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Full text of "Bethlehem : a Christmas poem"

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^ Christmas TPeem 



By 
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Copyrighted by Henry S. Kirk. 

1894- 



^^ M. A Mclnnis, Oakland, Cat. 



THE SHEPHERDS. 



671530 



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HE night was still : no wind nor sighing breeze 
Blew down the sloping hillsides through the trees, 
Nor stirred a. leaf of olive in the grove ; 
The earth was hushed in peace — as from above ; 
Save for some dismal far-oflF jackal's cry 
That moaned awhile, then in its echo, die. 
Up in the heavens glowed the stars ; the moon, 
In all her mellow fullness, calmly shone. 
And like a gracious queen enthroned in might 
She reigned serene, mid veils of misty light. 



IV 




UDEA slept: no trace of life was seen 
Save for a fire, that with fitful gleam 
Flung weird shadows 'gainst a sheepcot's wall, 
And round the blaze, in easy reach of call 
Of yonder silent sentinel, reposed 
The forms of sleeping shepherds ; midnight closed ; 
The watcher's task was o'er, he paused and turned 
Towards the fire, when sudden round him burned 
A wondroas light: the shepherd shook with fear. 
While brighter grew the light, and yet more clear. 



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^ryW looked around him and could plainly see 

The glen and hills, the rocks and every tree ; 
He looked above, no star shone in the sky, 
The moon was gone, but there he saw on high, 
As from a heavenly window, streaming, 
The dazzling light; transfixed and almost seeming 
Lifeless, he called aloud with terrored sound, 
^' x\wake, awake, awake," and from the ground 
The sleepers sprang, but at the blinding light 
They fell upon the earth o'ercome with fright. 




VI 




HEN spoke a voice, in tones like liquid gold, 
" Fear not/' their hearts swelled quickly, ** for behold 
I bring you good tidings which shall be 
To all people, great joy;'* and there they see 
A lovely youth arrayed in dazzling white, 
Above his brow a star hung, far more bright 
Than brilliant Hesperus. Their fear now fled. 
And In their hearts with simple faith they said: 
God's glory is about us. And again 
The angel spoke in even gladder strain. 



VIJ 




OR unto you this very day is born 
A Saviour, in David's holy town, 
A Saviour, Christ the Lord, and this shall be 
Unto you a sign : the infant you shall see 
In swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." 
No more then said the holy stranger 
But yet he stayed, and all around him grew 
The glowing light, now turned to roseate hue. 
And in the sk}^, with flashing wings, they see 
Myriad angels, chanting in glad ecstasy. 



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HANTING in unison, in gladness and glee 
Chanting a sweet strain triumphantly : 
'' Glory to God in the highest, and peace 
On earth, good will towards men." They cease 
Not once, but many times their hymn • prolong 
And echoes scatter sweetly from the song 
And echo o'er again. The angel spread 
His shining wings and vanished overhead, 
But yet they heard, though slow it fainter grew 
The chorus sweet, 'till last it faded too. 



IX 




^•1 

HE shepherds at each other gazed with awe 
And spoke in hushed tones of what they saw, 
And of the wondrous words the angel said ; 
At last one of them, looking overhead. 
Spoke solemnly, '' Did not the angel say 
The Christ is born, and born this very day. 
And in our Bethlehem ; is it not so ? 
For it is David's city. Then let us go 
And worship him." And quitting flocks and all 
They went to seek the Christ, their Lord, their All. 



BIRTH OF THE SAVIOUR. 



. X 




>HE day was done, and slowl}^ in the west 
Judea's sun was sinking low to rest, 
And o'er the top of Gedor cast a glow 
Of deepening crimson. The twilight fadings grow 
Far in the east, and with their waning light 
Throw darkning shadows, heralds of the night. 
O'er Bethlehem. Fair Bethlehem, set in 
Mid scenes of beauty ; city of the King, 
Of David, Juda's pride ; the sun's last ray 
Kisses thy walls with love, then fades away. 



. . XI 




O Bethlehem this winter's eve there come 
Two travellers, who haste e'er day is done 
To reach the inn : and one of them, a man, 
Of stately mein, with eager eyes does scan 
The roadway through the town — a princely form 
Tall and erect, his liquid eyes, so warm, 
With tender friendship shone; and by his side 
Upon a patient animal, does ride 
A woman veiled, but see, her veil falls low, 
Her face is clear, lit by the sunset's glow. 



. XII 




ND such a face — no mortal ever knew 

One like before. Her eyes were deep and blue, 
Clear as a cloudless sky; the stars at night 
With lesser lustre shine, with dimmer light 
Than those soft eyes. Her face, of perfect mold. 
Was wondrous fair and sweet; and like fine gold 
Spun out, her long hair fell all unconfined 
Adown her back, and in the gentle wind 
Rippled softly. There ne'er was angel face 
Nor form, so lovely nor so blest with grace. 



. XIII 




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■^=^ 

URPASSING fair, by right, for it is she 
Who is the mother of the Christ, to be : 
'Tis Mary, and her soul's exceeding grace 
Is greater than all else. They reach the place 
Of rest, they stop, and Joseph, for 'tis he. 
Enters, but soon returns, and plain to see 
With disappointment weighed, 'tis true not there 
Is room for them ; it seems as though nowhere 
They may find rest. At last he leads the way 
Out of the town, out in the twilight gray. 



XIV 




ADLY they wander on, the dying day 
Now fading fast has almost died away, 
The Virgin fainter grows, but soon they see 
A hillside cavern — here their rest shall be. 
They haste, they reach the place, they enter in. 
The cave is cold, 'tis full of shadows dim. 
It is a stable, for against the wall 
Are straw-filled mangers, meant for cattle stall. 
Here is their rest, they raise their hearts above 
With grateful prayers for His protecting love. 



