CHRISTMAS IN ENGLISH POETRY
" Who can forget—never to be forgot— The time, that all the world in slumber lies, When, like the stars, the singing angels shot To earth, and heaven awaked all his eyes To see another sun at midnight rise
On earth ? Was never sight of pareil fame, For God before man like Himself did frame, But God Himself now like a mortal man became.
A Child He was, and had not learnt to speak, That with His word the world before did make ; His mother's arms Him bore, He was so weak, That with one hand the vaults of heaven could shake, See how small room my infant Lord doth take,
Whom all the world is not enough to hold !
Who of His years, or of His age hath told ? Never such age so young, never a child so old." 43
The old lullaby tradition is continued by Wither, though the infant in the cradle is an ordinary human child, who is rocked to sleep with the story of his Lord :—
"A little Infant once was He,
And strength in weakness then was laid Upon His virgin-mother's knee,
That power to thee might be conveyed. Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep ; Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep.
• • • • •
Within a manger lodged thy Lord,
Where oxen lay and asses fed ; Warm rooms we do to thee afford, An easy cradle or a bed.
Sweet baby, then, forbear to weep ;
Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep." 44
When we come to the eighteenth century we find, where we might least expect it, among the moral verses of Dr. Watts, a charming cradle-song conceived in just the same way :—•