Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
916. The Birds of Bethlehem
By Richard Watson Gilder
I HEARD the bells of Bethlehem ring—
  Their voice was sweeter than the priests’;
I heard the birds of Bethlehem sing
  Unbidden in the churchly feasts.
They clung and sung on the swinging chain        5
  High in the dim and incensed air;
The priests, with repetitions vain,
  Chanted a never-ending prayer.
So bell and bird and priest I heard,
  But voice of bird was most to me;        10
It had no ritual, no word,
  And yet it sounded true and free.
I thought Child Jesus, were he there,
  Would like the singing birds the best,
And clutch his little hands in air        15
  And smile upon his mother’s breast.
  BETHLEHEM, Holy Week, 1896.


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