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The Burning Babe

December 25, 2007

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The Burning Babe

To celebrate this holy day, we are posting two meditations on the Incarnation by the Jesuit poet and martyr Robert Southwell. Blessings upon all our readers in this Christmas season.

New Prince, New Pomp
          

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

The Burning Babe

As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorchéd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I !
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns ;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiléd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I calléd unto mind that it was Christmas day.

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