John Keble (25 April 1792 – 29 March 1866 / Fairford, Gloucestershire)
Oh! say not, dream not, heavenly notes
To childish ears are vain,
That the young mind at random floats,
And cannot reach the strain.
Dim or unheard, the words may fall,
And yet the heaven-taught mind
May learn the sacred air, and all
The harmony unwind.
Was not our Lord a little child,
Taught by degrees to pray,
By father dear and mother mild
Instructed day by day?
And loved He not of Heaven to talk
With children in His sight,
To meet them in His daily walk,
And to His arms invite?
What though around His throne of fire
The everlasting chant
Be wafted from the seraph choir
In glory jubilant?
Yet stoops He, ever pleased to mark
Our rude essays of love,
Faint as the pipe of wakening lark,
Heard by some twilight grove:
Yet is He near us, to survey
These bright and ordered files,
Like spring-flowers in their best array,
All silence and all smiles.
Save that each little voice in turn
Some glorious truth proclaims,
What sages would have died to learn,
Now taught by cottage dames.
And if some tones be false or low,
What are all prayers beneath
But cries of babes, that cannot know
Half the deep thought they breathe?
In His own words we Christ adore,
But angels, as we speak,
Higher above our meaning soar
Than we o'er children weak:
And yet His words mean more than they,
And yet He owns their praise:
Why should we think, He turns away
From infants' simple lays?
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