep the lingering flame in thine own breast alive.

   Dark frowned the future e’en on him,
The loving and belovèd Seer,
What time he saw, through shadows dim,
The boundary of th’ eternal year;
He only of the sons of men
Named to be heir of glory then.
Else had it bruised too sore his tender heart
To see God’s ransomed world in wrath and flame depart

   Then look no more: or closer watch
Thy course in Earth’s bewildering ways,
For every glimpse thine eye can catch
Of what shall be in those dread days:
So when th’ Archangel’s word is spoken,
And Death’s deep trance for ever broken,
In mercy thou mayst feel the heavenly hand,
And in thy lot unharmed before thy Savour stand.

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