1 The sun sets brightly in the sea,
Foreknowing what his morn shall be,
And dreams throughout the dawning night,
Of rising on the Source of Light.
Born with creation, he must wane
When Eden is revealed again;
Now is his manhood’s lusty prime
The noon and triumphing of Time.
2 The day has ended mild and calm,
The sea wind scarcely sways the palm;
The olive trees beneath the hill
Sleep, in its folding, hushed and still.
Above, the towers of Bethlehem
Fade in the night that falls on them,
Yet hold in guard the rocky steep
That Rehoboam bade them keep.
3 They overlook the lengthening vale
That stretches to the Dead Sea pale,
And far beyond, to eastern plains,
Where Ammon now no longer reigns.
O city small, ’mid Judah’s host,
Now growing to her crown and boast;
How high at morn thy head shall be,
For earth shall bow to hallow thee!
4 The land of God, His people’s home,
Is captive to imperial Rome;
Necks that were proud of David’s sway
Have stooped to Cæsar’s, and obey.
The tribes, that did together meet
To serve their God with joyful feet,
Are ordered home at Cæsar’s word,
And taxèd by a foreign lord.
5 Joseph, a man in lowly life,
With Mary his espousèd wife,
Had traveled far to Bethlehem—
A branch was he of David’s stem.
No place for those of low degree
Could in that crowded city be;
And even at the lowly inn
No room could they, no welcome, win.
6 So where the cattle rest at night,
Oh, happy they to see such sight!
Poor in all else but love and grace,
The Virgin had her dwelling place.
She sits beside the porch of stone;
With golden blue the evening shone;
The timid stars come, one by one,
Incredulous that day was done.
7 Well Mary knew their forms on high,
And loved their gentle company,
When Joseph led the nightly way
From Nazareth, and shunned the day.
While Mary watches by the door,
Behold! a star unknown before
Mounts slowly up the western sky,
And then she knows her hour is nigh.
8 Like John the Baptist’s early word,
Which rose before, and with, His Lord,
That star, which goes before His face,
Doth preach His beauty, light and grace.
The Virgin lifts her hands above,
Her eyes are tears, her heart is love;
She sees the joy she could believe
And prays the prayer of Christmas Eve.
Herrick, Robert, son of Nicholas Herrick, goldsmith in Cheapside, London, was born in London in 1591, and educated at St. John's College, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Taking Holy Orders in 1629, he was presented to the living of Dean-Prior, Devon. During Cromwell's Government he was ejected, but was reinstated at the Restoration. He died in 1674. His Noble Numbers was published in 1647; and his Hesperides, or the Works bothe Humane and Divine, of Robert Herrick, in 1648. Various editions have followed, including that by Dr. Grosart, in 3 vols., in his Early English Poets, 1869. A Selection, with Memoir by Dr. Nott, was also published at Bristol, 1810; and another Selection, by F. T. Palgrave, in the Golden Treasury Series, 1877. Herrick's H… Go to person page >