The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Little Gray Lamb

Archibald Beresford Sullivan
Vocal Recording: MP3 / OGG

Source: Elva S. Smith and Alice I. Hazeltine, Christmas In Legend And Story: A Book For Boys and Girls. 1915; Project Gutenberg Etext 11014.

Out on the endless purple hills, deep in the
        clasp of somber night,
The shepherds guarded their weary ones--
        guarded their flocks of cloudy white,
That like a snowdrift in silence lay,
Save one little lamb with its fleece of gray.

Out on the hillside all alone, gazing afar with
        sleepless eyes,
The little gray lamb prayed soft and low, its
        weary face to the starry skies:
"O moon of the heavens so fair, so bright,
Give me--oh, give me--a fleece of white!"

No answer came from the dome of blue, nor
    comfort lurked in the cypress-trees;
But faint came a whisper borne along on the
        scented wings of the passing breeze:
"Little gray lamb that prays this night,
I cannot give thee a fleece of white."

Then the little gray lamb of the sleepless eyes
        prayed to the clouds for a coat of snow,
Asked of the roses, besought the woods; but
        each gave answer sad and low:
    "Little gray lamb that prays this night,
    We cannot give thee a fleece of white."

Like a gem unlocked from a casket dark, like
        an ocean pearl from its bed of blue,
Came, softly stealing the clouds between, a
        wonderful star which brighter grew
    Until it flamed like the sun by day
    Over the place where Jesus lay.

Ere hushed were the angels' notes of praise
        the joyful shepherds had quickly sped
Past rock and shadow, adown the hill, to kneel
        at the Saviour's lowly bed;
    While, like the spirits of phantom night,
    Followed their flocks--their flocks of white.

And patiently, longingly, out of the night,
        apart from the others,--far apart,--
Came limping and sorrowful, all alone, the
        little gray lamb of the weary heart,
    Murmuring, "I must bide far away:
    I am not worthy--my fleece is gray."

And the Christ Child looked upon humbled
        pride, at kings bent low on the earthen floor,
But gazed beyond at the saddened heart of the
        little gray lamb at the open door;
And he called it up to his manger low and laid
        his hand on its wrinkled face,
While the kings drew golden robes aside to
        give to the weary one a place.
    And the fleece of the little gray lamb was blest:
    For, lo! it was whiter than all the rest!

* * * * *

In many cathedrals grand and dim, whose windows
        glimmer with pane and lens,
Mid the odor of incense raised in prayer, hallowed
        about with last amens,
The infant Saviour is pictured fair, with
        kneeling Magi wise and old,
But his baby-hand rests--not on the gifts, the
        myrrh, the frankincense, the gold--
    But on the head, with a heavenly light,
    Of the little gray lamb that was changed to white.

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