Sexegesima Sunday

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Foe of mankind! too bold thy race:
  Thou runn'st at such a reckless pace,
Thine own dire work thou surely wilt confound:
  'Twas but one little drop of sin
  We saw this morning enter in,
And lo! at eventide the world is drowned.

  See here the fruit of wandering eyes,
  Of worldly longings to be wise,
Of Passion dwelling on forbidden sweets:
  Ye lawless glances, freely rove;
  Ruin below and wrath above
Are all that now the wildering fancy meets.

  Lord, when in some deep garden glade,
  Of Thee and of myself afraid.
From thoughts like these among the bowers I hide,
  Nearest and loudest then of all
  I seem to hear the Judge's call:-
"Where art thou, fallen man? come forth, and be thou tried."

  Trembling before Thee as I stand,
  Where'er I gaze on either hand
The sentence is gone forth, the ground is cursed:
  Yet mingled with the penal shower
  Some drops of balm in every bower
Steal down like April dews, that softest fall and first.

  If filial and maternal love
  Memorial of our guilt must prove,
If sinful babes in sorrow must be born,
  Yet, to assuage her sharpest throes,
  The faithful mother surely knows,
This was the way Thou cam'st to save the world forlorn.

  If blessed wedlock may not bless
  Without some tinge of bitterness
To dash her cup of joy, since Eden lost,
  Chaining to earth with strong desire
  Hearts that would highest else aspire,
And o'er the tenderer sex usurping ever most;

  Yet by the light of Christian lore
  'Tis blind Idolatry no more,
But a sweet help and pattern of true love,
  Showing how best the soul may cling
  To her immortal Spouse and King,
How He should rule, and she with full desire approve.

  If niggard Earth her treasures hide,
  To all but labouring hands denied,
Lavish of thorns and worthless weeds alone,
  The doom is half in mercy given,
  To train us in our way to Heaven,
And show our lagging souls how glory must be won.

  If on the sinner's outward frame
  God hath impressed His mark of blame,
And e'en our bodies shrink at touch of light,
  Yet mercy hath not left us bare:
  The very weeds we daily wear
Are to Faith's eye a pledge of God's forgiving might.

  And oh! if yet one arrow more,
  The sharpest of the Almighty's store,
Tremble upon the string-a sinner's death -
  Art Thou not by to soothe and save,
  To lay us gently in the grave,
To close the weary eye and hush the parting breath?

  Therefore in sight of man bereft
  The happy garden still was left;
The fiery sword that guarded, showed it too;
  Turning all ways, the world to teach,
  That though as yet beyond our reach,
Still in its place the tree of life and glory grew.

© John Keble