Verse > Anthologies > W. Garrett Horder, ed. > The Poets’ Bible: New Testament
W. Garrett Horder, comp.  The Poets’ Bible: New Testament.  1895.
The Fishermen of Bethsaida
John Keble (1792–1866)
‘And Simon answering said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net; and when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.’—LUKE V. 56.

“THE LIVELONG night we’ve toiled in vain,
  But at Thy gracious word
I will let down the net again:
  Do Thou Thy will, O Lord!”
So spake the weary fisher, spent        5
  With bootless darkling toil,
Yet on his Master’s bidding bent
  For love, and not for spoil.
So day by day and week by week,
  In sad and weary thought,        10
They muse, whom God hath sent to seek
  The souls His Christ hath bought.
For not upon a tranquil lake
  Our pleasant task we ply,
Where all along our glistening wake        15
  The softest moonbeams lie;
Where rippling wave and dashing oar
  Our midnight chant attend,
Or whispering palm-leaves from the shore
  With midnight silence blend.        20
Sweet thoughts of peace! ye may not last:
  Too soon some ruder sound
Calls us from where ye soar so fast
  Back to our earthly round.
For wildest storms our ocean sweep:        25
  No anchor but the Cross
Might hold; and oft the thankless deep
  Turns all our toil to loss.
Full many a dreary, anxious hour,
  We watch our nets alone,        30
In drenching spray and driving shower,
  And hear the night-bird’s moan.
At morn we look, and nought is there;
  Sad dawn of cheerless day!
Who then from pining and despair        35
  The sickening heart can stay?
There is a stay—and we are strong;
  Our Master is at hand,
To cheer our solitary song,
  And guide us to the strand.        40
In His own time; but yet awhile
  Our bark at sea must ride;
Cast after cast, by force or guile,
  All waters must be tried.
By blameless guile or gentle force,        45
  As when He deign’d to teach
(The lode-star of our Christian course)
  Upon this sacred beach.
Should e’er Thy wonder-working grace
  Triumph by our weak arm,        50
Let not our sinful fancy trace
  Aught human in the charm.
To our own nets 1 ne’er bow we down,
  Lest on the eternal shore
The angels, while our draught they own,        55
  Reject us evermore
Or, if for our unworthiness
  Toil, prayer, and watching fail,
In disappointment Thou canst bless,
  So love at heart prevail.        60
Note 1. Habakkuk i. 16.—‘They sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag.’ [back]

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