XVI. John Keble


{421} IN venturing some remarks on the poems just now published at Oxford under the title of the Lyra Innocentium, it is far from our intention to adopt the tone of controversialists, or even of critics. The name of their author would hinder us from so doing. That they are really Mr. Keble's, we make no question, though we are not told so in the title-page. There are few of them which do not bear clear marks of their relationship to those in the Christian Year and the Lyra Apostolica, which are so familiar to our memories and our hearts; and, that (unlike the Lyra Apostolica,) they have all one and the same parentage, is evident, on the principle that exceptio probat regulam, from the circumstance that one of them, and one only, is ascribed, in a note appended to it, to another person. One or two there are which are somewhat different from the rest in style; and there are metres introduced which do not occur in the Christian Year; the matter too is not so condensed, nor the thoughts so recondite; but such varieties are found in the separate works of every author,—time, place, age, frame of mind, subject, circumstances, giving to each its distinctive character. The Christian {422} Year was published in 1827; the Lyra Apostolica (as far as it is Mr. Keble's) is the Christian Year of 1833; the Lyra Innocentium is the Christian Year of 1846. The circumstances of 1827 and 1846 differ from each other more than the character of the two Volumes which belong to those respective dates.

We have not the analytical powers which would warrant us to attempt a critical estimate of the poems contained in the Volume before us; and we have not quite the heartless officiousness to view them in a controversial aspect. If they have a special characteristic, it is that they are not controversial, in this respect differing from other poems which other writers of his school have given to the world, and he at other times. Whether we look into the Lyra Apostolica, or into the Cathedral and Baptistery, loyalty to the Anglican Church is here or there enforced or insinuated by attacks on the See of Rome and the Catholic Church; some few traces of this peculiarity are found even in the Christian Year. But the Lyra Innocentium preserves an emphatic silence on the subject of other Churches. It will teach the happy children who are submitted to its influence, at least by implication, that there is no contrariety, no separation between the different portions of Christendom; that Christianity is everywhere the same, the religion of peace and truth, with one and the same great daily rite, one and the same profession of faith. Catholics, at least, are not called upon to find fault with such a representation.

Topic - Conversion Nor do we find in this Volume any strong language against those who have recently left the Anglican Church, as is the manner with the periodicals and pamphlets which express the sentiments of the party with which the author's name is connected. That he seriously disapproves {423} of their step, is evident even from the fact that he does not take it himself; for such a step is either a duty or a sin; nay, he distinctly records his feeling on the subject; at the same time he records it without bitterness, violence, or injustice towards the persons concerned. In his introductory stanzas "To all friendly readers," he desires their prayers

                                     "that he
A true and timely word may frame
    For weary hearts that long to see
Their way in our dim twilight-hour:
    His lips so purged with penance-fire,
That he may guide them, in Christ's power,
    Along the path of their desire;

"And with no faint and erring voice
    May to the wanderer whisper, 'Stay:
God chooses for thee: seal His choice,
    Nor from thy Mother's shadow stray.'"

It will be observed that he here recognizes himself distinctly as "guiding" others, and that "with no faint nor erring voice." And in another place he seems to compare those who "mistrust their elders" and leave the Anglican Church, to St. Thomas, who would himself see, before he believed the Resurrection; a kind comparison, because St. Thomas was an Apostle notwithstanding, but still of a very decided meaning. The poem is on the general subject of wilfulness and "worldly wisdom," in refusing to "see with others' eyes;" it ends thus:

Alas that man his breath should lose
    In wayward, doubting race,
Nor his still home in shelter choose
    Where Thou hast set his place."—P. 109.


Would that others had confined themselves to this—we will not say kind and gentle, but—equitable tone in their reproofs! we speak not of one person or another, but of the generality of those who have felt it a duty to animadvert on recent converts to the Catholic Church. We are not here crying for mercy, but asking justice, demanding common English fairness; we have a right to expect, but we do not find, that considerate, compassionate, comprehensive judgment upon their conduct, which, instead of fixing on particular isolated points in it, views it as a whole,—uses the good, which is its general character, to hide its incidental faults, makes one part explain another, what is strong here excuse what is weak there, and evident sincerity of intention atone for infirmity of performance;—which has a regard to circumstances, to the trial of an almost necessary excitement, to the necessity of acting beyond criticism, yet without precedent, and of reaching a certain object when all paths to it have respectively their own difficulties. We are not apologizing for their great and momentous decision itself, but for the peculiarities which have accompanied its execution; if to do as much as this be considered after all asking for mercy, not for equity, it is only such mercy, to say the least, as the parties censuring, as well as the parties censured, will require themselves on a day to come. In the well-known words of the poet—

            "In the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy."

