Sunday, December 26, 2010

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, scorchëd 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 defilëd 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 callëd unto mind
    that it was Christmas day.

-- Robert Southwell (circa 1561–1595), English Jesuit, poet, and martyr, from St Peter's Complaint, 1595

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