LYRA INNOCENTIUM: THOUGHTS IN VERSE ON CHRISTIAN CHILDREN, THEIR WAYS AND THEIR PRIVILEGES. Wiley & Putnam, 161 Broadway; 1846.
It is a blight and frost to poesy to make it subordinate to preaching. Preaching is direct and rude, poesy undulating and winning; what we refuse as precept, we pursue as symbol. Keble does not know this, but his sweetness and tenderness of temperament save him, in some measure, from the consequences of mistake. Though he has not the verve of the very few to which this was the true, the natural path—as Bunyan with his “Divine Emblems”—Herbert, to whom the Church seemed a luxuriant growth, a stately oak of reverend centuries, the home of his nest and birthplace of his song, there is yet a loveliness, a pleasant simplicity, a homely, gentle goodness, that recommend these verses to all, and will suffice many readers. The book is in two forms, one quite handsome, the other cheaper; either will be valued by many young mothers to read with their children, as fit books for this purpose do not abound.—The following presents a fair specimen of the whole. The cottage picture is certainly very pleasing.*
“And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow; and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish.”
Come blinding o’er all day.
What kindlier home, what safer nest,
For flower or fragrant spray,
Than underneath some cottage roof,
Where fires are bright within,
And fretting cares scowl far aloof,
And doors are closed on sin?
The scarlet tufts so cheerily
Look out upon the snow,
But gayer smiles the maiden’s eye
Whose guardian care they know,
The buds that in the nook are born—
Through the dark howling day
Old Winter’s spite they laugh to scorn:—
What is so safe as they?
Nay, look again: beside the hearth
The lowly cradle mark,
Where wearied with his ten hours’ mirth,
Sleeps in his own warm ark
A bright-haired babe, with arm upraised,
As though the slumberous dew
Stole o’er him, while in faith he gazed
Upon his guardian true.
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 dream’d how darkly roll’d
The waters by his rushy brake,
Perchance even now defiled
With infants’ blood for Israel’s sake,
Blood of some priestly child.
What recks he of his mother’s tears,
His sister’s boding sigh?
The whispering reeds are all he hears.
And Nile, soft weltering nigh,
Sings him to sleep; but he will wake,
And o’er the haughty flood
Wave his stern rod;—and lo! a lake,
A restless sea of blood!
Soon shall a mightier flood thy call
And outstretched rod obey;—
To right and left the watery wall
From Israel shrinks away,
Such honor wins the faith that gave
Thee and thy sweetest boon
Of infant charms to the rude wave,
In the third joyous moon.
Hail, chosen Type and Image true
Of JESUS on the Sea!
In slumber and in glory too,
Shadowed of old by thee.
Save in that calmness thou didst sleep
The Summer stream beside,
He on a wider, wilder deep,
Where boding night-winds sighed:—
Sighed when at eve He laid Him down,
But with a sound like flame
At midnight from the mountain’s crown
Upon His slumbers came.—
Lo, how they watch, till He awake,
Around his rude low bed:
How wistful count the waves that break
So near His sacred head!
O faithless! know ye not of old
How in the Western bay,
When dark and vast the billow’s rolled,
A Prophet slumbering lay?
The surges smote the keel as fast
As thunderbolts from heaven;—
Himself into the wave he cast,
And hope and life were given.
Behold, a mightier far is here;—
Nor will he spare to leap,
For the souls’ sake He loves so dear,
Into a wilder deep.
E’en now He dreams of Calvary;
Soon will he wake and say
The words of peace and might: do ye
His hour in calmness stay.
“Lyra Innocentium,” New-York Daily Tribune, 8 August 1846, p. 1.