“Upon Christ’s Nativity”

I continue my custom of offering you a Christmas poem, poetry being “a trap for meditation.”  Here is one that I just discovered by the Welsh Anglican cleric Rowland Watkyns (1662):

Upon Christ’s Nativity, or Christmas

From three dark places Christ came forth this day;

From first His Father’s bosom, where He lay,

Concealed till now; then from the typic law,

Where we His manhood but by figures saw;

And lastly from His mother’s womb He came

To us, a perfect God and perfect Man.

Now in a manger lies the eternal Word:

The Word He is, yet can no speech afford;

He is the Bread of Life, yet hungry lies;

The Living Fountain, yet for drink He cries;

He cannot help or clothe Himself at need

Who did the lilies clothe and ravens feed;

He is the Light of Lights, yet now doth shroud

His glory with our nature as a cloud.

He came to us a Little One, that we

Like little children might in malice be;

Little He is, and wrapped in clouts, lest He

Might strike us dead if clothed with majesty.

Christ had four beds and those not soft nor brave:

The Virgin’s womb, the manger, cross, and grave.

The angels sing this day, and so will I

That have more reason to be glad than they.

via Rowland Watkyns: “Upon Christ’s Nativity”.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Booklover

    True. Beautiful.

  • Booklover

    True. Beautiful.

  • Tom Hering

    Hmm. Dogmatics in verse form. Lots of truth, but not so much beauty – poetry wise.

  • Tom Hering

    Hmm. Dogmatics in verse form. Lots of truth, but not so much beauty – poetry wise.

  • Petersen

    Thanks!

  • Petersen

    Thanks!

  • Helen K.

    Glory to God in the Highest!

  • Helen K.

    Glory to God in the Highest!

  • JunkerGeorg

    Wow. Much, much thanks for sharing that.

  • JunkerGeorg

    Wow. Much, much thanks for sharing that.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Tom, I hate to critique your critique, but “dogma” is generally in the form of abstract and general statements. Poetry works primarily with concrete imagery and figures of speech. This poem consists almost exclusively of metaphors, symbols, ironies, paradoxes, and the like, which work together for some striking meditative illuminations.

    Yes, some poetry also has lush and pretty language, but poetry doesn’t have to have that, any more than it has to rhyme.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Tom, I hate to critique your critique, but “dogma” is generally in the form of abstract and general statements. Poetry works primarily with concrete imagery and figures of speech. This poem consists almost exclusively of metaphors, symbols, ironies, paradoxes, and the like, which work together for some striking meditative illuminations.

    Yes, some poetry also has lush and pretty language, but poetry doesn’t have to have that, any more than it has to rhyme.

  • Tom Hering

    Well, maybe it’s a matter of taste. I think the best poetry is akin to dreams in its final effect. We know it means something, but aren’t ever sure just what. “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening” is like that. Analyzable, but ultimately mysterious. Whereas “Upon Christ’s Nativity, Or Christmas” is perfectly clear in its meanings, as I think Watkyns intended (the poem’s content of symbols, ironies, metaphors, and paradoxes notwithstanding). Which is why, for me, the poem’s final effect is more akin to reading a dogmatics text.

    But hey, what better way to spend one’s free time at Christmas than arguing literature? Except arguing in person over beers? Or warm brandy? :-D Merry Christmas, Dr. Veith!

  • Tom Hering

    Well, maybe it’s a matter of taste. I think the best poetry is akin to dreams in its final effect. We know it means something, but aren’t ever sure just what. “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening” is like that. Analyzable, but ultimately mysterious. Whereas “Upon Christ’s Nativity, Or Christmas” is perfectly clear in its meanings, as I think Watkyns intended (the poem’s content of symbols, ironies, metaphors, and paradoxes notwithstanding). Which is why, for me, the poem’s final effect is more akin to reading a dogmatics text.

    But hey, what better way to spend one’s free time at Christmas than arguing literature? Except arguing in person over beers? Or warm brandy? :-D Merry Christmas, Dr. Veith!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X