And we on our parts will show to these our good friends so much consideration, as to allow that at least {425} they do not pass their censures wantonly. We do not hold them justified in those censures, but we are able to enter into the reasons why they pass them. Such censures are necessary for their own position. When men of education, of good abilities, of blameless lives, make great sacrifices, give up their place in society, their friends, and their means of living, in order to join another communion, it is a strong argument, as far as any single argument is strong, for that communion's claim on the dutiful regard of Christians generally. And in the instances before us, the argument told with particular cogency on those persons, and they were not few, who were united to the converts by ties of friendship, kindred, or gratitude. It was impossible that such persons should not be moved by the example thus held out to them; and, this being the case, there was no saying how far its influence might spread. In consequence it became very necessary for those who had no doubts or difficulties to show to all who wavered or might waver, that there was something faulty in the mode in which the seceding parties had severally detached themselves from their original communion,—some fault such as to invalidate the testimony of each, and to destroy its logical and rhetorical force. It was a great point to be in a condition to say, that there was not any one of them who might not have acted better than he did; and, whereas by the fact of seceding they had shown no pity towards the Church of England, its doctors, or its living divines and prelates, there was no special call for any delicacy in dealing with them, and no reason against imputing motives to them or using personalities about them, freely and without scruple. If motives could not be plausibly conjectured, faulty tendencies at least were discoverable in their several characters; or hypothetical failings were assignable, {426} as restlessness, or flightiness, such as would, if existing, account for their conduct by what Gibbon calls "human causes;" or, if everything else failed, words might be cast at them, and they might be accused of "rationalism." Nay, since no man living is perfect, and such critical junctures bring out an individual mind, such as it is, into full play, develop its qualities and faculties, and magnify for the time, as by a lens, even its minutest peculiarities, and represent its faintest shades and colours, we may readily grant that never was there a case of conversion, except under the influence of extraordinary inspiration, which might not have proceeded more holily, more wisely, more religiously than it did—never a case which did not present an opportunity of criticism, to those who had the heart, or felt it a necessity, or thought it a duty, to criticise.

Such is the condition of all of us in this world. "Posuisti iniquitates nostras in conspectu tuo, sśculum nostrum in illuminatione vultus tui." Good friends, you have not far to seek; habetis confitentem reum; he pleads guilty; he has given up a fellowship or a living, or he has forfeited an inheritance, or ruined the prospects or present provision of wife and children, or damaged his reputation for judgment or discernment; he has cheerfully made himself a scoff, submitted himself as a prey to the newspapers, has made himself strange to his brethren; and besides and amid all this, it is true, he has said a strong word he had better not have said—or uttered a sarcasm—his successive disclosures have not severely kept time with the growth of the misgivings,—he has spoken to those with whom he should have been reserved, and has been silent where he should have spoken; at times he has not known where he stood, and perhaps promised what he could not perform. Of his {427} sacrifices he thinks and says nothing; what he does know and does painfully think of, is in substance just that which you so rhetorically urge against him, yes, and before you urge it. His self-scrutiny has preceded your dissection of him. What you proclaim to the world, he confesses without grudging, viz., that he has but acted secundum captum suum, according to what he is, not as an Angel, but as a man. In the process of his conversion he has had to struggle with uncertainty of mind, with the duties of an actual position, with misgivings of its untenableness, with the perplexity of fulfilling many duties and of reconciling conflicting ones. He is not perfect; no one is perfect; not they who accuse him; he could retaliate upon them; he could gratuitously suggest reasons for their retaining their stations, as they can suggest reasons for his relinquishing his own; it is easy to impute motives; but it would be unworthy of him to do so. He leaves his critics to that Judgment to which he himself appeals. May they who have spoken or written harshly of recent converts to the Catholic Church, receive at the Great Day more lenient measure than they have in this case given!


Returning to the Volume which has led to these remarks, we find the author's silence concerning the matters of the day still more emphatic than we have as yet described it. Not only is he entirely uncontroversial, as beseemed one who writes of "Christian Children, their ways and their privileges," but he abstains almost entirely from any allusion whatever to the existing state and prospects of the English Church. In this respect he is singularly in contrast with himself in the Christian Year, which, though written for the personal edification of {428} private Christians, abounds in sentiments about ecclesiastical matters, as they stood at the date of its composition. Those sentiments wear the character of forebodings, and those forebodings seem from the event and the present position of affairs to be almost prophetic. He wrote and published in a time of peace and plenty for his Church, when Lord Liverpool's government was in power, when Church patronage was dispensed more respectably than perhaps it ever had been, and when Church Reform had not showed itself even on paper. In those palmy days of the Establishment, our author discerned, that neither in doctrine nor in ethical standard was it even as much as it might have been according to its own principles, and as it had actually been from time to time in the persons of certain of its members. He thought he perceived in it, not merely corruption of life, but failure of faith, and judgment in the horizon. He described the world, which once attended our Lord in triumph into Jerusalem, as now

                "Thronging round to gaze
On the dread vision of the latter days,
            Constrained to own Thee, but in heart
            Prepared to take Barabbas' part;
       'Hosanna' now, tomorrow 'Crucify,'
The changeful burden still of their rude lawless cry."

And then he asked:

"But what are heaven's alarms to hearts that cower
  In wilful slumber, deepening every hour,
                That draw their curtains closer round,
                The nearer swells the trumpet's sound?"

He speaks of the "watchman true," as

             "Waiting to see what God will do,
As o'er the Church the gathering twilight falls;"


             "Contented in his darkling round,
               If only he be faithful found,
When from the east the eternal morning moves."

He addresses the clergy in general in a similar strain

"Think not of rest; though dreams be sweet,
  Start up, and ply your heavenward feet; …
  Till, when the shadows thickest fall,
  Ye hear your Master's midnight call."

And elsewhere,—

"Is this a time for moonlight dreams
  Of love and home by mazy streams ...
  While souls are wandering far and wide,
  And curses swarm on every side?
  No—rather steel thy melting heart
  To act the martyr's steadfast part,
  To watch with firm, unshrinking eye,
  Thy darling visions as they die,
  Till all bright hopes and hues of day
  Have faded into twilight grey ... "

At another time, speaking of the English Church more directly, after commencing with "Stately thy walls and holy are thy prayers," he continues—

                                     "O mother dear,
    Wilt thou forgive thy son one boding sigh?
Forgive, if round thy towers he walk in fear,
    And tell thy jewels o'er with jealous eye?"

