Fourth Sunday In Lent
by John Keble
When Nature tries her finest touch,
Weaving her vernal wreath,
Mark ye, how close she veils her round,
Not to be traced by sight or sound,
Nor soiled by ruder breath?
Who ever saw the earliest rose
First open her sweet breast?
Or, when the summer sun goes down,
The first soft star in evening's crown
Light up her gleaming crest?
Fondly we seek the dawning bloom
On features wan and fair,
The gazing eye no change can trace,
But look away a little space,
Then turn, and lo! 'tis there.
But there's a sweeter flower than e'er
Blushed on the rosy spray -
A brighter star, a richer bloom
Than e'er did western heaven illume
At close of summer day.
'Tis Love, the last best gift of Heaven;
Love gentle, holy, pure;
But tenderer than a dove's soft eye,
The searching sun, the open sky,
She never could endure.
E'en human Love will shrink from sight
Here in the coarse rude earth:
How then should rash intruding glance
Break in upon HER sacred trance
Who boasts a heavenly birth?
So still and secret is her growth,
Ever the truest heart,
Where deepest strikes her kindly root
For hope or joy, for flower or fruit,
Least knows its happy part.
God only, and good angels, look
Behind the blissful screen -
As when, triumphant o'er His woes,
The Son of God by moonlight rose,
By all but Heaven unseen:
As when the holy Maid beheld
Her risen Son and Lord:
Thought has not colours half so fair
That she to paint that hour may dare,
In silence best adored.
The gracious Dove, that brought from Heaven
The earnest of our bliss,
Of many a chosen witness telling,
On many a happy vision dwelling,
Sings not a note of this.
So, truest image of the Christ,
Old Israel's long-lost son,
What time, with sweet forgiving cheer,
He called his conscious brethren near,
Would weep with them alone.
He could not trust his melting soul
But in his Maker's sight -
Then why should gentle hearts and true
Bare to the rude world's withering view
Their treasure of delight!
No--let the dainty rose awhile
Her bashful fragrance hide -
Rend not her silken veil too soon,
But leave her, in her own soft noon,
To flourish and abide.