Monday, March 20, 2023

Frederick William Faber

Frederick William Faber (1814―1863) is best known as a theologian and hymnist. He was born in Yorkshire into a Calvinist family of Huguenot descent, but as a student at Oxford University became greatly influenced by John Henry Newman. During this time he took extended vacations in the Lake District, to write poetry, and wrestle through theological issues. There he was befriended by William Wordsworth.

While a student at Oxford, Faber won the Newdigate Prize for poetry, which has also been won by such poets as Matthew Arnold and Oscar Wilde. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1839, however, in 1845 both he and Newman left to join the Catholic Church.

As was common for 19th century Christian poets, Faber wrote much of his verse in the form of hymns. Perhaps his best-known is — ironically — “Faith of Our Fathers.” By the twentieth century, however, this hymn was being included in Protestant hymnbooks, and A.W. Tozer included twenty pieces by Faber in his anthology, The Christian Book of Mystical Verse (1963).

The Eternity of God

O Lord! my heart is sick,
Sick of this everlasting change;
And life runs tediously quick
Through its unresting race and varied range:
Change finds no likeness to itself in Thee,
And wakes no echo in Thy mute eternity.

Dear Lord! my heart is sick
Of this perpetual lapsing time,
So slow in grief, in joy so quick,
Yet ever casting shadows so sublime:
Time of all creatures is least like to Thee,
And yet it is our share of Thine eternity.

Oh change and time are storms,
For lives so thin and frail as ours;
For change the work of grace deforms
With love that soils, and help that overpowers;
And time is strong, and, like some chafing sea,
It seems to fret the shores of Thine eternity.

Weak, weak, for ever weak!
We cannot hold what we possess;
Youth cannot find, age will not seek, —
Oh weakness is the heart's worst weariness:
But weakest hearts can lift their thoughts to Thee;
It makes us strong to think of Thine eternity.

Thou hadst no youth, great God!
An Unbeginning End Thou art;
Thy glory in itself abode,
And still abides in its own tranquil heart:
No age can heap its outward years on Thee:
Dear God! Thou art Thyself Thine own eternity!

Without an end or bound
Thy life lies all outspread in light;
Our lives feel Thy life all around,
Making our weakness strong, our darkness bright;
Yet is it neither wilderness nor sea,
But the calm gladness of a full eternity.

Oh Thou art very great
To set Thyself so far above!
But we partake of Thine estate,
Established in Thy strength and in Thy love:
That love hath made eternal room for me
In the sweet vastness of its own eternity.

Oh Thou art very meek
To overshade Thy creatures thus!
Thy grandeur is the shade we seek;
To be eternal is Thy use to us:
Ah, Blessed God! what joy it is to me
To lose all thought of self in Thine eternity.

Self-wearied, Lord! I come;
For I have lived my life too fast:
Now that years bring me nearer home
Grace must be slowly used to make it last;
When my heart beats too quick I think of Thee,
And of the leisure of Thy long eternity.

Farewell vain joys of earth!
Farewell, all love that is not His!
Dear God! be Thou my only mirth,
Thy majesty my single timid bliss!
Oh in the bosom of eternity
Thou dost not weary of Thyself, nor we of Thee!

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.