Below the bottom of the great Abyss,
There where one centre reconciles all things,
The world’s profound heart pants; there placed is
Mischief’s old Master! close about him clings
A curled knot of embracing snakes, that kiss
His correspondent cheeks: these loathsome strings
Hold the perverse prince in eternal ties,
Fast bound since first he forfeited the skies.
Heaven’s golden-winged herald late he saw
To a poor Galilean virgin sent;
How long the bright youth bowed, and with what awe
Immortal flowers to her fair hand present:
He saw the old Hebrew’s womb neglect the law
Of age and barrenness; and her Babe prevent
His birth by his devotion, who began
Betimes to be a saint before a man!
Yet, on the other side, fain would he start
Above his fears, and think it cannot be:
He studies Scripture, strives to sound the heart
And feel the pulse of every prophecy,
He knows, but knows not how, or by what art
The heaven-expecting ages hope to see
A mighty Babe, whose pure, unspotted birth
From a chaste virgin womb should bless the earth!
But these vast mysteries his senses smother,
And reason, – for what’s faith to him! – devour,
How she that is a maid should prove a mother,
Yet keep inviolate her virgin flower:
How God’s eternal Son should be man’s brother,
Poseth his proudest intellectual power;
How a pure spirit should incarnate be,
And life itself wear death’s frail livery.
That the great angel-blinding light should shrink
His blaze, to shine in a poor shepherd’s eye;
That the unmeasured God so low should sink
As prisoner in a few poor rags to lie; milk should drink,
Who feeds with nectar Heaven’s fair family;
That a vile manger his low bed should prove
Who in a throne of stars thunders above.
That He whom the sun serves, should faintly peep
Through clouds of infant flesh: that He the old
Eternal Word would be a child, and weep;
That He who made the fire should feel the cold;
That Heaven’s high Majesty his court should keep
In a clay-cottage, by each blast controlled:
That Glory’s self should serve our griefs and fears:
And free Eternity submit to years.