One of my favourite writers is the nineteenth century founder of the Oxford Movement, John Keble, (1792-1866) and this poem on St Peter is one I love:
St Peter’s Day
THOU thrice denied, yet thrice beloved,
Watch by Thine own forgiven friend!
In sharpest perils faithful proved,
Let his soul love Thee to the end.
The prayer is heard—else why so deep
His slumber on the eve of death?
And wherefore smiles he in his sleep,
As one who drew celestial breath?
He loves and is beloved again—
Can his soul choose but be at rest?
Sorrow hath fled away, and pain
Dares not invade the guarded nest.
He dearly loves, and not alone;
For his winged thoughts are soaring high
Where never yet frail heart was known
To breath in vain affection’s sigh.
He loves and weeps; but more than tears
Have sealed thy welcome and his love—
One look lives in him, and endears
Crosses and wrongs where’er he rove—
That gracious chiding look, Thy call
To win him to himself and Thee,
Sweetening the sorrow of his fall
Which else were rued too bitterly;
Even through the veil of sleep it shines,
The memory of that kindly glance;—
The angel, watching by, divines,
And spares awhile his blissful trance.
Or haply to his native lake
His vision wafts him back, to talk
With Jesus, ere his flight he take,
As in that solemn evening walk,
When to the bosom of his friend,
The Shepherd, He whose name is Good,
Did His dear lambs and sheep commend,
Both bought and nourished with His blood;
Then laid on him th’ inverted tree,
Which, firm embraced with heart and arm,
Might cast o’er hope and memory,
O’er life and death, its awful charm.
With brightening heart he bears it on,
His passport through th’ eternal gates,
To his sweet home—so nearly won,
He seems, as by the door he waits,
The unexpressive notes to hear
Of angel song and angel motion,
Rising and falling on the ear
Like waves in Joy’s unbounded ocean.
His dream is changed—the tyrant’s voice
Calls to that last of glorious deeds—
But as he rises to rejoice,
Not Herod, but an angel leads.
He dreams he sees a lamp flash bright,
Glancing around his prison room;
But ’tis a gleam of heavenly light
That fills up all the ample gloom.
The flame, that in a few short years
Deep through the chambers of the dead
Shall pierce, and dry the fount of tears,
Is waving o’er his dungeon-bed.
Touched, he upstarts—his chains unbind—
Through darksome vault, up massy stair,
His dizzy, doubting footsteps wind
To freedom and cool, moonlight air.
Then all himself, all joy and calm,
Though for a while his hand forego,
Just as it touched, the martyr’s palm,
He turns him to his task below:
The pastoral staff, the keys of heaven,
To wield awhile in gray-haired might—
Then from his cross to spring forgiven,
And follow Jesus out of sight.