Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Shepherds - A Poem by Henry Vaughan

Govert Flinck (1615-1660) Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds
More Poetry of Henry Vaughan this Christmas morn while I await the awakening of my family:

The Shepherds

Sweet, harmless lives! (on whose holy leisure
     Waits innocence and pleasure),
Whose leaders to those pastures, and clear springs,
     Were patriarchs, saints, and kings,
How happened it that in the dead of night
     You only saw true light,
While Palestine was fast asleep, and lay
     Without one thought of day?
Was it because those first and blessed swains
     Were pilgrims on those plains
When they received the promise, for which now
     'Twas there first shown to you?
'Tis true, He loves that dust whereon they go
     That serve Him here below,
And therefore might for memory of those
     His love there first disclose;
But wretched Salem, once His love, must now
     No voice, nor vision know,
Her stately piles with all their height and pride
     Now languished and died,
And Bethlem's humble cotes above them stepped
     While all her seers slept;
Her cedar, fir, hewed stones and gold were all
     Polluted through their fall,
And those once sacred mansions were now
     Mere emptiness and show;
This made the angel call at reeds and thatch,
     Yet where the shepherds watch,
And God's own lodging (though He could not lack)
     To be a common rack;
No costly pride, no soft-clothed luxury
     In those thin cells could lie,
Each stirring wind and storm blew through their cots
     Which never harbored plots,
Only content, and love, and humble joys
     Lived there without all noise,
Perhaps some harmless cares for the next day
     Did in their bosoms play,
As where to lead their sheep, what silent nook,
     What springs or shades to look,
But that was all; and now with gladsome care
     They for the town prepare,
They leave their flock, and in a busy talk
     All towards Bethlem walk
To see their souls' Great Shepherd, Who was come
     To bring all stragglers home,
Where now they find Him out, and taught before
     That Lamb of God adore,
That Lamb whose days great kings and prophets wished
     And longed to see, but missed.
The first light they beheld was bright and gay
     And turned their night to day,
But to this later light they saw in Him,
     Their day was dark, and dim.

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