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    From “In the Holy Nativity of Our Lord”

    By Richard Crashaw

    December 18, 2019
    • George Marsh

      The third sestet of Crashaw's poem appeared somewhere in print in America when I was more than sixty years younger. I memorized it and put it into some Christmas cards. The baroque style and the condensed antitheses give power to ideas that have been at the heart of Christian spirituality. Today, our cosmic consciousness finds divinity everywhere, but in "Carmen Deo Nostro" (the original title) it sings memorably.

    Gloomy night embraced the place
    Where the Noble Infant lay;
    The Babe looked up and showed his face,
    In spite of darkness, it was day.
    It was thy day, Sweet! and did rise
    Not from the east, but from thine eyes.

    We saw thee in thy balmy nest,
    Young dawn of our eternal day!
    We saw thine eyes break from their east
    And chase the trembling shades away.
    We saw thee, and we blessed the sight,
    We saw thee by thine own sweet light.

    Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
    Eternity shut in a span;
    Summer in winter; day in night;
    Heaven in earth, and God in man.
    Great little one, whose all-embracing birth
    Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.

    Mother and Child, Pablo Picasso, detail

    Mother and Child, Pablo Picasso, 1905, detail
    Image public domain

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