love is the fire


The Burning Babe


As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris’d 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 fed.
“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 shame 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.

The Jew at Christmas Eve

by Karl Shapiro

I see the thing bell-ringer standing at corners
Fine as a breath, in cloth of red,
With eyes afar and long arm of a reed
Weakly waving a religious bell,
Under the boom of caroling hours
I see the thin bell-ringer standing still,
Breasting the prosperous tide on the Christmas pave.

I see the thing bell-ringer repenting himself
From corner to corner, year to year
Struggling to stand beneath the windy blaze
Of horns that carol out of walls.
He would attract a crying waif
Or garrulous old woman down-at-heels
Or a pair of lovers on the icy pave.

Whom do you summon, Santa of the spare?
Whom do you summon, arm of the reed?
Whom do you cheer with ringing and whom chide,
And who stops at the tripod at your side
And wishes you the time of year?
A few who feed the cauldron of the unfed,
The iron cauldron on the fireless pave.

I see the thin bell-ringer as a flame
Of scarlet, trying to throw the flame
With each sweep of the bell. The tide pours on
And were the ringer in cloth of red
And parts around the ringer of flame
With eyes afar and long arm of a reed
Who shakes the fire on the snowy pave.


Christmas in the Elgin Room

British Museum: Early Last Century

” What is the noise that shakes the night,
And seems to soar to the Pole-star height?”
— ” Christmas bells,
The watchman tells
Who walks this hall that blears us captives with its blight.”

” And what, then, mean such clangs, so clear?”
” — ‘Tis said to have been a day of cheer,
And source of grace
To the human race
Long ere their woven sails winged us to exile here.

” We are those whom Christmas overthrew
Some centuries after Pheidias knew
How to shape us
And bedrape us
And to set us in Athena’s temple for men’s view.

” O it is sad now we are sold —
We gods! for Borean people’s gold,
And brought to the gloom
Of this gaunt room
Which sunlight shuns, and sweet Aurore but enters cold.

” For all these bells, would I were still
Radiant as on Athenai’s Hill.”
— ” And I, and I!”
The others sigh,
” Before this Christ was known, and we had men’s good will.”

Thereat old Helios could but nod,
Throbbed, too, the Ilissus River-god,
And the torsos there
Of deities fair,
Whose limbs were shards beneath some Acropolitan clod:

Demeter too, Poseidon hoar,
Persephone, and many more
Of Zeus’ high breed, —
All loth to heed
What the bells sang that night which shook them to the core.

1905 and 1926

Moonless darkness stands between

by: Gerard Manley Hopkins

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas day.

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