And then he proceeds to apply to his Church Ezekiel's fearful Vision in the Temple. Elsewhere he speaks of

"God's new Israel, sunk as low,
    Yet flourishing to sight as fair,
As Sion in her height of pride."

And, to make one additional extract, speaking of Aaron's sin in the matter of the golden calf, he asks,— {430}

"For what shall heal when holy water banes?
             Or who may guide
             O'er desert plains
Thy loved yet sinful people wandering wide
      If Aaron's heart unshrinking mould
      An idol form of earthly gold? …

And he intercedes for those

"That nearest to Thine altar lie,
  Yet least of holy things descry."


Such plaintive notes, "quales popule‚ Philomela sub umbra," have by this time altogether left the Poet's Lyre: as far as we have observed, not a sound remains of them in the present Volume. What is the meaning of this? is it that singing-birds are silent when a storm is at hand, and that the evil in his Church is too awful and imminent for verse? Actual England is too sad to look upon. The Poet seems to turn away from the sight; else, in his own words, would it "bruise too sore his tender heart;" and he takes refuge in the contemplation of that blessed time of life, in which alone the Church is what God intended it, what Christ made it, the time of infancy and childhood. He strikes the Lyra Innocentium. He hangs over the first springs of divine grace, and fills his water-pots with joy "ex fontibus Salvatoris," before heresy, schism, ambition, worldliness, and cowardice have troubled the still depths. He would fain have the morning last till evening; he confesses it:

"O sweet morning-dream, I pray,
     Pass not with the matin-hour:
  Charm me:—heart and tongue allay,
     Thoughts of gloom and eyes that lower.
  From the Fountain to the Shrine,
  Bear me on, thou trance divine;
  Faint not, fade not on my view,
  Till I wake and find thee true."—P. 11.

Thus he would live and die in a "trance" or "dream;" a dream, as he confesses it to be, since souls fall from their first innocence, as time goes on. And yet we cordially thank him for his "dream;" that is, we thank him for choosing a subject for his verse in which Catholics and he are at one,—a subject such, that Catholics can claim and use his poems as expressing their own mind, not merely imposing a higher and fuller sense on them, but taking them in that very sense in which he speaks. Whatever differences Catholics may have with Mr. Keble, they have none in the main doctrine and fact on which his Volume is written. If there be one point from which they are able to look with satisfaction on this bewildered land, it is as regards the state of its baptized infants. Those infants are, in their estimation, as good Catholics as themselves, or better. The Catholic Church is the very "Church of their baptism;" and the "Mother of their new birth;" they were baptized into nothing short of that Church: too soon indeed they pass into the hands of others, who detach them from their true Mother; but in their first years, till they come to years of discretion, and commit acts which separate them from her, they are as fully and absolutely the children of the Catholic Church as if they were baptized by Catholics. They have Angels to guard them, and saints to intercede for them; they are lovely and pleasant in their lives, and blessed in their deaths. Thus the death of children in this Protestant country is attended by a consolation unspeakable; the dreadful controversy about the two communions does not touch them; they are recognized as {432} innocents on all hands, and they have been taken away from the evil to come. Bright, precious thought, though dimmed of late years with a shade of sadness, from the negligence and ignorance with which the sacred rite of baptism has been so often administered!

Well would it be for all men, could they always live the life they lived as infants, possessed of the privileges, not the responsibilities of regeneration. Our author, as we have said, especially feels it at the present time; and, leaving the Anglican Church to go on as it will, and to deny truth as it will, he hides from himself all that is national, local, schismatical, existing,—he withdraws his pleading eye and his warning voice from a generation which scorns him,—he leaves bishops and clergy, cathedral chapters and ecclesiastical judges, town mobs and country squires, to the tender mercies of history, in order to enjoy a blameless Donatism, to live in a church of children, to gaze on their looks and gestures, to encourage them in good, and to guard them from harm and sin.

Thus, in some beautiful stanzas he compares a child sleeping in his cradle, first to the infant Moses in his ark of bulrushes, then to our Lord Himself asleep in the vessel:

"Storms may rush in, and crimes and woes
      Deform the quiet bower;
  They may not mar the deep repose
      Of that immortal flower.
  Though only broken hearts be found,
      To watch his cradle by,
  No blight is on his slumbers sound,
      No touch of harmful eye.

"So gently slumbered on the wave
      The new-born seer of old,
  Ordained the chosen tribes to save,
      Nor dreamed how darkly rolled
  The waters by his rushy brake,
      Perchance even now defiled
  With infants' blood for Israel's sake,
      Blood of some priestly child.

            *            *            *

"Hail, chosen Type and Image true
      Of Jesus on the sea!
  In slumber, and in glory too,
      Shadowed of old by thee.
  Save that in calmness thou didst sleep,
      The summer stream beside,
  He on a wider, wilder deep,
      Where boding night-winds sighed."—Pp. 33-34.

He inquires whether regenerate infants do not see their Saviour, and by their sudden transport on waking is reminded of the unborn Baptist at the Visitation:

       "Oft as in sun-bright dawn
The infant lifts his eye, joying to find
       The dusky veil of sleep undrawn,
And to the East gives welcome kind,
          Or in the morning air
             Waves high his little arm,
As though he read, engraven there,
    His fontal name, Christ's saving charm.

            *            *            *

       "Still in love's steady gaze,
            In joy's unbidden cry,
That holy Mother's glad amaze,
       That infant's worship we descry."—P. 43.

