Saturday, December 24, 2011


A poem by Anne Porter.

Christmas (I and II)

by George Herbert (1953-1633)

All after pleasures as I rid one day,
        My horse and I, both tir’d, bodie and minde,
        With full crie of affections, quite astray,
I took up in the next inne I could finde,

There when I came, whom found I but my deare,
        My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief
        Of pleasures brought me to him, readie there
To be all passengers most sweet relief?

O Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,
        Wrapt in nights mantle, stole into a manger;
        Since my dark soul and brutish is thy right,
To Man of all beasts be not thou a stranger:

        Furnish & deck my soul, that thou mayst have
        A better lodging then a rack or grave.

The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
                My God, no hymn for thee?
My soul ’s a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
                Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is thy word: the streams, thy grace
                Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
                Out-sing the day-light houres.
Then we will chide the sunne for letting night
                Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
                Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching, till I finde a sunne
                Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
                As frost-nipt sunnes look sadly.
Then we will sing, shine all our own day,
                And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev’n his beams sing, and my musick shine.

The Nativity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

by Christopher Smart (1722-71)

Where is this stupendous stranger,
Swains of Solyma, advise?
Lead me to my Master’s manger,
Show me where my Saviour lies.

O Most Mighty! O MOST HOLY!
Far beyond the seraph’s thought,
Art thou then so mean and lowly
As unheeded prophets taught?

O the magnitude of meekness!
Worth from worth immortal sprung;
O the strength of infant weakness,
If eternal is so young!

If so young and thus eternal,
Michael tune the shepherd’s reed,
Where the scenes are ever vernal,
And the loves be Love indeed!

See the God blasphem’d and doubted
In the schools of Greece and Rome;
See the pow’rs of darkness routed,
Taken at their utmost gloom.

Nature’s decorations glisten
Far above their usual trim;
Birds on box and laurels listen,
As so near the cherubs hymn.

Boreas now no longer winters
On the desolated coast;
Oaks no more are riv’n in splinters
By the whirlwind and his host.

Spinks and ouzels sing sublimely,
“We too have a Saviour born”;
Whiter blossoms burst untimely
On the blest Mosaic thorn.

God all-bounteous, all-creative,
Whom no ills from good dissuade,
Is incarnate, and a native
Of the very world He made.

New Prince, New Pomp

by Robert Southwell (1561-95)

Behold, a seely tender babe
      In freezing winter night
In homely manger trembling lies,—
      Alas, a piteous sight!

The inns are full, no man will yield
      This little pilgrim bed,
But forced he is with seely beasts
      In crib to shroud his head.

Despise him not for lying there,
      First, what he is enquire,
An orient pearl is often found
      In depth of dirty mire.

Weigh not his crib, his wooden dish,
      Nor beasts that by him feed;
Weigh not his mother's poor attire
      Nor Joseph's simple weed.

This stable is a prince's court,
      This crib his chair of state,
The beasts are parcel of his pomp,
      The wooden dish his plate.

The persons in that poor attire
      His royal liveries wear;
The prince himself is come from heaven—
      This pomp is prizëd there.

With joy approach, O Christian wight,
      Do homage to thy king;
And highly prize his humble pomp
      Which he from heaven doth bring.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christus Natus Est

by Countee Cullen (1903-46)

In Bethlehem
On Christmas morn,
The lowly gem
Of love was born.
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Bright in her crown
Of fiery star,
Judea’s town
Shone from afar:
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

While beasts in stall
On bended knee,
Did carol all
Most joyously:
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

For bird and beast
He did not come,
But for the least
Of mortal scum.
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Who lies in ditch?
Who begs his bread?
Who has no stitch
For back or head?
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Who wakes to weep,
Lies down to mourn?
Who in his sleep
Withdraws from scorn?
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

Ye outraged dust
On field and plain,
To feed the lust
Of madmen slain:
Hosannah! Christus natus est.

The manger still
Outshines the throne;
Christ must and will
Come to his own.
Hosannah! Christus natus est.