Robert Southwell

(1561 - 1595 / England)

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, scorched with excessive heat,
   Such floods of tears did shed,
As though His floods should quench His flames,
   Which with His tears were bred:
'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, shames and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on,
   And Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
   Are men's defiled 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 vanish'd out of sight
   And swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind
   That it was Christmas Day.

Submitted: Saturday, January 04, 2003

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