Hymn XVI.

The shapes of earth are passing still away,1
The seas with sullen rage their bounds devour,2
The rivers waste their banks from day to day,3
Rocks cannot last, nor stars outlive their hour.4
The gnarled trees, of deep undated root,5
While ages o’er them pass, like herbage fall ;6
And peaks that bear to-day the wild-goat’s foot,7
To-morrow vanish ’ mid the torrent’s brawl.8
Not long the building tells its founder s name,9
And loud-sung trophies fade in silent rust ;10
The desert sand-heap whelms the city’s fame,11
The book is journeying tow’rd its writer’s dust.12
Each generation yields in turn to death13
Its living forms and looks, beloved and bold ;14
And lost in pale destruction’s frozen breath,15
Our vital air is changed to pulseless cold.16
Decay and desolation’s thunderous cloud17
O’er all things hangs, and dims the summer sky ;18
And all that seems imperishably proud,19
Still, downward sinking slow, consents to die.20
While all so totters, wheels, and floats from view,21
Whate’er the eye can mark, the hand contrive ;22
Thy word, O God ! alone on earth is true,23
And dares ’ mid boundless ruin still survive.24
The utterance keen of thine eternal will25
Went forth at first through nothingness and gloom ;26
Through depths of ages working onward still,27
It crowns with life each world’s successive tomb.28
From thee it flows creating time and space ;29
With suns and planets fills the dark abysm ;30
And spreads the light that veils thy changeless face,31
Refracted wide through Nature’s varying prism.32
That living Word sustains the sand, the flower,33
The insect swarm, the brood of giant things ;34
Combines the whole by one harmonious power,35
And loud in conscious hearts thy glory sings.36
Yet weighs on all the eclipse and curse of ill,37
Of failing good, and hopes that lull no more ;38
And every leaf that sails the autumnal rill39
Its dying sister leaves with sighs deplore.40
The mountains darken o’er the shatter’d plain,41
When earthquake smites the town that sways a realm ;42
The stars new-born lament the stars that wane,43
And seas wail hoarse above the fleet they whelm.44
And man, whose hopes his bound the most exceed,45
The loftiest mourner ’ mid the griefs of all,46
Must shade his front with sad sepulchral weed,47
And wear, for kingly robes, the funeral pall.48
Amid such endless change and storms of night,49
Still moves thy Word divine, educing day,50
But thwarted, clogg’d, repell’d, by flashes bright,51
And winning hardest conquests o’er decay.52
But still in One whose soul, aloof from wrong,53
Was fill’d with earnest unpolluted good,54
Resounds thy voice an undiscordant song,55
And tells thy will as at the first it stood.56
Thy Word fulfill’d was He, for ever shown57
To man the living Archetype of Life,58
In whose embodied light our spirits own59
A certain hope—a rest secure from strife.60
And ne’er from mortal thought shall pass away61
The form of truth and peace he gave to earth ;62
In whom our hearts with love thy rule obey,63
And gain from them a second, happier birth.64
Without that light, though fair the frame of things,65
How dark the shades of grief it all would wear !66
From it through death immortal being springs,67
And all thy presence dawns upon despair.68