The Song of the Cradle

'Neath a shed-roof that shouldered the tempest
Behind doors that were sealed with the snow.
In the dusty dim straw of the stable
A mother kept watch long ago.
From the nostrils of night came a whirlwind
Like horn beyond horn
And in cloud drift and snow drift and darkness
— A child was born.

Need we grope for a fugitive secret
Need we whirl on a mystical quest,
While God setteth plainest his fairest
While God shaketh broadest his best,
Far flush all the crowns of the clover
Thick mellows the corn
A cloud shapes: a daisy is opened
— A child is born.

With raw mists of the red earth about them,
Risen stark from the ribs of the earth
Wild and huddled, the man and the woman,
Gazed dumb on the earliest birth
E're the first roof was hammered above them,
The first skin was worn
Before codes, before creed, before conscience
— A child was born.

What know we of aeons behind us
Dim dynasties lost long ago
Huge empires like dreams unremembered
High cities for ages laid low.
This we know: that with pain and with blessing
With flower and with thorn
Love was there: and his cry was among them
— A child is born.

And to us, though we wrestle and travail
Though we fancy and fret and disprove
Still the plumes stir around us, above us
The wings of the shadow of Love
Still the fountains of life are unshattered
Their splendour unshorn
The secret, the marvel, the promise
— A child is born.

Have a myriad children been quickened
Have a myriad children grown old
Grown coarse and unloved and untutored
Grown cunning and savage and cold,
God sits, in a terrible patience
Unangered, unworn
And again, for the child that is squandered
— A child is born.

And so long is the sign in heavens
In the east the unquenchable gleam
Still the babe that is quickened may conquer
The life that is new may redeem,
Ho, princes and priests, have ye heard it?
Grow pale through your scorn,
Huge dawns sleep before us, stern changes,
— A child is born.

And the thatch-roof of toil still is gilded,
In the dawn of the star of the heart.
And the wise men draw near in the twilight
Who are weary of learning and art,
And the face of the tyrant is darkened
His spirit is torn,
For a new king is throned of the nation
— A child is born.

And the mother still joys for the whispered
First stir of unspeakable things
Still feels that high moment unfurling
Red glories of Gabriel's wings
Still the babe of an hour is a master
Whom angels adorn
Emmanuel, prophet, anointed
— A child is born.

To the rusty barred doors of the hungry
To the houses of sorrow and sin
Still with brush of bright plumes and with knocking
The Kingdom of God enters in
To the daughters of patience that labour
That weep and are worn
The moment of love and of laughter
— A child is born.

To the gardens of rumour and pleasure
Of fashion and song-swimming nights
Cometh down hope's obscure crucifixion,
The birth-fire that quickens and bites
To the daughters of fame that are idle
That smile and that scorn
With the measure of darkness and travail
— A child is born.

And till man and his riddle be answered
While earth holdeth lower and higher
While the flesh of a man is as grass is,
The soul of a man as a fire
While the day-break shall come with its banner,
The moon with its horn,
It shall stay with us: that which is written
— A child is born.

Thou, little one, light of the cradle,
The sun making crowns for thy brow.
Thou art flesh of the flesh of Thy mother,
— But whence art thou come: who art thou?
Art thou come back on earth, for our teaching
To train and to warn!
Hush we know not, nor may: knowing only
— A child is born.
Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.