NAVE it had and a chancel,
The Church of Little Woodmere!
A porch at the south: on the north side
Did a tower and its steeple peer.
And a bell, o'er the eastern gable,
In a cross-topped belfry swung;
When the Litany was beginning,
The gable-bell was rung.
The chancel it had a window,
All cunningly set with stains:
There were angels and saints and martyrs
Seen in its pictured panes.
From the dust and noise of the highway,
'Twas a furlong perchance withdrawn;
Hard by stood the rectory mansion,
On a trim little shrubbery lawn.
And all round the church was a churchyard,
With beautiful clumps of trees;
The churchyard cross was planted
On a hillock--like Calvary's.
A quaint little roof o'er the gateway,
Where funerals paused with the bier!
When the priest came forth, in his surplice
He began the service here.
The rich and poor, all together,
On the south of the church were sown,
To be raised in the same incorruption
When the trumpet, at last, is blown.
On the north of the church were buried
The dead of a hapless fame
A cross and a wail for pity,
But never a date, or name.
Here and there was a quiet corner,
With a rustic seat in shade,
Where mourners would come and ponder
On the dear ones around them laid.
And there I mused till the bell tolled,
And thought, with the soul in bliss,
The best of good things for the body
Were to sleep in a spot like this.
As I joined in the throng from the village
That were keeping St. Barthelmy's day,
And passed along, with glad faces,
And festival greetings so gay;
I was ware of a train of dear children;
The school of the parish stood near,
And, led by a dame and a deacon,
They came--full of joy and of feat
And each had a musical Psalter,
For these were the singers; each one
I fancied might stand for the cherubs
They carve with a scroll, upon stone.
As I entered the nave, by the portal,
I came to the font, and thought
Of the door to the Church Universal,
And how the new-birth is ought.
For a moment I knelt in devotion;
And then--as I raised mine eyes
And caught the clear blaze of the chancel
In the glow of a broad sunrise;
The altar--all bright with its silver,
And the fair white cloth bespread;
The credence prepared for oblation,
The chalice, and paten of bread;
I thought of the Church triumphant.
And the altar where JESUS stands,
Our great High-Priest for ever,
With a censer of gold in His hands.
There was a plain cross o'er the rood-loft,
By the chancel's depth relieved;
And figures were carved, in the railing,
Of saints who have fought and achieved.
And I thought of the happy departed,
And of JESU'S descent into hell;
And of babes, and of glorious virgins,
In Paradise glory that dwell.
The nave it was dim, for its ceiling
Was dark with its timbers of oak:
Of the Militant Church 'twas the symbol;
And here knelt the worshipping folk.
They knelt--rich and poor knelt together,
The ploughman at side of the squire:
They reeked not of gewgaw nor feather,
If white was the soul's attire.
On the gospel-side hung the pulpit;
'Twas carved with an angel and scroll:
And now--from the sacristy entered
The priest, in his cope and his stole.
And soon swelled the tones of the service:
The people were singers, each one;
They chaunted a psalm from the Psalter,
Men and maidens, the sire and the son.
And then came the Prayer and Commandments,
The Collect, with fervour devout,
And then the Epistle and Gospel;
And the Creed--it went up with a shout!
I would you had listened the sermon:
Nathanael, the saint without guile,
Was the text--and the blessed example,
And guileless as he was the style.
And oh, how like Heaven was communion,
Thus far from the world and its cares!
If my life were but led in that village,
'Twould indeed be a life-time of prayers.
Afar from the blast of polemics,
Afar from their hate and their strife,
No scorn of the brawling declaimer
Should turn the stiff course of my life.
While they would rail on, I'd be praying;
And, blest with a foretaste of bliss,
Live only with Herbert and Ferrar,
Forgetting such ages as this.
With names, in the Canon of Heaven,
That shine like the glittering skies,
Mine too be the scorn of the creatures
Whose god is the Father of Lies;
But call me a Jew or a Pagan,
I'd pray the good LORD to forgive,
And in heart, and in spirit, a Christian,
'Tis so I would die, and would live.