And oft as sin and sorrow tire,
This hallowed hour do Thou renew,
When beckoned up the awful choir
By pastoral hands, toward Thee we drew;
When trembling at this sacred rail
We hid our eyes and held our breath,
Felt Thee how strong, our hearts how frail,
And longed to own Thee to the death.
For ever on our souls be traced
That blessing dear, that dove-like hand,
A sheltering rock in Memory’s waste,
O’er-shadowing all the weary land.
There is an awe in mortals’ joy,
A deep mysterious fear
Half of the heart will still employ,
As if we drew too near
To Eden’s portal, and those fires
That bicker round in wavy spires,
Forbidding, to our frail desires,
What cost us once so dear.
We cower before th’ heart-searching eye
In rapture as its pain;
E’en wedded Love, till Thou be nigh,
Dares not believe her gain:
Then in the air she fearless springs,
The breath of Heaven beneath her wings,
And leaves her woodnote wild, and sings
A tuned and measured strain.
Ill fare the lay, though soft as dew
And free as air it fall,
That, with Thine altar full in view,
Thy votaries would enthrall
To a foul dream, of heathen night,
Lifting her torch in Love’s despite,
And scaring with base wild-fire light
The sacred nuptial hall.
Far other strains, far other fires,
Our marriage-offering grace;
Welcome, all chaste and kind desires,
With even matron pace
Approaching down this hallowed aisle!
Where should ye seek Love’s perfect smile,
But where your prayers were learned erewhile,
In her own native place?
Where, but on His benignest brow,
Who waits to bless you here?
Living, he owned no nuptial vow,
No bower to Fancy dear:
Love’s very self—for Him no need
To nurse, on earth, the heavenly seed:
Yet comfort in His eye we read
For bridal joy and fear.
’Tis He who clasps the marriage band,
And fits the spousal ring,
Then leaves ye kneeling, hand in hand,
Out of His stores to bring
His Father’s dearest blessing, shed
Of old on Isaac’s nuptial bed,
Now on the board before ye spread
Of our all-bounteous King.
All blessings of the breast and womb,
Of Heaven and earth beneath,
Of converse high, and sacred home,
Are yours, in life and death.
Only kneel on, nor turn away
From the pure shrine, where Christ to-day
Will store each flower, ye duteous lay,
For an eternal wreath.
O Youth and Joy, your airy tread
Too lightly springs by Sorrow’s bed,
Your keen eye-glances are too bright,
Too restless for a sick man’s sight.
Farewell; for one short life we part:
I rather woo the soothing art,
Which only souls in sufferings tried
Bear to their suffering brethren’s side.