The Burning Babe

You liked that Christmas poem I posted earlier by the metaphysical poet Robert Southwell. Here is another one by him, one that stranger, even more vivid, and even more powerful. It’s called “The Burning Babe”:

As I in hoary winter’s night
Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat
Which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye
To view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright
Did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat,
Such floods of tears did shed,
As though His floods should quench His flames,
Which with His tears were bred:
“Alas!” quoth He, “but newly born
In fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts
Or feel my fire but I!

“My faultless breast the furnace is;
The fuel, wounding thorns;
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke;
The ashes, shames and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on,
And Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
Are men’s defiled souls:
For which, as now on fire I am
To work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath,
To wash them in my blood.”
With this He vanished out of sight
And swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind
That it was Christmas Day.

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  • Manxman

    “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

    But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. (Malachi 3:1-4)

  • Peter Leavitt

    This is wonderful Christian poetry- and poignant, knowing that Southwell was tortured and executed at about age thirty-four for being a Jesuit priest during the Elizabethan period.

    Let us hope and pray that:

    And Mercy blows the coals,
    The metal in this furnace wrought
    Are men’s defiled souls:
    For which, as now on fire I am
    To work them to their good,…

  • Yes, Peter, good point and good context. Southwell was tortured, hanged, drawn (disembowelled), and quartered (cut into four pieces) for his faith. He was a Jesuit priest, conducting Roman Catholic masses in secret under Queen Elizabeth’s reign, which was a capital offense.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I need to read more poetry. Thanks, Veith. This is wonderful.

  • FW

    wow. would any of us risk OUR lives to celebrate the sacrament of the altar as Lutherans?

    the poem is awesome. beautiful in a way ONLY a true christian could appreciate.

  • FW

    give us more kind sir!

  • I will. Stay tuned for our Christmas Eve special!