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Kohathite of old, then passing on to those of the Christian priest—to whom is transmitted that breath of Christ that imparted the authority of Absolution, the keys of the Kingdom;
• Who lead the choir where angels meet,
And pour the drink of Heaven.'
From the greatness of the pastoral vocation, he passes on to its peacefulness and soothing joy, striking a lower key, but coming home to many hearts where he observes that whereas men of other professions are incapacitated for them by sorrow, yet that the priest's office is his best comfort, his very life is the ministry of consolation. The happiness of the pastoral home is then dwelt on-no doubt with a thought of the much loved house at Fairford, with all its influences :
And the last verse is the sigh of one who knows that these home delights are but fleeting :
O joys tbat sweetest in decay,
But with the silent breath
Are wafted high in death.'
And was not this entreaty granted to him ?
Nay, more—do we not see in this poem the struggle and renunciation that brings out the full meaning of the Lyra's
Seal but thine eye to pleasant sins.'
It was thus sealing his eye to wild fancy's gallant train,' and closing his ear to the bugle strain, that kept his vision clear to see the blessed pictures that the Creed unfolded to him.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
NOWAERE has Mr. Keble drawn a grander scene than this—the wouldbe enchanter, but unwilling Prophet, standing on the verge of the mountain, with floating hair, and eyes stretched to behold some mighty vision.
A mighty vision indeed it was, as Amalek, first of the nations-Moabthe wandering Kenites in their rock-built nest-Edom, Eber, Assur—the very ships of Chittim-passed before him in review, and the ruin of each was predicted; yet without rousing the seer from his hopes of avarice. Not the sight of the future fate of all the kingdoms of the earth can show him the true worth of Balak's rewards. As little can any bright sun or star in the whole range of heaven attract his eye from his selfish longings for preferment, as can the angel's sword or the Almighty word detach him from them by terror. His heart and hope alike lie below the range either of the inducements or the threatenings that should have diverted him from it.
*There shall come a Star out of Jacob' were his words. That gentle Star we know full well—it is the Day Star from on high that hath visited us,' and though Balaam knew It as the 'token of wild war,'— It shall smite all the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth, or confusion,'—to us it is the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world; the bright and Morning Star, who will give Himself to him that overcometh.
For we are the heirs of those whom God had blessed, we have succeeded to the position of the chosen ; and ours by right of our spiritual ancestry were the goodly tents and tabernacles on which he gazed with unwilling admiration, as they stretched like dark cedars beside the waters, while his seven altar-fires flared up in the darkness. And as morning rose, there still lay the tents in their regular array; the sacred tabernacle, with the cloudy pillar in the centre, and each tribe marshalled around the ensign of their father,' the Lion of Judah, the Mountain Bull of Ephraim, the Water-bearer of Reuben, all evidently visible to him.
He watched these tents till knowledge came upon his soul like flame;' not from the magic of his sorcery—but the true light from Heaven, in one flash that died away at once in darkness.
How could he have helped fearing, whose curses were changed on his very tongue to blessings ? Alas! he had sold himself to the world, and the world had bound him beyond all power of escape.
And this grand though fragmentary poem closes with a prayer that we who are so much nearer to the shrine than ever Balaam was, may grow in love up to His heavenly light.
The other poem for this day is full of depth, so partially expressed that there is some amount both of obscurity and abruptness in it. The title is 'Children with Dumb Creatures,' and the thought running through it is upon the mysterious sympathy' that certainly does exist between children and animals. The very infant will watch a fly or a bird more intently than any effort to amuse it; and on the other hand, how often instances have been given of animals becoming suddenly gentle when encountered by a little child. Everyone has seen the tenderness of large dogs to little children, or heard of elephants tenderly protecting them ; and again, of children lost in the woods being found fearlessly playing with bears; St. Ambrose is far from being the only instance of bees swarming round a babe without hurting him; and for the war-horse treading full softly,' we have just met with an authentic anecdote * of a 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.
**The Magazine for the Young,' 1868, p. 321.
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. The baptized 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
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.
TILIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
Tuis 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 liimself 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 wbich 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;
She joys that one is born
Into a world forgiven,
And dwell with her in Heaven :
When the glad earth was offering all her best,
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
Here--but we must quote, we cannot change such words
• A fragment of a rainbow bright,
Through the moist air I see;
All clear and gay to me.
The gleam was far behind;
When earth no more shall blind.
Fall soft that holiest ray;
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
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.