'T WAS on the day when England's Church of yore
Hail'd the New Year — a day to angels known,
Since holy Gabriel to meek Mary bore
The presence-token of th' Incarnate Son —
Up a low vale a Shepherd strayed alone;
Slow was his step and lowly bent his eye,
Save when at times a thought of tasks undone
His waken'd wincing memory stung too nigh:
Then startled into speed, else wandering wearily.


A Shepherd he, but not of lambs and ewes,
But of that flock redeem'd with precious Blood;
Thoughtless too oft, now deeply seen to muse
O'er the cold lea and by the rushing flood,
And where the pathway skirts the leafless wood,
And the heap'd snow, in mockery of the spring,
Lies mantling primrose flower and cowslip bud,
And scared birds forget to build and sing,
So rudely the cold North has brush'd each tender wing.


These Easter snows, of evil do they bode?
Of Faith's fair blossoms withering ere their prime;
And of a glorious Church that early glow'd
Bright as yon crown of stars in cold clear time,
That never sets, pride of our arctic clime,
Now deeply plunged where tempests drive and sweep,
Wavering and flickering, while rude gusts of crime
Rush here and there across th' ethereal deep,
And scarce one golden isle her station seems to keep?


Nay, — 'tis our human eyes, our airs of earth,
That waver; yet on high th' unquenched stars
Blaze as they blazed, and in their might go forth:
The Spouse of Heaven nor crime nor rapine mars
But the Most High permits these earthly jars,
That souls yet hearing only, may awake
And see Him near, and feel and own the bars
'Twixt them and Him. O be Thou near, to make
The worldly dream dissolve, the seared conscience ache!


But chiefly theirs, who at Thine Altar serve,
And for the souls elect Thy life-blood pour;
O grief and shame, when aged pastors swerve
To the base world or wild schismatic lore.
Alas, too lightly, by Thine open door,
They had been listening; not within the shrine
Kneeling in Christian calmness to adore,
Else had they held untired by Thee and Thine:
Nor gain nor fancy then had lured them from Thy shrine.


Lord of a world in years, a Church decayed,
If from Thy whirlwind answering, as of old
Thou with the vile wilt plead, till we have laid
Our hand upon our mouth, and truly told
Our tale of contrite faith — (O not too bold
The prayer) — then welcome whirlwind, anger, woe,
Welcome the flash that wakes the slumbering fold
Th' Almighty Pastor's arm and eye to know,
And turn their dreamy talk to holy Fear's stern glow.
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