This hymn is dedicated to my beloved patron saint, St. Philip Neri.
This is the full, original text from an 1852 edition of Fr. Faber’s hymnal Jesus and Mary. It is listed under the title “St. Philip’s Death” in that hymnal:
Day set on Rome: its golden morn
Had seen the world’s Creator borne
Around St. Peter’s square;
Trembling and weeping all the way,
God’s Vicar with his God that day
Made pageant brave and rare!
Night came; through Rome, in place and street
Was hushed the tread of pilgrim’s feet;
The dew fell soft as balm;
The summer moon’s unsteady beam
Quivered on Tyber’s hurrying stream;
All but his wave was calm!
The city slept as though ’twere spent
With love of that dear Sacrament,
As hearts o’erjoyed will sleep;
The night was lovely as a spell,
Its beautiful repose so well
Rome’s Festa seemed to keep.
St. Mary’s glistening roofs were seen
Clear marked in moonlight soft and keen
Against the cloudless sky;
And round the Vallicella flew
Angels as thick as stars that strew
The azure fields on high.
O come to Father Philip’s cell,
Rome’s rank and youth, they know it well,
Come ere the moment flies!
The feast hath been too much for him;
His heart is full, his eye is dim,
And Rome’s Apostle dies!
One of God’s mightiest Saints is he;
Mark well his acts, none light can be;
All are on God intent;
‘Twas Philip’s craft; and we may dare
Our father with his Lord compare
In wile and blandishment.
The smile, the jest, the sportive blow
Served but to hide the depths below
Of supernatural power;
And never strove he to control
The hidden beauty of his soul
More than in that last hour.
An old man’s carefulness that day,
With fond caress and childlike play,
Beyond his wont were blent;
Thoughtful of little things, he gave
Counsel perhaps a shade more grave
Than common to the Saint.
None deemed those hours of talk and mirth
Were his foreseen farewell to earth;
’Twas only Philip’s way;
Yet when he went, his children yearned
For the strange fire unmarked that burned
Within their hearts that day.
He gazed on Peter’s martyr hill;
Some glowing vision seemed to fill
His calmly raptured eye;
His mass, half said, half sung, was o’er;
None had e’er heard such strains before,
Nor dared to ask him why.
Thou art not yet mid angel choirs;
Wherefore this burst of song, these fires
From harps of seraphs riven?
Thou canst not wait; but wilt with them
Sing as they sang at Bethlehem,
Glory in Highest Heaven!
Hours passed, and Philip’s cheerful cell
Heard the light laugh, the gay farewell;
’Twas Philip still to all:
Confessions heard, his office said,
The old man sat upon his bed,
Waiting the Bridegroom’s call!
“How wanes the night, my sons ?” he said;
He heard, and straight his reckoning made;
Time’s lagging foot went slow:
“Aye, three and two, and three and three,—
“And then the captive will be free,—
“At the sixth hour I go!”
Come, O Creator Spirit! come,
Take Thine elect unto his home,
Thy chosen one, sweet Dove!
“Come to thy rest,” he hears Thee say;
He waits not—he hath passed away
In mortal trance of love.
When Rome in deepest slumber slept,
Our father’s children knelt and wept
Around his little bed;
He raised his eyes, then let them fall
With marked expression upon all;
He blessed them, and was dead.
One half from earth, one half from heaven,
Was that mysterious blessing given,
Just as his life had been
One half in heaven, one half on earth,
Of earthly toil and heavenly mirth
A wondrous woven scene!
The Son of Man, the Eternal God,
Toiling a pilgrim on earth’s road,
Ceased not in heaven to be;
That gift He gave to thee in part,
Apostle of the Fiery Heart!
For His great love of thee.
O Jesu! wondrous holy-day
Rome’s children kept; and little they
Its end and fruit foresaw,
When bells rang out and cannon roared,
And Rome fell prostrate and adored,
Speechless with love and awe.
Those joyous bells, those cannon near,
They smote this morn on Philip’s ear,
And thrilled him through and through:
Love fell on him as on her prey,
And stirred and shook his heart all day,
As love alone can do.
It was enough; the inward strife
No more could last ’twixt love and life;
His heart, it broke with bliss.
Since Joseph died on Jesu’s knee,
Since Mary’s spirit was set free,
Was never death like this!
Rome’s joy admonished him, that earth
Caught but poor shadows of the mirth
Around the Eternal Throne.
Sweet Sacrament! the love of Thee
Snapped the last chain, and he was free;
Faith was by love undone!
That joyous peal was Philip’s knell,
That triumph was the Saint’s farewell
To his beloved Rome;
Worn out with love, he could not stay
From his dear Lord one other day,
So pined be for his home!
Master of self, with placid eye,
As though ’twere easy work to die,
Nor need to fear his doom,
With calmest dignity, and slow,
As one who at his will can go
Gently from room to room,
Saint Philip passed into the blaze
Of that dread Throne whose light can daze
The seraph’s glorious ken;
As Mary died, so died her son;
Love got her prey, and Jesus won
His chosen among men.
O Jesus, Mary, Joseph, bide,
With kind St. Raphael, by my side,
When death shall come for me ;
And, Philip! leave me not that day,
But let my spirit pass away,
Leaning, dear Sire, on thee!
Words: Fr. Frederick William Faber, C.O., 1849.
Tune: “Cornwall” Samuel S. Wesley, 1810-1876.