To this intimate approach to the Saviour of all, vouchsafed to children, he is led to attribute, in another poem, the sort of understanding which exists between them and the brute creation. {434}

"Thou makest me jealous, infant dear,
      Why wilt thou waste thy precious smiles,
      Thy beckonings blithe, and joyous wiles.
  On bird or insect gliding near?
      Why court the deaf and blind?
  What is this wondrous sympathy,
  That draws thee so, heart, ear, and eye,
      Towards the inferior kind?

"We tempt thee much to look and sing—
      Thy mimic notes are rather drawn
      From feathered playmates on the lawn—
  The quivering moth, or bee's soft wing,
      Brushing the window pane,
  Will reach thee in thy dreamy trance,
  When nurse's skill for one bright glance
      Hath toiled an hour in vain."—Pp. 49, 50.

Then he speaks of the "baying bloodhound" and the "watch-dog stern," the "war-horse," nay, the "tiger's whelp," "wild elephant and mountain bull," as well as "bounding lamb or lonely bird," as being in league with children, and thus is led on to his conclusion:

"Ah, you have been in Jesus' arms,
      The holy fount hath you imbued
      With His all-healing kindly blood;
  And somewhat of His pastoral charms,
      And care for His lost sheep,
  Ye there have learned: in ordered tones
  Gently to soothe the lesser ones,
      And watch their noonday sleep."

In another poem he traces to the same intimacy with the Unseen the power of children over the wicked:

"A little child's soft sleeping face
      The murderer's knife ere now hath stayed:
  The adulterer's eye, so foul and base,
      Is of a little child afraid.
          They cannot choose but fear,
  Since in that sign they feel God and good Angels near."

He continues:

"Heaven in the depth and height is seen;
      On high among the stars, and low
  In deep clear waters: all between
      Is earth, and tastes of earth: even so
          The Almighty One draws near
To strongest seraphs there, the weakest infants here."

And thus he accounts for cherubs being represented in churches under the form of infants:

"O well and wisely wrought of old,
      Nor without guide be sure, who first
  Did cherub forms as infants mould,
      And lift them where the full deep burst
          Of awful harmony
Might need them most, to waft it onward to the sky;

"Where best they may, in watch and ward,
      Around the enthroned Saviour stand,
  May quell with sad and stern regard
      Unruly eye and wavering hand,
          May read the blessed dole
Of saving knowledge round from many a holy scroll."
Pp. 268-271.

While the above extracts sufficiently show Mr. Keble's deep reverence towards the state of infants, they do not always connect the holiness of that state with the rite of baptism. On the latter point, however, he is very earnest; and, if we might theorize on the subject, we should fancy that he was not quite pleased with the Platonic tone, as it may be called, of much of the poetry of the day, which extols indeed the divine blessedness of infancy, but in so unguarded or ignorant a manner as to forget the source of it, as if this divinity belonged to children in their own nature and original state, and not as new-made by baptism. There is a studious accuracy of the author on this point. {436}


But now we come to notice a second peculiarity in these poems, which immediately follows from their main topic being such as we have described it to be. If the author is to sing of regenerate infants and their sinless blessedness, and is to view them in such lights as thence belong to them, to what is he necessarily brought back at once, but to the thought of our Lord in the first years of His earthly existence, when He was yet a little one in the arms and at the breast of His Blessed Mother? Hence the Virgin and Child is the special vision, as it may be called, which this truly evangelical poet has before him throughout his "Thoughts in Verse on Christian Children;" like "that holy painter" and evangelist, whom he himself speaks of,

"Who with pen and pencil true
  Christ's own awful mother drew."—P. 98.

He even introduces the thought of her, where there are neither children to suggest it, nor Scripture texts to declare it. He observes that, at the first Whitsuntide, "all estates, all tribes of earth" were collected; "only sweet infancy seemed silent in the adoring earth." "Mothers and maidens" were there, "widows from Galilee," "Levites," and "elders sage." He continues:

          "But nought we read of that sweet age
            Which in His strong embrace He took,
            And sealed it safe, by word and look,
From earth's foul dews, and withering airs of hell:
The Pentecostal chant no infant warblings swell."—P. 343.

And he goes out of his way, as follows, to supply the imagined deficiency:

"Nay, but She worships here,
  Whom still the Church in memory sees,
             (O thought to mothers dear!)
          Before her babe on bended knees,
          Or rapt with fond adoring eye,
          In her sweet nursing ministry.
How in Christ's anthem fails the children's part,
While Mary bears Him throned in her maternal heart?"

We feel a reluctance to exhibit the many traces which these poems exhibit of a similar devotional feeling towards the Blessed Virgin: it is like running through the Volume to find out what are called "strong passages." Yet, since it falls into the direct line of thought which we are pursuing to enlarge upon this peculiarity of the author, we shall do so for the sake of Catholics who know nothing of him except as one of those who are retaining doubting minds in a schismatical communion, and who ought to know a great deal more of him.

For instance, the following is part of his Poem or Hymn for Easter Day:

"The Angel came full early, But Christ had gone before;
  The breath of life, the living soul, Had breathed itself once more
   Into the sacred body, That slumbered in the tomb,
  As still and lowly as erewhile In the undefiled womb.
  And surely not in folds so bright The spotless winding-sheet
  Inwrapt Him, nor such fragrance poured The myrrh and aloes sweet,
  As when in that chaste bosom, His awful bed, He lay,
  And Mary's prayer around Him rose, Like incense, night and day.
  And even as, when her hour was come, He left His Mother mild,
  A royal virgin evermore, Heavenly and undefiled,
  So left the glorious body The rock it slumbered on,
  And spirit-like in silence passed, Nor touched the sealed stone."
  P. 344.

