The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Come We Shepherds Whose Blest Sight

For Christmas

Words: Richard Crashaw.

Music: Not Stated

Source: Henry Charles Beeching, ed., A Book of Christmas Verse (London: Methuen, 1895), pp. 61-65

A HYMN OF THE NATIVITY

Shepherds Chorus.—

Come we shepherds whose blest sight

    Hath met Love's noon in Nature's night,

Come, lift we up our loftier song,

    And wake the sun that lies too long.

To all our world of well-stol’n joy,

    He slept and dreamt of no such thing,

While we found out heaven's fairer eye

    And kist the cradle of our King;

Tell him he rises now too late,

To show us ought worth looking at.

 

Tell him we now can show him more

    Than e'er he showed to mortal sight,

Than he himself e'er saw before,

    Which to be seen needs not his light.

Tell him, Thyrsis, where th' hast been,

Tell him, Thyrsis, what th' hast seen.

 

Tityrus.

Gloomy night embraced the place

    Where the noble Infant lay,

The Babe looked up and showed His face;

    In spite of darkness it was day.

It was Thy day, Sweet, and did rise

Not from the East but from Thine eyes.

Chorus.—

It was Thy day, Sweet, and did rise

Not from the East but from Thine eyes.

Thyrsis.

Winter chid aloud and sent

    The angry North to wage his wars,

The North forgot his fierce intent,

    And left perfumes instead of scars;

By those sweet eyes' persuasive powers,

Where he meant frost he scattered flowers.

Chorus.—

By those sweet eyes' persuasive powers,

Where he meant frost he scattered flowers.

Both.

We saw Thee in Thy balmy nest,

    Bright dawn of our eternal day !

We saw Thine eyes break from their East

    And chase the trembling shades away:

We saw Thee and we blest the sight,

We saw thee by thine own sweet light.

 

Tityrus.

Poor world (said I), what wilt thou do

    To entertain this starry Stranger?

Is this the best thou canst bestow,

    A cold and not too cleanly manger?

Contend, ye powers of heaven and earth,

To fit a bed for this huge birth.

Chorus.—

Contend, ye powers of heaven and earth,

To fit a bed for this huge birth.

Thyrsis.

Proud world (said I), cease your contest,

    And let the mighty Babe alone,

The Phoenix builds the Phoenix' nest,

    Love's architecture is all one.

The Babe whose birth embraves this morn,

Made His own bed ere He was born.

Chorus.—

The Babe whose birth embraves this morn,

Made His own bed ere He was born.

Tityrus.

I saw the curl’d drops, soft and slow,

    Come hovering o'er the place's head,

Offering their whitest sheets of snow

    To furnish the fair Infant's bed:

Forbear (said I), be not too bold;

Your fleece is white, but 'tis too cold.

Chorus.—

Forbear (said I), be not too bold;

Your fleece is white, but 'tis too cold.

Thyrsis.

I saw the obsequious seraphins

    Their rosy fleece of fire bestow;

For well they now can spare their wings,

    Since heaven itself lies here below:

Well done (said I), but are you sure,

Your down so warm will pass for pure?

Chorus.—

Well done (said I), but are you sure,

Your down so warm will pass for pure?

Tityrus.

No, no, your King's not yet to seek

    Where to repose His royal head.

See, see, how soon, His new-bloom'd cheek,

    Twixt’s mother's breasts is gone to bed:

Sweet choice (said I), no way but so,

Not to lie cold, yet sleep in snow.

Chorus.—

Sweet choice (said I), no way but so,

Not to lie cold, yet sleep in snow.

Both.

We saw Thee in Thy balmy nest,

    Bright dawn of our eternal day !

We saw Thine eyes break from Their East

    And chase the trembling shades away;

We saw Thee and we blest the sight,

We saw Thee by Thine own sweet light.

Chorus.—

We saw Thee and we blest the sight,

We saw Thee by Thine own sweet light.

Full Chorus.—

Welcome all wonder in one sight,

    Eternity shut in a span,

Summer in winter, day in night,

    Heaven in earth and God in man |

Great little One! whose all-embracing birth

Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.

 

Welcome, though not to gold nor silk,

    To more than Caesar's birthright is,

Two sister seas of virgin milk,

    With many a rarely-tempered kiss,

That breathes at once both maid and mother,

Warms in the one and cools in the other.

 

She sings thy tears asleep, and dips

    Her kisses in thy weeping eye;

She spreads the red leaves of thy lips

    That in their buds yet blushing lie:

She 'gainst those mother-diamonds tries

The points of her young eagle's eyes.

 

Welcome, though not to those gay flies

    Gilded i' the beams of earthly kings,

Slippery souls in smiling eyes,

    But to poor shepherds' home-spun things;

Whose wealth’s their flock, whose wit to be

Well read in their simplicity.

 

Yet when young April's husband-showers

    Shall bless the fruitful Maia's bed,

We'll bring the first-born of her flowers

    To kiss Thy feet and crown Thy head:

To Thee, dread Lamb, whose love must keep

The shepherds more than they their sheep.

 

To Thee, meek Majesty! soft King

    Of simple graces and sweet loves,

Each of us his lamb will bring,

    Each his pair of silver doves,

Till burnt at last in fire of Thy fair eyes,

Ourselves become our own best sacrifice.

 

Editor's Note:

Many other sources print a subset of the full poem. This is the most complete version found to date.

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