Richard Crashaw


A Hymn of the Nativity, sung by the Shepherds.


COME, we shepherds whose blest sight
    Hath met Love's noon in Nature's night ;
    Come lift up our loftier song,
And wake the sun that lies too long.

To all our world of well-stol'n joy
    He slept, and dreamt of no such thing,
While we found out Heaven's fairer eye,
    And kissed the cradle of our King ;
Tell him he rises now too late
To show us aught worth looking at.

Tell him we now can show him more
    Than he e'er show'd to mortal sight,
Than he himself e'er saw before,
    Which to be seen needs not his light :
Tell him, Tityrus, where th' hast been,
Tell him, Thyrsis, what th' hast seen.


Gloomy night embraced the place
    Where the noble infant lay :
The babe look'd up, and show'd His face ;
    In spite of darkness it was day.
It was Thy day, sweet, and did rise,
Not from the East, but from Thy eyes.
        Chorus.   It was Thy day, sweet, &c.


Winter chid aloud, and sent
    The angry North to wage his wars :
The North forgot his fierce intent,
    And left perfumes instead of scars.
By those sweet eyes' persuasive powers,
Where he meant frosts he scatter'd flowers.
        Chorus.   By those sweet eyes', &c.


We saw Thee in Thy balmy nest,
    Young dawn of our eternal day ;
We saw Thine eyes break from the East,
    And chase the trembling shades away :
We saw Thee, and we blest the sight,
We saw Thee by Thine own sweet light.


Poor world, said I, what wilt thou do
    To entertain this starry stranger ?
Is this the best thou canst bestow—
    A cold and not too cleanly manger ?
Contend, the powers of heaven and earth,
To fit a bed for this huge birth.
        Chorus.   Contend, the powers, &c.


Proud world, said I, cease your contest,
    And let the mighty babe alone,
The phoenix builds the phoenix' nest,
    Love's architecture is His own.
The babe, whose birth embraves this morn,
Made His own bed ere He was born.
        Chorus.   The babe whose birth, &c.


I saw the curl'd drops, soft and slow,
    Come hovering o'er the place's head ;
Offe'ring their whitest sheets of snow,
    To furnish the fair infant's bed.
Forbear, said I, be not too bold,
Your fleece is white, but 'tis too cold.


I saw th' obsequious seraphim
    Their rosy fleece of fire bestow,
For well they now can spare their wings,
    Since Heaven itself lies here below.
Well done, said I ;  but are you sure
Your down, so warm, will pass for pure ?

        Chorus.   Well done, said I, &c.


No, no, your King's not yet to seek
    Where to repose His royal head ;
See, see how soon His new-bloom'd cheek
    'Twixt mother's breasts is gone to bed.
Sweet choice, said we, no way but so,
Not to lie cold, yet sleep in snow !
        Chorus.   Sweet choice, said we, &c.


Welcome all wonders in one sight !
    Eternity shut in a span !
Summer in winter ! day in night !


    Heaven in earth ! and God in man !
Great little one, whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to Heaven, stoops Heaven to earth !

Welcome, tho' nor to gold, nor silk,
    To more than Cæsar's birthright is :
Twin sister seas of virgin's milk,
    With many a rarely-temper'd kiss,
That breathes at once both maid and mother,
Warms in the one, cools in the other.

She sings Thy tears asleep, and dips
    Her kisses in Thy weeping eye :
She spreads the red leaves of Thy lips,
    That in their buds yet blushing lie.
She 'gainst those mother diamonds tries
The points of her young eagle's eyes.*

Welcome—tho' not to those gay flies,
    Gilded i' th' beams of earthly kings,
Slippery souls in smiling eyes—
    But to poor shepherds, homespun things,
Whose wealth's their flocks, whose wit's to be
Well read in their simplicity.

Yet, when April's husband show'rs
    Shall bless the fruitful Maia's bed,
We'll bring the first-born of her flowers,
    To kiss Thy feet, and crown Thy head.
To Thee, dread Lamb !  whose love must keep
The shepherds while they feed their sheep.

To Thee, meek Majesty, soft King
    Of simple graces and sweet loves !
Each of us his lamb will bring,
    Each his pair of silver doves !
At last, in fire of Thy fair eyes,
Ourselves become our own best sacrifice !

*This verse is not in the version of the Paris edition of 1652.

The Complete Works of Richard Crashaw. William B. Turnbull, Ed.
London: John Russell Smith, 1858.  37-41.

to Works of Richard Crashaw

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