He continues presently:

"He veiled His awful footsteps, Our all-subduing Lord,
  Until the blessed Magdalene Beheld Him and adored.
  But through the veil the Spouse may see, For her heart is as His own,
  That to His Mother or by sight Or touch He made Him known.
  And even as from His manger-bed He gave her His first smile,
  So now, while seraphs wait, He talks Apart with her awhile:
  That thou of all the forms, which To thee His image wear,
  Mightest own thy parents first, With Thy prime of loving care."
  P. 336.

In his poem on "Judas's Infancy," he has, what seems to us, a most touching and beautiful thought, though some may call it too refined, that "the blessed Mary" doubtless thought with pity upon the poor mother who had nursed the traitor, "a harmless child," ere gold had bought him. Yet, sure it was, he grew up to be the man of whom the Voice of Truth has said, that it had been good if he had not been born.

Elsewhere he says that "two homes of love's resort" are mentioned in Scripture—the upper room and the temple:

Alike her presence, whom the awful blessing
    Lifted above all Adam's race."—P. 83.

We, in like manner, have two homes, our closet and our Church; and, in like manner,

          "The Mother of our Lord is there,
            And Saints are breathing hallowed air,
Living and dead, to waft on high our feeble prayer."

The feeling which is brought out into formal statement in these passages is intimated by the frequency and tenderness of expression with which the thought of the Blessed Virgin is introduced throughout the Volume. She is the "Blessed Mary" with her "lily flower," "the Virgin blest," "that Maiden bright," or "Virgin bright," a "royal Virgin evermore," Christ's "Mother mild," or {439} "Mother dear," "the Mother-maid," "the Maiden Mother," "the Virgin Mother," "that Mother undefiled," "Christ's awful Mother," "Mother of God;" "the spotless Mother, first of creatures." And Christ is "the dread Son of Mary," "Mary's child," "the awful Child on Mary's knee." Perhaps the author's most beautiful lines on this subject are those addressed to a child who had lost her mother, in which he applies to the child the words spoken by our Lord on the cross to St. John. He says that, though she has lost her natural mother, yet surely she now has the blessing of the Virgin's patronage, to whom she had already, on the birth of a younger sister, shown her devotion.

"Thy vision (whoso chides, may blame
  The instinctive reachings of the altar flame,)
  Shows thee above, in yon ethereal air,
  A holier Mother, rapt in more prevailing prayer.

"Tis she to whom thy heart took flight
      Of old in joyous hour,
  When first a precious sister-spright
      Came to thy nursery bower.
  And thou with earnest tone didst say,
  Mother, let Mary be her name, I pray,
  For dearly do I love to think upon
  That gracious Mother-Maid, nursing her Holy One."
  P. 153.

The deep and tender devotion which this language discovers is no novelty with our author. No reader of the Christian Year can forget his "Ave Maria! Thou whose name All but adoring love may claim;" and we may even say that, judging from these poems, his devotional feeling has but become more decided, and has more firmly based itself in his reason, as life has advanced. Shall we observe, there is one thing we "desiderate" in {440} this volume?—to use Mr. Froude's word on a similar occasion. We do not discover one "Ave Maria" throughout it, though he has used that invocation in the above passage of the Christian Year. We cannot doubt it has been upon his lips; why, then, is it excluded from his book? Perhaps he feared to give scandal, or to cause distress or excitement, in the use of a form of words not sanctioned by his Church; the case was different at the date of the Christian Year, when it would pass for mere poetry. Moreover, in two of the passages above quoted the author studiously speaks of Mary as "bending to adore the Babe," and before her Babe "on bended knees." No Catholic can quarrel with such an image, which indeed is represented in some of the paintings of the great masters; but as introduced into these passages it is surely out of place, as if intended to give satisfaction to Protestants,—as more adapted for polemics than for devotional poetry, and savouring much of the evangelical school, which never allows the mention of one doctrine of religion without a recapitulation of all the rest, as if in our prayers and praises we must ever have an eye to controversy.


Such a Volume as this is a clear evidence that what is sometimes called "the movement" in the Anglican Church is not at an end. We do not say that it is spreading,—or that it will obtain permanent footing in the communion in which it has originated,—or that it will or will not lead to a reaction, and eventually protestantize—or again weaken—a religious body, to which, under favourable circumstances, it might have brought strength. We are not prophets; we do but profess to draw conclusions; and the above conclusion respecting {441} "the movement" which these poems have suggested, seems a very safe one. Nor can we venture on predicting the destiny of individuals who are connected with that movement; for them the gravest anxieties will naturally be felt by sensitive friends, lest they should be resisting a call, and risking their election. Cases may be expected which will pierce to the heart those among ourselves who have to deal with them, or are led to witness them. We only mean to say, that more has still to come of the opinions, which have lately found such acceptance in the Church of England, because they are still alive within its pale. Our author has doubtless published the poems before us with the intention of calling people's minds off external and dangerous subjects and present perplexities, of leading them back to the memory of the years when they were young, innocent, and happy, and thus of persuading them calmly to repose under the shadow of the tree beneath which they were born. He has published them at a critical time, and much will be expected of them by his friends. Much certainly came of the Christian Year: it was the most soothing, tranquillizing, subduing work of the day; if poems can be found to enliven in dejection, and to comfort in anxiety; to cool the over-sanguine, to refresh the weary, and to awe the worldly; to instil resignation into the impatient, and calmness into the fearful and agitated—they are these.

