Visitation and Communion of the Sick

~The Rev. John Keble


O YOUTH and Joy, your airy tread
Too lightly springs by Sorrow’s bed,
Your keen eye-glances are too bright,
Too restless for a sick man’s sight.
Farewell; for one short life we part:
I rather woo the soothing art,
Which only souls in sufferings tried
Bear to their suffering brethren’s side.

Where may we learn that gentle spell?
Mother of Martyrs, thou canst tell!
Thou, who didst watch thy dying Spouse
With piercèd hands and bleeding brows,
Whose tears from age to age are shed
O’er sainted sons untimely dead,
If e’er we charm a soul in pain,
Thine is the key-note of our strain.

How sweet with thee to lift the latch,
Where Faith has kept her midnight watch,
Smiling on woe: with thee to kneel,
Where fixed, as if one prayer could heal,
She listens, till her pale eye glow
With joy, wild health can never know,
And each calm feature, ere we read,
Speaks, silently, thy glorious Creed.

Such have I seen: and while they poured
Their hearts in every contrite word,
How have I rather longed to kneel
And ask of them sweet pardon’s seal;
How blessed the heavenly music brought
By thee to aid my faltering thought!
“Peace” ere we kneel, and when we cease
To pray, the farewell word is, “Peace.”

I came again: the place was bright
“With something of celestial light”—
A simple Altar by the bed
For high Communion meetly spread,
Chalice, and plate, and snowy vest.—
We ate and drank: then calmly blest,
All mourners, one with dying breath,
We sate and talked of Jesus’ death.

Once more I came: the silent room
Was veiled in sadly-soothing gloom,
And ready for her last abode
The pale form like a lily showed,
By Virgin fingers duly spread,
And prized for love of summer fled.
The light from those soft-smiling eyes
Had fleeted to its parent skies.

O soothe us, haunt us, night and day,
Ye gentle Spirits far away,
With whom we shared the cup of grace,
Then parted; ye to Christ’s embrace,
We to this lonesome world again,
Yet mindful of th’ unearthly strain
Practised with you at Eden’s door,
To be sung on, where Angels soar,
With blended voices evermore.