XF 




IS midnight hour, when sudden comes a light 
And fills the cave, 'tis wondrous clear and bright ; 
And hark, the walls resound with melody 
The angels sing, they sing with ecstasy. 
The very air with gladness shakes, and well. 
For Christ is born, as midnight hour fell. 
His birth a miracle; and o'er him, low, 
The Virgin Mother kneels, and as the glow 
Her eyes are clear, thej^ beam with tender grace 
The infant smiles and looks up in her face. 



XVI 



^\ 1<J, HE night wears on, the angels' song is o'er, 
^^^y^A The light is gone, and quietude once more 
.f^\A Fills all the place: the pale moon's silv'ry glow 
Falls on the ground. Now through the opening low, 
With hesitating step and slow advance, 
Some men approach, and with one glance 
At the new bom child, they prostrate there 
And worship long — 'tis the shepherds, and the prayer 
Their glad hearts echo, is of joy profound. 
Of joy and gladness, for the Christ is found. 




. XVII 




HEY oflFer gifts with humbleness sincere, 

Rude oflFerings, but held by them most dear; 
And then they rise — to Mary tell the tale 
Of all that passed far off in their lone vale, 
And when they told of all they heard and saw, 
They go their way, o'ercome with awe ; 
Overcome with awe and gladness, for they sing 
In rapture of the Christ, the new born King, 
And echoes scatter sweetly from the song 
And lingering, die, as though they'd fain prolong. 



XV III 




HE Christ is born. O happy midnight hour 

When thou did'st break, then fled the demon's power, 

And in the night proud Comus' temple fell, 

Its oracle destroyed, no more to tell 

Its breathings false; then in thy hour bloomed fair, 

Engaddis' vines, and filled was all the air 

With wondrous mystery. The Christ is born, 

The Saviour of mankind ; then broke the morn, 

The joyous dawn of life anew, of love. 

The first ray of the light of life above. 



THE COMING OF THE MAGI. 



XIX 




O where Jerusalem in splendor stands 

Supremely fair, there came from far-off lands 
Three travellers in pomp and splendor rare, 
Amid a train of slaves and trappings fair. 
Three men, majestic and of noble mein: 
They came to seek the Christ, for they had seen 
Far in the east his star — a wondrous light 
That led them on and on through day and night, 
'Cross many desert wastes, through changing clime, 
Until it led them to fair Palestine. 



XX 



5ND when at last they had come nearly nigh 
Unto Jerusalem, far in the sky 
The star did vanish, but they entered in 
The city's gate, and for the new-born King, 
From everyone, did question eagerly; 
But no one knew of him they came to see. 
The Magi wondered, but repaired to rest 
And on the morrow to renew their quest. 
Repose they found, and as in peace they slept 
Dreams of the Christ-child through their slumbers crept. 




XXI 




EWS of the strangers and for whom they sought, 
The new born King of Juda, soon were brought 
To mighty Herod, who in rage did seek 
His councillors, and bade them to him speak 
Of when the Jews' messiah would be born. 
They searched the records, and they named the town 
As that of Bethlehem, in Juda's land, 
And that his coming soon would be at hand 
For now the last of Daniel's weeks were o'er. 
This was his time to come — they said no more. 



. XXII 




'^^ 



UT Herod in great anger, swore that he 
And he alone, Judea's King would be ; 
And with deceitful cunning did invite 
The strangers three before him that he might 
Inquire closely all that they did know 

; About the Christ ; then kindly bade them go. 
But asked them that they might return his way 
To tell him all, that he might homage pay 
Unto the child ; and they, suspecting not 
His ill design, agreed, and then set out. 



. XXIII 




UT scarcely had they gone their way afar 
When in the heavens soon appeared their star ; 
With joyful hearts they followed in the way 
The light led on, till last ere close of day 
The star stood still, its bright rays pointing down 
Upon a rocky hillside near the town : 
And coming near, they see a cavern low 
They enter in, 'tis lit up with a glow — 
And there they find the child, their search is o'er, 
And prostrate low, the infant they adore. 



. XXIV 




^i<^J:HEY worshipped long, sincerely and profound, 
E^ Then slow with reverence rose up from the ground 
And went without, but quickly did return. 
Each bearing in his arms a golden urn, 
And to the child they offer precious gold. 
This as an earthly King, and then behold 
They offer myrrh and incense, as a sign 
Of adoration to a God divine. 
As King of men, they offer glittering store. 
But as a God, with fervent hearts, adore. 



. XXV 



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ND then they turn to Mary, whom they found 
Fair as the morn, and bowing to the ground 
Before her, pray that God's grace might ever rest 
Upon her, then leave the cave, and in the west 
Pursue their way to Jericho, to tell 
King Herod of the child. But when night fell 
And as they slept, they heard an angel speak 
Of Herod's evil will. They did not seek 
The King, but as the angel did command 
They turned their way to Persia's loveh^ strand. 



XXVI 




ND far away in Bethlehem's lone cave 

The Christ-child lay, the Christ who came to save ; 
There in his lowly cot where humbly prayed 
The shepherds rude, and where the wise men laid 
Their precious gifts and worshipped so profound, 
There in that cell who's walls did once resound 
With wondrous melody — the infant slept; 
And as the morning gray beams softly crept 
Far in the eastern sky, then broke the dawn, 
The gladdest of all days — the Christmas morn. 



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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY 
BERKELEY 

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