Project Canterbury

Christian Ballads

By A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D.

New York: D. Appleton, 1865.

Hymn of Boyhood.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, which I will require, even that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the fair beauty of the LORD, and to visit His temple.--Psalter.

THE FIRST dear thing that I ever love
  Was a mother's gentle eye,
That smiled, as I woke on the dreamy couch
  That cradled my infancy.
I never forget the joyous thrill
  That smile in my spirit stired,
Nor how it could charm me against my will,
  Till I laughed like a joyous bird.


And the next fair thing that ever I loved
  Was a bunch of summer flowers,
With odours, and hues, and loveliness,
  Fresh as from Eden's bowers.
I never can find such hues agen,
  Nor smell such a sweet perfume;
And if there be odours as sweet as then,
  'Tis I that have lost the bloom.


And the next dear thing that ever I loved
  Was a fawn-like little maid,
Half-pleased, half-awed by the frolic boy
  That tortured her doll, and played:
I never can see the gossamere
  Which rude rough zephyrs tease,
But I think how I tossed her flossy locks
  With my whirling bonnet's breeze.


And the next good thing that ever I loved
  Was a bow-kite in the sky;
And a little boat on the brooklet's surf,
  And a dog for my company:
And a jingling hoop, with many a bound
  To my measured strike and true;
And a rocket sent up to the firmament,
  When Even was out so blue.


And the next fair thing I was fond to love
  Was a field of wavy grain,
Where the reapers mowed; or a ship in sail
  On the billowy, billowy main:
And the next was a fiery prancing horse
  That I felt like a man to stride
And the next was a beautiful sailing boat
  With a helm it was hard to guide.


And the next dear thing I was fond to love
  Is tenderer far to tell;
'Twas a voice, and a hand, and a gentle eye
  That dazzled me with its spell:
And the loveliest things I had loved before
  Were only the landscape now,
On the canvass bright where I pictured her,
  In the glow of my early vow.


And the next good thing I was fain to love
  Was to sit in my cell alone,
Musing o'er all these lovely things,
  Forever, forever flown.
Then out I walked in the forest free,
  Where wantoned the autumn wind,
And the coloured boughs swung shiveringly,
  In harmony with my mind.


And a spirit was on me that next I loved,
  That ruleth my spirit still,
And maketh me murmur these sing-song words,
  Albeit against my will.
And I walked the woods till the winter came,
  And then did I love the snow;
And I heard the gales, through the wildwood aisles,
  Like the LORD'S own organ blow.


And the bush I had loved in my greenwood walk,
  I saw it afar away,
Surpliced with snows, like the bending priest
  That kneels in the church to pray:
And I thought of the vaulted fane, and high,
  Where I stood when a little child,
Awed by the lauds sung thrillingly,
  And the anthems undefiled.


And again to the vaulted church I went,
  And I heard the same sweet prayers,
And the same full organ-peals upsent,
  And the same soft soothing airs;
And I felt in my spirit so drear and strange,
  To think of the race I ran,
That I loved the lone thing that knew no change
  In the soul of the boy and man.


And the tears I wept in the wilderness
  And that froze on my lids, did fall,
And melted to pearls for my sidu1ness
  Like scales from the eyes of Paul:
And the last dear thing I was fond to love,
  Was that holy service high,
That lifted my soul to joys above,
  And pleasures that do not die.


And then, said I, one thing there is
  That I of the LORD desire,
That ever, while I on earth shall live,
  I will of the LORD require,
That I may dwell in His temple blest
  As long as my life shall be,
And the beauty fair of the LORD of Hosts
  In the home of His glory see.

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