MY oldest friend, mine from the hour
When first I drew my breath;
My faithful friend, that shall be mine,
Unfailing, till my death;
Thou hast been ever at my side;
My Maker to thy trust
Consign’d my soul, what time He framed
The infant child of dust.
No beating heart in holy prayer,
No faith, inform’d aright,
Gave me to Joseph’s tutelage,
Or Michael’s conquering might.
Nor patron Saint, nor Mary’s love,
The dearest and the best,
Has known my being, as thou hast known,
And blest, as thou hast blest.
Thou wast my sponsor at the font;
And thou, each budding year,
Didst whisper elements of truth
Into my childish ear.
And when, ere boyhood yet was gone,
My rebel spirit fell,
Ah! thou didst see, and shudder too,
Yet bear each deed of Hell.
And then in turn, when judgments came,
And scared me back again,
Thy quick soft breath was near to soothe
And hallow every pain.
Oh! who of all thy toils and cares
Can tell the tale complete,
To place me under Mary’s smile,
And Peter’s royal feet!
And thou wilt hang about my bed,
When life is ebbing low;
Of doubt, impatience, and of gloom,
The jealous sleepless foe.
Mine, when I stand before the Judge;
And mine, if spared to stay
Within the golden furnace, till
My sin is burn’d away.
And mine, O Brother of my soul,
When my release shall come;
Thy gentle arms shall lift me then,
Thy wings shall waft me home.
[John Henry Newman, 1853]