Poem: The Nativity

The thatch on the roof was as golden,
   Though dusty the straw was and old,
The wind had a peal as of trumpets,
   Though blowing and barren and cold,
The mother's hair was a glory
   Though loosened and torn,
For under the eaves in the gloaming
           A child was born.

Have a myriad children been quickened.
   Have a myriad children grown old,
Grown gross and unloved and embittered,
   Grown cunning and savage and cold?
God abides In a terrible patience,
   Unangered, unworn,
And again for the child that was squandered
           A child is born.

What know we of æons behind us,
   Dim dynasties lost long ago,
Huge empires, like dreams unremembered,
   Huge cities for ages laid low?
This at least—that with blight and with blessing
   With flower and with thorn,
Love was there, and his cry was among them,
           "A child is born."

Though the darkness be noisy with systems,
   Dark fancies that fret and disprove,
Still the plumes stir around us, above us
   The wings of the shadow of love:
Oh! princes and priests, have ye seen it
   Grow pale through your scorn.
Huge dawns sleep before us, deep changes,
           A child is born.

And the rafters of toil still are gilded
   With the dawn of the star of the heart,
And the wise men draw near in the twilight,
   Who are weary of learning and art,
And the face of the tyrant is darkened.
   His spirit is torn,
For a new King is enthroned; yea, the sternest,
           A child is born.

And the mother still joys for the whispered
   First stir of unspeakable things,
Still feels that high moment unfurling
   Red glory of Gabriel's wings.
Still the babe of an hour is a master
   Whom angels adorn,
Emmanuel, prophet, anointed,
          A child is born.

And thou, that art still in thy cradle,
   The sun being crown for thy brow.
Make answer, our flesh, make an answer,
   Say, whence art thou come—who art thou?
Art thou come back on earth for our teaching
   To train or to warn—?
Hush—how may we know?—knowing only
          A child is born.

~G.K. Chesterton

The Holy Night (The Nativity), by Carlo Maratti. Oil on canvas, 1650s; Gem√§ldegalerie, Dresden.