"Tale tuum carmen nobis, divine poeta,
  Quale, sopor fessis in gramine: quale per śstum
  Dulcis aquś saliente sitim restinguere rivo."

Or like the Shepherd's pipe, in the Oriental Vision, of which we are told, that "the sound was exceedingly sweet, and wrought into a variety of tunes that were inexpressibly melodious and altogether different from {442} anything I had ever heard. They put me in mind of those heavenly airs that are played to the departing souls of good men upon their first arrival in paradise, to wear out the impressions of the last agonies, and qualify them for the pleasures of that happy place. I drew near with that reverence which is due to a superior nature; and as my heart was entirely subdued by the captivating strains I had heard, I fell down at his feet and wept."

Such was the gift of the author of the Christian Year, and he used it in attaching the minds of the rising generation to the Church of his predecessors, Ken and Herbert. He did that for the Church of England which none but a poet could do: he made it poetical. It is sometimes asked whether poets are not more commonly found external to the Church than among her children; and it would not surprise us to find the question answered in the affirmative. Poetry is the refuge of those who have not the Catholic Church to flee to and repose upon, for the Church herself is the most sacred and august of poets. Poetry, as Mr. Keble lays it down in his University Lectures on the subject, is a method of relieving the over-burdened mind; it is a channel through which emotion finds expression, and that a safe, regulated expression. Now what is the Catholic Church, viewed in her human aspect, but a discipline of the affections and passions? What are her ordinances and practices but the regulated expression of keen, or deep, or turbid feeling, and thus a "cleansing," as Aristotle would word it, of the sick soul? She is the poet of her children; full of music to soothe the sad and control the wayward,—wonderful in story for the imagination of the romantic; rich in symbol and imagery, so that gentle and delicate feelings, which will not bear words, {443} may in silence intimate their presence or commune with themselves. Her very being is poetry; every psalm, every petition, every collect, every versicle, the cross, the mitre, the thurible, is a fulfilment of some dream of childhood, or aspiration of youth. Such poets as are born under her shadow, she takes into her service; she sets them to write hymns, or to compose chants, or to embellish shrines, or to determine ceremonies, or to marshal processions; nay, she can even make schoolmen of them, as she made St. Thomas, till logic becomes poetical. Now the author of the Christian Year found the Anglican system all but destitute of this divine element, which is an essential property of Catholicism;—a ritual dashed upon the ground, trodden on, and broken piece-meal;—prayers, clipped, pieced, torn, shuffled about at pleasure, until the meaning of the composition perished, and offices which had been poetry were no longer even good prose;—antiphons, hymns, benedictions, invocations, shovelled away;—Scripture lessons turned into chapters;—heaviness, feebleness, unwieldiness, where the Catholic rites had had the lightness and airiness of a spirit;—vestments chucked off, lights quenched, jewels stolen, the pomp and circumstances of worship annihilated; a dreariness which could be felt, and which seemed the token of an incipient Socinianism, forcing itself upon the eye, the ear, the nostrils of the worshipper; a smell of dust and damp, not of incense; a sound of ministers preaching Catholic prayers, and parish clerks droning out Catholic canticles; the royal arms for the crucifix; huge ugly boxes of wood, sacred to preachers, frowning on the congregation in the place of the mysterious altar; and long cathedral aisles unused, railed off, like the tombs (as they were,) of what had been and was not; and for orthodoxy, a frigid, unelastic, inconsistent, dull, helpless {444} dogmatic, which could give no just account of itself, yet was intolerant of all teaching which contained a doctrine more or a doctrine less, and resented every attempt to give it a meaning,—such was the religion of which this gifted author was,—not the judge and denouncer, (a deep spirit of reverence hindered it,)—but the renovator, as far as it has been renovated. Clear as was his perception of the degeneracy of his times, he attributed nothing of it to his Church, over which he threw the poetry of his own mind and the memory of better days.

His happy magic made the Anglican Church seem what Catholicism was and is. The established system found to its surprise that it had been all its life talking not prose, but poetry.

"Miraturque novas frondes et non sua poma."

Beneficed clergymen used to go to rest as usual on Christmas Eve, and leave to ringers, or sometimes to carollers, the observance which was paid, not without creature comforts, to the sacred night; but now they suddenly found themselves, to their great surprise, to be "wakeful shepherds;" and "still as the day came round," "in music and in light," the new-born Saviour "dawned upon their prayer." Anglican bishops had not only lost the habit of blessing, but had sometimes been startled and vexed when asked to do so; but now they were told of their "gracious arm stretched out to bless;" moreover, what they had never dreamed when they were gazetted or did homage, they were taught that each of them was "an Apostle true, a crowned and robed seer." The parish church had been shut up, except for vestry meetings and occasional services, all days of the year but Sundays, and one or two other sacred days; but church-goers were now assured that "Martyrs and Saints" "dawned {445} on their way," that the absolution in the Common Prayer Book was "the Golden Key each morn and eve;" and informed moreover, at a time too when the Real Presence was all but utterly forgotten or denied, of "the dear feast of Jesus dying, upon that altar ever lying, while Angels prostrate fall." They learned, besides, that what their pastors had spoken of, and churchwardens had used at vestry meetings, as a mere table, was "the dread altar;" and that "holy lamps were blazing;" "perfumed embers quivering bright," with "stoled priests ministering at them," while the "floor was by knees of sinners worn."

