John Henry Newman

(21 February 1801 – 11 August 1890 / London, England)

My Birthday


Let the sun summon all his beams to hold
Bright pageant in his court, the cloud-paved sky
Earth trim her fields and leaf her copses cold;
Till the dull month with summer-splendours vie.
It is my Birthday;—and I fain would try,
Albeit in rude, in heartfelt strains to praise
My God, for He hath shielded wondrously
From harm and envious error all my ways,
And purged my misty sight, and fixed on heaven
my gaze.

Not in that mood, in which the insensate crowd
Of wealthy folly hail their natal day,—
With riot throng, and feast, and greetings loud,
Chasing all thoughts of God and heaven away.
Poor insect! feebly daring, madly gay,
What! joy because the fulness of the year
Marks thee for greedy death a riper prey?
Is not the silence of the grave too near?
Viewest thou the end with glee, meet scene for
harrowing fear?


Go then, infatuate! where the festive hall,
The curious board, the oblivious wine invite;
Speed with obsequious haste at Pleasure's call,
And with thy revels scare the far-spent night.
Joy thee, that clearer dawn upon thy sight
The gates of death;—and pride thee in thy sum
Of guilty years, and thy increasing white
Of locks; in age untimely frolicksome,
Make much of thy brief span, few years are yet to
come!


Yet wiser such, than he whom blank despair
And fostered grief's ungainful toil enslave;
Lodged in whose furrowed brow thrives fretful care,
Sour graft of blighted hope; who, when the wave
Of evil rushes, yields,—yet claims to rave
At his own deed, as the stern will of heaven.
In sooth against his Maker idly brave,
Whom e'en the creature-world has tossed and
driven,
Cursing the life he mars, 'a boon so kindly given.'


He dreams of mischief; and that brainborn ill
Man's open face bears in his jealous view.
Fain would he fly his doom; that doom is still
His own black thoughts, and they must aye
pursue.
Too proud for merriment, or the pure dew
Soft glistening on the sympathising cheek;
As some dark, lonely, evil-natured yew,
Whose poisonous fruit—so fabling poets speak—
Beneath the moon's pale gleam the midnight hag
doth seek.


No! give to me, Great Lord, the constant soul,
Nor fooled by pleasure nor enslaved by care;
Each rebel-passion (for Thou canst) controul,
And make me know the tempter's every snare.
What, though alone my sober hours I wear,
No friend in view, and sadness o'er my mind
Throws her dark veil?—Thou but accord this
prayer,
And I will bless Thee for my birth, and find
That stillness breathes sweet tones, and solitude is
kind.

Each coming year, O grant it to refine
All purer motions of this anxious breast;
Kindle the steadfast flame of love divine,
And comfort me with holier thoughts possest;
Till this worn body slowly sink to rest,
This feeble spirit to the sky aspire,—
As some long-prisoned dove toward her nest—
There to receive the gracious full-toned lyre,
Bowed low before the Throne 'mid the bright
seraph choir.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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