Ere in her evil day,
From their Holy Faith and their ancient rites her people fell away;
When her gentlemen had lands to give, and her yeomen hearts to feel;
And they raised full many a bead-house, but never a bastille;
And the poor they honoured, for they knew that He, Who for us bled.
Had seldom, when He came on earth, whereon to lay His Head;
And by the poor man’s dying bed the Holy Pastor stood,
To fortify the parting soul with that celestial Food;
And in the mortal agony the Priest ye might behold,
Commending to his Father's hands a sheep of His own fold;
And when the soul was fled from earth, the Church could do yet more;
For the Chaunting Priests came slow in front, and the Cross went on before;
And o'er the poor man’s pall they bade the sacred banner wave,
To teach her sons that Holy Church hath victory o’er the grave.
But times and things are altered now:
and Englishmen begin to class the beggar with the knave, and poverty with sin :
We shut them up from tree and flower, and from the blessed sun:
We tear in twain the hearts that God in wedlock had made one,
The hearts that beat so faithfully, reposing side by side;
For fifty years of weal and woe from eve till morning tide;
No gentle Nun with her comfort sweet, no friar standeth nigh, With ghostly strength and holy love to close the poor man’s eye:
But the corpse is thrown into the ground, when the prayers are hurried o’er,
To rest in peace a little while, and then make way for more !
We mourn not for our abbey-lands ; e’en pass they as they may !
But we mourn because the tyrant found a richer spoil than they:
He cast away, as a thing defiled, the remembrance of the just;
And the relics of our martyrs he scattered to the dust:
Yet two at least, in their holy shrines, escaped the spoiler's hand,
And S. Cuthbert and S. Kdward might alone redeem a land.
And still our Litanies ascend like incense, as before;
And still we hold the one full faith Nicea taught of yore;
And still our children, duly plunged in the baptismal flood,
“Of water and the Holy Ghost, are born the sons of God ”;
And still our solemn festivals from age to age endure;
And wedded troth remains as firm, and wedded love as pure;
And many an earnest prayer ascends from many a hidden spot:
And England's Church is Catholic, though England’s self be not!
England of Saints! the hour is nigh far nigher may it
Than yet I deem, albeit that day I may not live to see,— When all thy commerce, all thy arts, and wealth, and power, and fame,
Shall melt away—at thy most need—like wax before the flame;
Then shalt thou find thy truest strength thy martyrs’ prayers always;
Then shalt thou find thy truest wealth their holy deeds of love;
And thy Church, awaking from Her sleep, come glorious forth at length,
And in sight of angels and of men display her hidden strength:
Again shall long processions sweep through Lincoln’s minster pile;
Again shall banner, cross, and cope gleam thro’ the incensed aisle :
And the faithful dead shall claim their part in the Church’s thoughtful prayer,
And the daily sacrifice to God be duly offered there;
And tierce, and nones, and matins, shall have each their holy lay ; And the Angelus at compline shall sweetly close the dav.
England of Saints! the peace will dawn- but not without the fight;
So, come the contest when it may,- and God defend thy right!
From Hierologus, or The Church Tourists, by the Rev J M Neale, DD London, James Burns, 1843.