Such doctrine coming from one who had such claims on his readers from the weight of his name, the depth of his devotional and ethical tone, and the special gift of consolation, of which his poems themselves were the evidence, wrought a great work in the Establishment. The Catholic Church speaks for itself, the Anglican needs external assistance; his poems became a sort of comment upon its formularies and ordinances, and almost elevated them into the dignity of a religious system. It kindled hearts towards his Church; it gave a something for the gentle and forlorn to cling to; and it raised up advocates for it among those, who otherwise, if God and their good Angel had suffered it, might have wandered away into some sort of philosophy, and acknowledged no Church at all. Such was the influence of his Christian Year; and doubtless his friends hail his Lyra Innocentium, as being likely to do a similar work in a more critical time. And it is to be expected that for a while something of a similar effect may follow its publication. That so revered, so loved a name as the author's, a name known by Oxford men for thirty years and more,—that one who has been "a hermit spirit" unlike the world all his days, {446} who even in his youth caused the eyes of younger men to turn keenly towards him, if he was pointed out to them in public schools or college garden, who by the mere first touch of his hand has made them feel pierced through, so that they could have sunk into the earth for shame, and who, when removed from his loved University, was still an unseen silent influence moving hearts at his will,—that a "whisper" from such a man, "with no faint and erring voice," will for the time retain certain persons in the English Church, who otherwise, to say the least, would have contemplated a return to that true Mother whose baptism they bear, the one sole Ark of salvation, of this we make no question at all. But there is another point, of which we entertain just as little doubt, or rather are a great deal more confident,—that as far as the Volume has influence, that influence will, on the long run, tell in favour of the Catholic Church; and will do what the author does not, nay, from his position, alas! cannot, may not contemplate,—will in God's good time bring in a blessed harvest into the granaries of Christ. And being sure of this, much as the immediate effects of its publication may pain the hearts of those who are sighing and praying for the souls of others, we can bear to wait, we can afford to be patient, and awfully to watch the slow march of the divine providences towards this poor country.


Take the Volume; consider its doctrine; consider, too, that it seldom insists upon the English Church as a definite and substantive body, but seems almost to view the infant's breast as the true visible Church, the only doctor and saint in the land; and then imagine what will be the direction and course of thought in those {447} children, who grow up under the teaching which it imparts. It tells them, for instance, that in the very act and moment of baptism the soul is regenerated, and, ordinarily, is regenerated in no other way; that each soul has an Angel for its guardian; that, whereas Christ works His miracles of mercy now as at the beginning, St. Mary is an instrument in them as in the marriage of Cana, and also the Apostles; that the Saints are rightly called gods; that "the Infinite" is present in the "unbloody rite;" that the Eucharistic sacrifice is offered up daily all over the world, and that the sun never sets upon it; that the Church has ever spread in that shadow of St. Peter, which in the beginning wrought miracles, and that it shall never grow less; and that it is "duteous" to pray for the dead as well as the living, a position with which he opens the first stanza in his Volume. Now in what sense is this a Church-of-England training? How can a child ever learn from it sympathy with and attachment to that communion, as he grows up? How is such teaching dutiful towards it? The Ethiopian, on reading the prophet Isaiah, inquired, "Of whom speaketh the prophet this?" and so the boy, the youth, the man, as he looks wider and further into the world, as he is gradually thrown upon his own thoughts, will surely ask with louder and louder voice where this teaching is to be found? whence it comes? which of the living English bishops or departed divines, and how many, which of the Anglican formularies, what part of the Prayer Book, which of the Articles, what obsolete canon, or what ecclesiastical judge, sanctions its doctrines; and how far literal tangible facts bear out its statements?—and next whether there are not existing bishops elsewhere, and divines, and decrees, and usages, which do bear it out fully, and offer him what he is seeking; whether, in {448} short, the author's comment is sanctioned by his text; or belongs to some other text not his? There is but one Church which has firmly, precisely, consistently, continually held and acted upon these doctrines of the Lyra Innocentium; and, if holding them to be token of the true Church, one and only one Church is true.

It must be recollected, too, that these doctrines are part of a system; they lead to other doctrines; they gradually and imperceptibly draw the mind into the reception of others, whether it will or no. At this very moment souls are being led into the Catholic Church on the most various and independent impulses, and from the most opposite directions. True it is, that such persons as have been taught from childhood certain principles are able without prejudice to them to admit other doctrines which are their direct contradictories, and which in themselves tend inevitably to their destruction. Anglicans of forty years' standing may admit that St. Peter is the foundation of the Church, yet feel no misgivings in consequence that the Church of England is external to Catholic communion; but the Lyra Innocentium is not addressed to grown men, but to children, whose hearts and heads have yet to be formed, and who, if "trained up" (as they will be) "in the way they should go," are not likely in the end to "depart from it." Is it not, indeed, by this time abundantly clear, that, as children of the Evangelical school of the last age have so often become Latitudinarians, so the young generation whose pious and serious parents are now teaching them to cross themselves, to fast or abstain, to reverence celibacy, and to say the Ave Mary, should they grow up as serious and pious as their instructors, will end in being converts to the Catholic Church?

