The Holy Infancy

The Holy Infancy

(The Saviour of the World, Vol I, Book I, Poem XVIII)

The Mystic Marriage of S. Catherine, by Correggio

Many a legend of a princely child

Brought up in peasant’s hut delights the mind:

We like to ponder, how, by manners mild,

And truth, and princely courage, men might find

A certain clue to the royal alien’s birth:

What then of the meek Son of God, who came

To sojourn as a poor man’s child on earth,

Seeking nor place nor power, nor making claim

On any man’s observance? How the hearts

Of all His Christian people would embrace

Least hint of His sweet living in those parts

Of Galilee! But there is left no trace

Of how, amongst the children of the place

He went and came, learned lessons and played games;

How every word and act of childish grace—

All lovely and unmarred—His Birth proclaims.

In vain we linger o’er the Bible page;

A few brief words sum up the precious tale:

What if, from other children of like age

To get knowledge of Child-Jesus we prevail?

As others be, may we conceive the Child,

Engaging, loving, innocent and gay;

As other children are not, undefiled

By little selfish end or wilful way.

Gracious are other children; but, in Him

All graces gather, lovely, in a flower:

In Him we see, with eyes no longer dim,

That God to the world gives children, as its glad dower.

Each little child reveals some separate grace

Of Him, the Child that unto us is born:

Christ is discerned in every shining face

That cheers a home with gladness of the morn.

Men think not of the light; they only see

Colours and shapes of things; unclean and clean:

So, that “Great Light” that shone in Galilee

Revealed or good or evil, else unseen.

The Child went in and out; men understood,

As with enabled sight, perception fine,

How foul all ill; how fair and sweet all good;

Nor knew the light they saw by was divine.

They loved the Light ere yet the Light they knew;

Gracious, submissive, affectionate and mild,

In all men’s favour day by day He grew;

A stumbling-block to no man, yet,—the Child.

Men saw, too, all the world in colours new—

Sun, and green field, and little bird, and flower;

They wondered at the joy of heaven’s blue;

They wondered at the richness of the dower

Their God had newly, so it seemed, bestowed;

Nor knew that light had fallen on common things,—

Showed jewels scattered by each usual road,

All men’s possessions, rich as those of kings.

The Father sent the Son to be our Light,

He saw Him shine in His still infant days;

Noted child-wisdom in His ways; delight

In God and man and world; heard His pure praise:—

And God said,—

This is My beloved Son, in

whom I am well pleased.”

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