Project Canterbury

The Altar; or Meditations in Verse on the Great Christian Sacrifice

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.


XXXI. Christ Appearing

1.

"Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone."

Thou that art in the rocky clefts, my Dove;
Thou that in secret of the stairs dost dwell,
And hidest Thee within Thy stony cell,--
Oh, let me see Thy countenance of love;
Oh, let me hear Thy voice; as from above
The day breaks and the shadows flee away.
Winter is past and gone; the young harts stray
Upon the hills; the turtle in the grove
Anticipates the dawn, heard though unseen
'Mid the dark pine-tree tops and tender green
Of vine and fig-tree; and the lilies bright
Put forth their flowrets from the leafy screen.
And who is she looks forth, as morning light,
Expecting? Rise, my soul, to meet this sight!

2.

"I love them that love Me: and those that seek Me early shall find Me."

I hear His voice: "Before the dawning day,
Lo, at thy door before the morning light
I knock; arise, My love," I hear Him say,
"Arise, my love, my fair one, come away:
My locks are dripping with the dews of night,
My head is filled with dew. Come to My sight,
Open the door, together take our flight,
And in our own celestial gardens stray:
The fountains are unsealed, the south-winds blow,
And from their beds the breathing spices flow.
Come, let us see if tender grapes appear
Upon our vine, if summer yet be near.
Rise up and haste; for all the rest are gone:
My love, My undefil├Ęd is but one."

3.

"With my soul have I desired Thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek Thee early."

My bowels while He spake were in me moved;
To my Beloved I opened, and the dawn
Was there; but my Light had Himself withdrawn.
I sought, but could not find Him. My Beloved,
I call Thee, but Thou answerest not. I roved,
And in the twilight sought, but He was gone.
O Thou so early found, but lost too soon,
Where shall I seek Thy countenance unreproved?
My heart is faint within me. Is it so,
That I must ever seek Thee, and complain;
Still hear Thy voice, and ever wandering go
After the sound, yet ask for Thee in vain;
Feeling Thee near, and strive Thy feet to hold,
And, finding nothing, grasp Thy mantle's fold?

4.

"That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him,
and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us."

Soft was His Presence as the gentle snow,
That falls from Heaven and lies upon the ground,
Then vanishes, that not a trace is found
Where it had been; or as the witness bow,
Fearful though bright, that hastening seems to go
As gently as it came. Such dead profound,
Such light and gloom, such tears and gleams abound
Upon its stay, that ere we seemed to know
And calculate our promise, it was fled.
Yet oft returns His Presence from the dead,
We know not how, but 'mid this earthly storm
He promised, and He hastens to perform,
In sacramental sign, by which we live,
The covenanted promise to forgive.

5.

"What is commanded thee, think thereupon with reverence;
it is not needful for thee to see with thine eyes the things that are in secret."

Where doth the Mother veil her weeping eyes?
Doth Christ unto her longing sight reveal
His Presence, on her grief in silence steal?
Or cheer her soul in some celestial guise?
On such, the hidden secret of the skies,--
Whereon the All-Wise Spirit sets the seal
Of silence, from our searches to conceal,
With the thick veil of thrice six centuries,--
Let not man's curious judgment there intrude,
Nor in that awe-encompass'd solitude
Set foot; lest error should herself entwine
To blend with human fiction truth divine;
And blindness strike our thoughts, too bold of heart,
Which dare to look where Christ doth stand apart.

6.

"Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."

And Faith, with marvel-working influence,
Vouchsafes a blessedness beyond the sight,
Which lies within, far deeper than the light
That visits our gross eyes; with other sense
Than that which is by fleshly instruments
Adoring sees, and feels, and knows delight:
Sure man's high-wrought imaginings may blight
The majesty retired and reverence
Due to immortal Truth. We know full well
What He reveals is as a sea replete
With knowledge and with wisdom; and if meet
That when He speaks we should in trembling dwell
On all that issues from His holy seat,
His silence too is most adorable.


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