The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Lines. Suggested By A Picture of the Adoration of the Magicians

Alternate Title: Little Pomp or Earthly State

For Epiphany

Author: Richard Chenevix Trench (1807-1886)

Few have left behind them a more stainless, a more loveable, a more enviable memory. He was sweetness and light embodied. A. B. G. in John Julian, The Dictionary of Hymnology (1892-1907)

Music: Unknown

Source: Richard Chenevix Trench, The Story of Justin Martyr: Sabbation and Other Poems. A New Edition. (London: Edward Moxon, 1844), pp. 118-121. First edition was 1835.

     Little pomp or earthly state
On his lowly steps might wait ;
Few the homages and small,
That the guilty earth at all
Was permitted to accord
To her King and hidden Lord :
Therefore do we set more store
On these few, and prize them more :
Dear to us for this account
Is the glory of the Mount,
When bright beams of light did spring
Through the sackcloth covering,
Rays of glory forced their way
Through the garment of decay,
With which, as with a cloak, He had
His divinest splendour clad :
Dear the lavish ointment shed
On his feet and sacred head ;
And the high-raised hopes sublime,
And the triumph of the time,
When through Zion's streets the way
Of her peaceful conqueror lay,
Who, fulfilling ancient fame,
Meek and with salvation came.

     But of all this scanty state
That upon his steps might wait,
Dearest are these Magian Kings,
With their far-brought offerings.
From what region of the morn
Are ye come, thus travel-worn,
With those boxes pearl-embossed,
Caskets rare and gifts of cost ?
While your swart attendants wait
At the stable's outer gate,
And the camels lift their head
High above the lowly shed ;
Or are seen a long-drawn train,
Winding down into the plain,
From beyond the light-blue line
Of the hills in distance fine.
Dear for your own sake, whence are ye?
Dearer for the mystery
That is round you ? on what skies
Gazing, saw you first arise
Through the darkness that clear star
Which has marshalled you so far,
Even unto this strawy tent,
Dancing up the Orient ? *
Shall we name you Kings indeed,
Or is this an idle creed ?
Kings of Seba, with the gold
And the incense long foretold ?
Would the Gentile world by you
First-fruits pay of tribute due ;
Or have Israel's scattered race,
From their unknown hiding-place,
Sent to claim their part and right
In the Child new-born to-night ?

     But although we may not guess
Of your lineage, not the less
We the self-same gifts would bring,
For a spiritual offering.
May the frankincense, in air
As it climbs, instruct our prayer,
That it ever upward tend,
Ever struggle to ascend,
Leaving earth, yet ere it go
Fragrance rich diffuse below.
As the myrrh is bitter-sweet,
So in us may such things meet,
As unto the mortal taste
Bitter seeming, yet at last
Shall to them who try be known
To have sweetness of their own
Tears for sin, which sweeter far
han the world's mad laughters are ;
Desires, that in their dying give
Pain, but die that we may live.
And the gold from Araby
Fitter symbol who could see
Of the love, which, thrice refined,
Love to God and to our kind,
Duly tendered, He will call
Choicest sacrifice of all ?

     Thus so soon as, far apart
From the proud world, in our heart,
As in stable dark defiled,
There is born the Eternal Child,
May to Him the spirit's kings
Yield their choicest offerings ;
May Affections, Reason, Will
Wait upon Him to fulfil
His behests, and early pay
Homage to his natal day.

Footnote:

* A star comes dancing up the Orient,
That springs for joy over the strawy tent.

                                         G. Fletcher.

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