Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

runaway charger from Knightsbridge Barracks, who meeting his master's little boy in the midst of the wildest endeavours to escape the pursuit of the soldiers, actually made a leap into the air over the child's head, and thus avoided all injury to him.

Then comes the question—what can be the link between childhood and the animal world ?

The Eastern sage would answer by the doctrine of transmigration, which might unite both child and creature by dim recollections of past lives in other beings; but the Christian has another answer. Thebaptized child has the purity of Adam before his fall, when the creatures waited around him. That purity brings back his dominion over the animals is the feeling that prompted the old fancy that an innocent maiden can lead about and subdue the lion ; the idea so beautifully shewn forth in Spenser's royal lion becoming the guardian of his virgin Una. The fearless eye, upright form, and tone of command, assuredly do master animals, in virtue of the rule given to man; and when these are found in a little innocent ignorant child, totally devoid of strength, and meet with ready and loving submission, surely we are reminded of the old days of peace in Paradise, and led onward to the prophecy of the sucking child putting his hand on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child upon the cockatrice' den.

Thus the mutual love of babes and animals is 'a sweet awful sacrament,' by which is here meant a mysterious outward sign of the inward victory. "The cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together, and a little child shall lead them. Our own little ones' understanding with the creatures is then here treated as a mysterious token of the conquest that has delivered this earth from the bondage of the Enemy, and brought the most various natures to be one together, led by the Little Child of Bethlehem.

Thence the poem turns to the children's exceeding love for these dumb companions.

Oh why are ye so fondly stirred
For bounding lamb or lonely bird ?

Why should ye joy or mourn ?'

The answer is that something of the Good Shepherd's love and tenderness has passed to them in their Baptism, and that this is shewn not only in their love of all created life, but especially in that delight in leading and fondling younger infants, that is the great charm of many a child.

THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.

This day's poem begins with a description which it is not easy to realize, * and which, no doubt, refers to some individual effect seen perhaps once

* We have seen a perfect grey cloud of silver willow-buds on a copse, but these blossoms appear to be violets.

on some moist sweet languid April day, oppressing the spirits with that strange sadness and inertness of which all have, at times, been conscious in spring, forming as it does a strange contrast to the exulting life and renovation of all nature.

The poet blames hiinself for this want of harmony with nature and the season—and 'for waking the spectral forms of woe and crime;' and in the next verse, that which is termed religious melancholy is spoken of as, in a measure, unreasonable. Perhaps the proud heart's self-torturing hour,' is meant to refer to the notion, (then more prevalent in the theology of the educated classes than at present,) that there must in all cases (even of baptizel Christians) be a conscious agony of repentance and almost despair, like Christian's Slough of Despond, before faith could begin.

• The travail pangs must have their way,

The aching brow must lower.'

Whereas a Christian ought to have grown up in full faith in the glorious Child, who was born in our hearts long ago. The pains of repentance, though gone through on every sin, should be cast aside in the thankful joy of full pardon, or where would be the ‘joy that no man taketh from you?' The Christian life should be rejoicing in the Resurrection gladness, that followed the Agony of the Passion.

Then, turning to our Lord's own simile of the Church's suffering at His Passion and joy in His Resurrection, to the anguish and the gladness of child-birth, the poem dwells on the completeness of the Christian mother's bliss. This is one of the verses deepest enshrined in the recesses of many hearts, for its tender love, and the truth of sympathy which enables so many fond hearts to find their utterance in it. And to shew the cause of the real fullness of that joy-rising high and far above the mere instinct of motherhood, the contrast is drawn from Herodotus' old tale of the Thracian women always bewailing together the birth of a child, as a being born to misery.

• They mourned to trust their treasure on the main,

Sure of the storm, unknowing of the guide ;
Welcome to her the peril and the pain,
For well she knows the home where they may safely hide.

She joys that one is born

Into a world forgiven,
Her Father's household to adorn,

And dwell with her in Heaven :
So have I seen in spring's bewitching hour,

When the glad earth was offering all her best,
Some gentle maid bend o'er a cherished flower,
And wish it worthier on a parent's heart to rest.'

Therewith the poem ends somewhat abruptly; and the argument is rather hinted at than traced, i.e. that the travail pangs have been over, and that new life has begun for all, so that cheerfulness has become an

absolute mark of faith and gratitude ; while languor and depression (even when physical) belong to the former things that have passed away.

Short and simple, but lovely and complete, is the Lyra April song upon the same text, like the old German distich so familiar to the lovers of Fouqué,

Man geht aus Nacht in Sonne
Man geht aus Graus in Wonne
Aus Tod in Leben ein.'

Here-but we must quote, we cannot change such words,

"A fragment of a rainbow bright,

Through the moist air I see;
All dark and damp on yonder height,

All clear and gay to me.
An hour ago the storm was here,

The gleam was far bebind;
So will our joys and griefs appear,

When earth no more shall blind.

