THE CHRISTIAN FEAST
though purely English in its expression, makes us think of some French Noeliste or some present-day Italian worshipper of the
" Instead of neat enclosures Of interwoven osiers, Instead of fragrant posies Of daffodils and roses, Thy cradle, kingly Stranger, As gospel tells, Was nothing else But here a homely manger.
But we with silks not crewels, With sundry precious jewels, And lily work will dress Thee ; And, as we dispossess Thee Of clouts, we'll make a chamber,
Sweet Babe, for Thee,
Of ivory, And plaster'd round with amber." *2
Poems such as Herrick's to the Babe of Bethlehem reveal in their writers a certain childlikeness, an insouciance without irreverence, the spirit indeed of a child which turns to its God quite simply and naturally, which makes Him after its own child-image, and sees Him as a friend who can be pleased with trifles —almost, in fact, as a glorious playmate. Such a nature has no intense feeling of sin, but can ask for forgiveness and then forget; religion for it is rather an outward ritual to be duly and gracefully performed than an inward transforming power. Herrick is a strange exception among the Anglican singers of Christmas.
Milton's great Nativity hymn, with its wondrous blending of pastoral simplicity and classical conceits, is too familiar for quotation here ; it may be suggested, however, that this work of the poet's youth is far more Anglican than Puritan in its spirit.
Sweet and solemn Spenserian echoes are these verses from Giles Fletcher's "Christ's Victory in Heaven":—