To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.
Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore,
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all labyrinthine lore,
We are the three Wise Men of yore,
And we know all things but the truth.
We have gone round and round the hill,
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And served the mad gods, naming still
The Furies the Eumenides.
The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.
Go humbly . . . it has hailed and snowed . . .
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.
The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.
The Child that was ere worlds begun ─
(. . . We need but walk a little way . . .
We need but see a latch undone . . .)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.
The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where tricks of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.
Go humbly; humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star,
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.
Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain,
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes
For God Himself is born again
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.
~G.K. Chesterton (1913)
|Adoration of the Magi, by Gerard David. Oil on oak, c. 1500; |
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.