Nativity, The - Scene 1

Scene I Bethlehem, the night of Christ's birth. Early evening, near the house of Matthias. Enter Joseph, leading an ass upon which the Virgin Mary is seated .

Joseph .

A wind hath blown the heavens into flame
About us; earth is silver to our feet.
By night, by day, God's hand hath guided us,
Pillar and cloud His firmament hath been
To bring us hither; this should be the town
Of David, city of our sire.

M ARY .

Even so.

Joseph .

Here where the unknowing workman left an arch
In the broad wall we pass; thus Israel's God
Comes stooping to His own.

M ARY

Whereto He leads
We can but follow now as ever, yet
Methinks I hear, over the din of song
That beat about our temples all the way,
The night-song of a mother for her babe.
Hark!

Baby, sleep, my child;
Deep the night hangs o'er thee.
High the wind and wild;
Dreaming is before thee.
Come, come the happy slumber;
Bright dreams be thine in number.
Ah, baby, on thy mother's breast
Is sleep for thee, for thee is rest.

Joseph .

Let us approach; the inn mayhap is far
And crowded by the mandates of our king.

M ATTHIAS .

Who is it starts the peacefulness of night
With clamorous knocking?

Joseph .

Two of David's house
Come far, and weary; may we lodge to-night
Beside thy hearth?

M ATTHIAS .

Mine house is all too strait
For mine own household.
Beggars and their beast,
Begone.
R EBECCA .

Hush; houseless, in the night, with child.
Surely some room can still be made — —

M ATTHIAS .

But no,
We are too poor. The inn is farther down
The road. And yet — and yet — —
Good night.

M ARY .

Good night.

R EBECCA .

Houseless, with child — O husband, call them back.

M ATTHIAS .

Peace, they will elsewhere shelter find and rest.

R EBECCA .

Her eyes were like the pools of Hesebon
That mirrowed her sad soul.

M ATTHIAS .

Lo, here thy child
Hath need of thee, and of thine every thought.

R EBECCA .

He sickens, yea, his eyes begin to blur.

M ATTHIAS .

His temples burn; it is some malady
Of sudden, unknown power.

R EBECCA .

Give me the child;
Fetch thee yon herbs medicinal and oil.

M ATTHIAS .

His eyes are fixed; how his bosom lifts!

R EBECCA .

O God of Jacob, leave us still our son.
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