Daily Reading for March 29 • John Keble, Priest, 1866
Sweet Bird! up earliest in the morn,
Up earliest in the year,
Far in the quiet mist are borne
Thy matins soft and clear.
As linnet soft, and clear as lark,
Well hast thou ta’en thy part,
Where many an ear thy notes may reach,
And here and there a heart.
The first snow-wreaths are scarcely gone,
(They stayed but half a day)
The berries bright hang ling’ring on;
Yet thou hast learn’d thy lay.
One gleam, one gale of western air
Has hardly brush’d thy wing;
Yet thou hast given thy welcome fair,
Good-morrow to the spring!
Perhaps within thy carol’s sound
Some wakeful mourner lies,
Dim roaming days and years around,
That ne’er again may rise.
He thanks thee with a tearful eye,
For thou hast wing’d his spright
Back to some hour when hopes were nigh
And dearest friends in sight;
That simple, fearless note of thine
Has pierced the cloud of care,
And lit awhile the gleam divine
That bless’d his infant prayer;
Ere he had known, his faith to blight,
The scorner’s withering smile;
While hearts, he deem’d, beat true and right,
Here in our Christian Isle.
That sunny, morning glimpse is gone,
That morning note is still;
The dun dark day comes lowering on,
The spoilers roam at will;
Yet calmly rise, and boldly strive;
The sweet bird’s early song,
Ere evening fall shall oft revive,
And cheer thee all day long.
Are we not sworn to serve our King?
He sworn with us to be?
The birds that chant before the spring,
Are truer far than we.
“To a Thrush Singing in the Middle of a Village, January 1833” by John Keble, in Miscellaneous Poems, second edition (Oxford: James Parker, 1869).