A Poem on St. John the Baptist’s Day

Happy Birthday to St. John the Baptist! Here is a little poem I found written by John Keble in honor of this, the greatest of all men.

St. John Baptist’s Day

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers onto the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers.”—Malachi iv. 6, 6.

Twice in her season of decay
The fallen Church hath felt Elijah’s eye
Dart from the wild its piercing ray :
Not keener burns, in the chill morning sky,
The herald star,
Whose torch afar
Shadows and boding night-birds fly.

Methinks we need him once again,
That favour’d seer—but where shall he be found ?
By Cherith’s side we seek in vain,
In vain on Carmel’s green and lonely mound :
Angels no more
From Sinai soar,
On his celestial errands bound.

But wafted to her glorious place
By harmless fire, among the ethereal thrones,
His spirit with a dear embrace
Thee the loved harbinger of Jesus owns,
Well pleased to view
Her likeness true,
And trace, in thine, her own deep tones.

Deathless himself, he joys with thee
To commune how a faithful martyr dies,
And in the blest could envy be,
He would behold thy wounds with envious eyes,
Star of our morn,
Who yet unborn
Didst guide our hope where Christ should rise.

Now resting from your jealous care
For sinners, such as Eden cannot know,
Ye pour for us your mingled prayer,
No anxious fear to damp Affection’s glow.
Love draws a cloud
From you to shroud
Rebellion’s mystery here below.

And since we see, and not afar,
The twilight of the great and dreadful day,
Why linger, till Elijah’s car pray,
Stoop from the clouds? Why sleep ye? rise and
Ye heralds seal’d
In camp or field
Your Saviour’s banner to display.

Where is the lore the Baptist taught,
The soul unswerving and the fearless tongue?
The much-enduring wisdom, sought
By lonely prayer the haunted rocks among?
Who counts it gain
His light should wane,
So the whole world to Jesus throng?

Thou Spirit who the Church didst lend
Her eagle wings, to shelter in the wild,
We pray thee, ere the Judge descend,
With flames like these, all bright and undefiled,
Her watchfires light,
To guide aright
Our weary souls, by earth beguiled.

So glorious let Thy Pastors shine,
That by their speaking lives the world may learn
First filial duty, then divine,
That sons to parents, all to Thee may turn ;
And ready prove
In fires of love,
At sight of Thee, for aye to burn.

Our Lord said of John the Baptist, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

May we all be included in that number, and may we have the courage of St. John the Baptist as well.


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