Thursday, 27 December 2018

The Magi - Richard Chenevix Trench

Little pomp or earthly state
On His lonely steps might wait;
Few the homages and small,
That the guilty earth at all
Was permitted to accord
To her King and hidden Lord:
Therefore do we set more store
On these few, and prize them more:
Dear to us for this account
Is the glory of the Mount,
When bright beams of light did spring,
Through the sackcloth covering,
Rays of glory forced their way
Thro’ the garment of decay,
With which, as with a cloak, he had
His divinest splendour clad:
Dear the lavish ointment shed
On his feet and sacred head;
And the high-raised hopes sublime,
And the triumph of the time,
When thro’ Zion’s streets the way
Of her peaceful conqueror lay,
Who, fulfilling ancient fame,
Meek and with salvation came.

But of all this scanty state
That upon his steps might wait,
Dearest are those Magian kings,
With their far-brought offerings.
From what region of the morn
Are ye come, thus travel-worn,
With those boxes pearl embost,
Caskets rare and gifts of cost?
While your swart attendants wait
At the stable’s outer gate,
And the camels lift their head
High above the lowly shed;
Or are seen a long-drawn train,
Winding down into the plain,
From beyond the light-blue line
Of the hills in distance fine.
Dear for your own sake, whence are ye?
Dearer for the mystery
That is round you?—on what skies
Gazing, saw you first arise
Through the darkness that clear star,
Which has marshall’d you so far,
Even unto this strawy tent—
Dancing up the Orient?
Shall we name you kings indeed,
Or is this our idle creed?—
Kings of Seba, with the gold
And the incense long foretold?
Would the Gentile world by you
First-fruits pay of tribute due;
Or have Israel’s scattered race,
From their unknown hiding-place,
Sent to claim their part and right
In the child new-born to-night?
But although we may not guess
Of your lineage, not the less
We the self-same gifts would bring,
For a spiritual offering.
May the frankincense in air
As it climbs instruct our prayer,
That it ever upward tend,
Ever struggle to ascend,
Leaving earth, yet ere it go,
Fragrance rich diffuse below.
As the myrrh is bitter sweet,
So in us may such things meet,
As unto the mortal taste
Bitter seeming, yet at last
Shall to them who try be known,
To have sweetness of their own—
Tears for sin, which sweeter far
Than the world’s mad laughters are;
Desires, that in their dying give
Pain, but die that we may live.
And the gold from Araby—
Fitter symbol who could see
Of the love, which, thrice refined,
Love to God and to our kind,
Duly tendered, He will call,
Choicest sacrifice of all.

Thus so soon as far apart
From the proud world, in our heart,
As in stable dark defiled,
There is born the Eternal Child,
May to Him the spirit’s kings
Yield their choicest offerings,
May the Affections, Reason, Will,
Wait upon Him to fulfil
His behests, and early pay
Homage to His natal day.

Richard Chenevix Trench (1807 – 1886) Ireland
Source: The Poets’ Bible: New Testament, third edition, edited by W. Garrett Horder. London: Ward, Lock & Bowden, 1895

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