John Keble

Here you will find the Poem Ash Wednesday of poet John Keble

Ash Wednesday

"Yes--deep within and deeper yet
 The rankling shaft of conscience hide,
Quick let the swelling eye forget
 The tears that in the heart abide.
Calm be the voice, the aspect bold,
 No shuddering pass o'er lip or brow,
For why should Innocence be told
 The pangs that guilty spirits bow?

"The loving eye that watches thine
 Close as the air that wraps thee round -
Why in thy sorrow should it pine,
 Since never of thy sin it found?
And wherefore should the heathen see
 What chains of darkness thee enslave,
And mocking say, 'Lo, this is he
 Who owned a God that could not save'?"

Thus oft the mourner's wayward heart
 Tempts him to hide his grief and die,
Too feeble for Confession's smart,
 Too proud to bear a pitying eye;
How sweet, in that dark hour, to fall
 On bosoms waiting to receive
Our sighs, and gently whisper all!
 They love us--will not God forgive?

Else let us keep our fast within,
 Till Heaven and we are quite alone,
Then let the grief, the shame, the sin,
 Before the mercy-seat be thrown.
Between the porch and altar weep,
 Unworthy of the holiest place,
Yet hoping near the shrine to keep
 One lowly cell in sight of grace.

Nor fear lest sympathy should fail -
 Hast thou not seen, in night hours drear,
When racking thoughts the heart assail,
 The glimmering stars by turns appear,
And from the eternal house above
 With silent news of mercy steal?
So Angels pause on tasks of love,
 To look where sorrowing sinners kneel.

Or if no Angel pass that way,
 He who in secret sees, perchance
May bid His own heart-warming ray
 Toward thee stream with kindlier glance,
As when upon His drooping head
 His Father's light was poured from Heaven,
What time, unsheltered and unfed,
 Far in the wild His steps were driven.

High thoughts were with Him in that hour,
 Untold, unspeakable on earth -
And who can stay the soaring power
 Of spirits weaned from worldly mirth,
While far beyond the sound of praise
 With upward eye they float serene,
And learn to bear their Saviour's blaze
 When Judgment shall undraw the screen?