Well would it be, if the really honest holders of {449} Anglo-Catholic principles could be made to see this; it would be the removal of a veil from their eyes; they would at once perceive that they ought to be plain Catholics. Some of them, indeed, may hitherto have had thoughts of leavening the whole English Church with their doctrine; they may have described that Church as what it ought to be and was not, in the hope thereby of tending to make it what it ought to be; and now, though they see or suspect their own tendency to be towards Rome, they may put this suspicion aside, and remain where they are, in the confidence that, if they are but patient, they shall ultimately succeed in bringing over their whole communion to their own views. But such a confidence has not been the feeling of the author of the Christian Year, if we may judge from his writings. His imagination, creative as it is, has been under the control of too sober a judgment, as we cannot but surmise, to acquiesce in the notion that the English Church is the natural seat of Catholicism; that you have but to preach the truth, and the heart of her members will recognize in that truth their own real sentiments, and claim their lost inheritance; that Erastianism in high places will ever become a mere matter of history; that ecclesiastical courts, university authorities, mobs and vestries, will ever lose their keen scent for detecting popery, and their intense satisfaction in persecuting it. He seems to resign himself and his friends, as if it were no "strange thing," to the prospect of unkind, unnatural treatment for ever, from her whom the word of prophecy has depicted as the mother of her children. He has some beautiful lines on a child's clinging to its mother's gown who appears the while to disregard it, with a reference to the miracle wrought upon the issue of blood: and it is impossible not to see that he is all {450} the while drawing himself and the English Church in a parable.

"She did but touch with finger weak
      The border of His sacred vest,
  Nor did he turn, nor glance, nor speak,
      Yet found she health and rest.

"Well may the Word sink deep in me,
      For I full many a fearful hour,
  Fast clinging, Mother dear, to thee,
      Have felt love's guardian power.

"When looks were strange on every side,
      When, gazing round, I only saw
  Far-reaching ways unknown and wide,
      I could but nearer draw:

"I could but nearer draw, and hold
      Thy garment's border as I might,
  This while I felt, my heart was bold,
      My step was free and light.

"Thou haply on my path the while
      Didst seem unheeding me to fare,
  Scarce now and then, by word or smile,
      Owning a playmate there.

"What matter? well I know my place
      Deep in my Mother's inmost heart;
  I feared but, in my childish race,
      I from her robe might part."—P. 147.

We are ourselves reminded of a different image. We have somewhere seen some lines by Darwin, in which a mother is described as killed by a chance ball in a battle; her children are found clinging to her in the persuasion that she is asleep;—when she is discovered by those who know better, the poor babes say in surprise, "Why do you weep, mamma will soon awake?" None other but that miraculous Voice, which used the same words over Jairus' daughter, can wake the dead. {451}


There is one other issue, to which we have not yet drawn attention, to which Anglo-Catholic writers may reduce the inquiring mind;—they may throw it, by a reaction, into rationalism. When the opening heart and eager intellect find themselves led on by their teachers, as if by the hand, to the See of St. Peter, and then all of a sudden, without good reason assigned, are stopped in their course, bid stand still in some half position, on the middle of a steep, or in the depth of a forest, the natural reflection which such a command excites is, "This is a mockery; I have come here for nothing; if I do not go on, I must go back." Of course such a feeling, though the natural, will not, and ought not to be, the first feeling of the young. Reverent minds will at first rest on the word of their teachers by the instinct of their natures, and will either receive them without examination, or accept on faith what does not approve itself to their reason. But as time proceeds, and the intellect becomes more manly, and has a greater hold of the subjects of thought and the relations of those subjects to each other, it will at length come to feel that it must form its own judgment on the questions which perplex it, unless the authority, to which it has hitherto submitted, claims to be infallible. To an infallible authority it will submit; but since no teacher of the Anglican Church, no, nor that Church itself, claims to have the power of absolutely determining the truth in religious matters, the moment must arrive when the young inquirer feels it right to have an opinion of his own, and then it is that a peremptory prohibition of his advancing onward, without sufficient reason assigned for it, will act as a violent temptation to recede. A forlorn {452} feeling comes over the mind, as if after all there was nothing real in orthodoxy—as if it were a matter of words, about which nothing is known, nothing can be proved—as if one opinion were as good as another. The whole Roman faith it thinks it could receive; but a half-and-half system, which both does and does not appeal to reason—which argues as far as it thinks argument tells in its favour, and denounces argument when it tells the other way—flies to authority, puts forward great names, and talks in a vague way of "reverence," "submission," "the Church of our baptism," "restlessness," and the like, neither commands its faith nor wins its love. O that we could be sure about our author, that however he might think it his duty to treat the gentle and unlearned who depend on him, at least when men of independent minds, young or old, come to him in doubt—men of the world, or rising men of active minds, whose characters are yet undetermined, (we are speaking in entire ignorance whether he has knowledge of such cases,) what a blessing it would be to be able to think that, instead of placing an obstacle in the path of such, he felt himself at liberty to say to them as much as this: "Stay with us, if you do not risk your Christian faith and hope by staying; but, little as I can countenance your departure to the Church of Rome, better do so than become a rationalist." This surely is not asking a very great deal.

As to the author personally, we cannot help cherishing one special trust, which we hope is not too sacred to put into words. If there be one writer in the Anglican Church who has discovered a deep, tender, loyal devotion to the Blessed Mary, it is the author of the Christian Year. The image of the Virgin and Child seems to be the one vision upon which both his heart and {453} intellect have been formed; and those who knew Oxford twenty or thirty years ago, say that, while other college rooms were ornamented with pictures of Napoleon on horseback, or Apollo and the Graces, or Heads of Houses lounging in their easy chairs, there was one man, a young and rising one, in whose rooms, instead of these, might be seen the Madonna di Sisto or Domenichino's St. John—fit augury of him who was in the event to do so much for the revival of Catholicism. We will never give up the hope, the humble belief, that that sweet and gracious Lady will not forget her servant, but will recompense him, in royal wise, seven-fold, bringing him and his at length into the Church of the One Saviour, and into the communion of herself and all Saints whom He has redeemed.

June, 1846.

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