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W. Garrett Horder, comp. The Poets’ Bible: New Testament. 1895.

The Angel Song

John Keble (1792–1866)

‘And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God.’—LUKE II. 13.

WHAT sudden blaze of song

Spreads o’er th’ expanse of heav’n?

In waves of light it thrills along,

Th’ angelic signal given—

“Glory to God!” from yonder central fire

Flows out the echoing lay beyond the starry quire;

Like circles widening round

Upon a clear blue river,

Orb after orb, the wondrous sound

Is echoed on for ever:

“Glory to God on high, on earth be peace,

And love towards men of love—salvation and release.”

Yet stay, before thou dare

To join that festal throng;

Listen and mark what gentle air

First stirr’d the tide of song;

’Tis not, “the Saviour born in David’s home,

To whom for power and health obedient worlds should come:”—

’Tis not, “the Christ the Lord:”—

With fix’d adoring look

The choir of Angels caught the word,

Nor yet their silence broke:

But when they heard the sign, where Christ should be,

In sudden light they shone and heavenly harmony.

Wrapp’d in His swaddling bands,

And in His manger laid,

The hope and glory of all lands

Is come to the world’s aid:

No peaceful home upon His cradle smil’d,

Guests rudely went and came, where slept the royal Child.

But where Thou dwellest, Lord,

No other thought should be.

Once duly welcom’d and ador’d,

How should I part with Thee?

Bethlehem must lose Thee soon, but Thou wilt grace

The single heart to be Thy sure abiding-place.

Thee, on the bosom laid

Of a pure virgin mind,

In quiet ever, and in shade,

Shepherd and sage may find;

They, who have bow’d untaught to Nature’s sway,

And they, who follow Truth along her star-paved way.

The pastoral spirits first

Approach Thee, Babe divine,

For they in lowly thoughts are nurs’d,

Meet for Thy lowly shrine:

Sooner than they should miss where Thou dost dwell,

Angels from Heaven will stoop to guide them to Thy cell.

Still, as the day comes round

For Thee to be revealed,

By wakeful shepherds Thou art found,

Abiding in the field.

All through the wintry heaven and chill night air,

In music and in light Thou dawnest on their prayer.

Oh faint not ye for fear—

What though your wandering sheep,

Reckless of what they see and hear,

Lie lost in wilful sleep?

High Heaven in mercy to your sad annoy

Still greets you with glad tidings of immortal joy.

Think on th’ eternal home

The Saviour left for you;

Think on the Lord most holy, come

To dwell with hearts untrue:

So shall ye tread untir’d His pastoral ways,

And in the darkness sing your carol of high praise.