Catholic Poetry

WHY THE ROBIN’S BREAST WAS RED
James Ryder Randall (1839-1908)

The Saviour, bowed beneath His cross, climbed up the dreary hill,
And from the agonizing wreath ran many a crimson rill;
The cruel Roman thrust Him on with unrelenting hand,
Till, staggering slowly ‘mid the crowd, He fell upon the sand.

A little bird that warbled near, that memorable day,
Flitted around and strove to wrench one single thorn away;
The cruel spike impaled his breast– and thus ’tis sweetly said,
The robin has his silver vest incardinated with red.

Ah, Jesu! Jesus! Son of man! My dolor and my sighs
Reveal the lesson taught by this winged Ishmael of the skies.
I, in the palace of delight or cavern of despair,
Have plucked no thorns from Thy dear brow, but planted thousands there!

James Ryder Randall (1839-1908) was a Maryland Catholic who attended Georgetown College, Washington, D.C., before becoming a journalist and poet. His most famous work is “Maryland, My Maryland.”

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