Grief will be joy, if on its edge

Fall soft that holiest ray;
Joy will be grief when no faint pledge

Be there of brighter day.'

And then, in the two last stanzas, come the illustrations—the desolation of the Church at the Passion of our Lord, and the gladness of Eve when she deemed the promised Seed of the Woman was already come, and she cried, 'I have gotten the * Man from the Lord.'

Our Lord lay in His grave, and the despairing disciples said, as a thing past,' We trusted that it should have been He who should have redeemed Israel.' Eve's heart bounded at the belief that her fall was repaired and that the serpent would be bruised by her child. She little knew that she was to be the first mother to mourn her son's guilt-or that her child would be the first to stain the earth with violence. The disciples were • slow of heart to believe' that the time was come, the deed was done, the Victory won; and that their own Master, whose death they mourned, had conquered for ever by that very Death.

So let us cheer our sorrows, and sober our joys, by bethinking ourselves how they will look when this life is past.

FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.

My Saviour, can it ever be
That I should gain by losing Thee?'

It is as it were the pleading of the devoted heart, amazed at our Lord's assurance that His departure was for the good of His Church. If the

* Such, commentators tell us, is the force of Genesis, iv. 1.

mother will not leave her helpless babe, how can Christ's disciples in their weakness endure His absence? Yet it was His own word; and His Apostles proved that so it was, when they had watched His ascension into Heaven, and returned, not daring to mourn for themselves, but rejoicing in His glory, to

• Their home and God's, that favoured place,
Where still He shines on Abraham's race,'

-namely, the upper room; the first of all Christian churches, which continue to enjoy His blessing, as the favoured place where He is present with the true children of Abraham by faith.

There, in prayer, they await His promise ; like suppliants, awaiting in security their monarch's largess, reserved to increase the joy of his coronation day. They wait—not doubting of His Rest, nor of His gracious purpose; only as yet scarce understanding what that Gift could mean which is to be so great as to make their Saviour's going, gain.' That waiting time was through life a period on which Mr. Keble loved to dwell in his teaching—the Expectation days, when the greatest of all gifts, the completion of the Divine Work for man, was to come.

Solemn, sweet, and lovely are the ensuing verses, in which the Coming and the Work of the Comforter is described ; and so simple, that no comment can render them easier. We can scarce refrain from quoting them, but their cadence cannot fail to be in the hearts of all our readers ; and it would be presumption to try to paraphrase them. They answer the wistful question at the beginning—they shew what the Blessed Presence of God the Holy Ghost is to the Church ; and the last—turning our gaze inward to our own heart-calls from ourselves the witness that eren were our Lord in bodily presence among us, as among the Jews of old, we should have no power to believe on Him without the quickening Grace of the Holy Spirit.

· The Spirit must stir the darkling deep,

The Dove must settle on the Cross ;
Else should we all sin on and sleep,
With Christ in sight; turning our gain to loss.'

If the Lyra Innocentium had Scriptural mottoes connecting the poems with the services, that for to-day's would no doubt be from the Epistle, • Of His own Will begat He us with the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. The whole of this Cradle Song of the Guardian Angels,' is a 'Morning dream or vision of the presentation of infant souls, at their Baptism, to their Heavenly Father, each by its own angel keeper, as the true first-fruits of His created beings.

• Ne'er with smile so glad and kind

Welcomed God's High Priest of old,
Abraham's Seed with Abraham's mind,

Offering gifts from field and fold;

Lamb or kid, or first-ripe corn,
Glory of the Paschal Morn!

While the shades from Salem's wall
Deepest on Siloah fall,'

as was the welcome with which our Great High Priest embraced each soul in the arms of His mercy,' and assigned its place in the eternal round' of beings doing Him service in Heaven and earth.

Was it a mere dream? Nay

• From the Fountain to the Shrine,
Bear me on, thou trance divine;
Faint not, fade not from my view,
Till I wake and find thee true!'

(To be continued.)

THE RESURRECTION.

TRANSLATED FROM THE ITALIAN OF MANZONI.

He is risen! But how was death

Forced to give back his prey ?
What blast of conquering breath

Made the dark gates give way?
I swear it, by Him Who saith

That He only liveth alway,
He is risen indeed, to-day!

No longer the Holy Head

Lies swathed in the linen fine;
The stone that guarded the Dead

Is rolled from the empty shrine;
And the frighted watch have fled.

Like a giant refreshed with wine,
So woke the Lord Divine.

As the pilgrim awakes from sleep,

Far in the forest glade,
And, roused from that slumber deep,

Shakes away from his head
A leaf, which the night-winds' sweep

Had wafted there, and laid,
Withered, and light, and dead;

So from that rock-hewn door,

Where the ponderous marble lay,

« VorigeDoorgaan »