“The Wise Men”

by G. K. Chesterton

Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all the labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And serve the made gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly … it has hailed and snowed…
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
(… We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone…)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.

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  • Paul Faber

    Thank you Mr. Vieth. Chesterton is an author who refuses to be read without provoking much thought.

    In this poem as in many of his writings he portrays paradoxes. The way is so plain that we may lose it. The wise know everything but truth. Chesterton never allows us to count anything as shallow–if it is true there is always more to it than we take on the surface.

    Thanks again for posting these gems of poetry.

    Merry Christmas!


  • I’m reading the Chronicles of Narnia now for the umpteenth time, and this poem definitely puts me in mind of Lewis and those particular stories. I love the line by Aslan towards the end of The Magician’s Nephew — “Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”

    Beautiful poem; more please!

  • The Christ Child playing with hay… I’d love to see more poems like this too.

  • Booklover

    Yes, my favorite line–

    “The Child that played with moon and sun
    Is playing with a little hay.”