Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
By Richard Crashaw (c. 1613–1649)
BELOW the bottom of the great Abyss,
There where one centre reconciles all things,
The world’s profound heart pants; there placed is
Mischief’s old Master! close about him clings
A curled knot of embracing snakes, that kiss        5
His correspondent cheeks: these loathsome strings
  Hold the perverse prince in eternal ties,
  Fast bound since first he forfeited the skies.
Heaven’s golden-wingèd herald late he saw
To a poor Galilean virgin sent;        10
How long the bright youth bowed, and with what awe
Immortal flowers to her fair hand present:
He saw the old Hebrew’s womb neglect the law
Of age and barrenness; and her Babe prevent
  His birth by his devotion, who began        15
  Betimes to be a saint before a man!
Yet, on the other side, fain would he start
Above his fears, and think it cannot be:
He studies Scripture, strives to sound the heart
And feel the pulse of every prophecy,        20
He knows, but knows not how, or by what art
The heaven-expecting ages hope to see
  A mighty Babe, whose pure, unspotted birth
  From a chaste virgin womb should bless the earth!
But these vast mysteries his senses smother,        25
And reason,—for what’s faith to him!—devour,
How she that is a maid should prove a mother,
Yet keep inviolate her virgin flower:
How God’s eternal Son should be man’s brother,
Poseth his proudest intellectual power;        30
  How a pure spirit should incarnate be,
  And life itself wear death’s frail livery.
That the great angel-blinding light should shrink
His blaze, to shine in a poor shepherd’s eye;
That the unmeasured God so low should sink        35
As prisoner in a few poor rags to lie;
That from his mother’s breast He milk should drink,
Who feeds with nectar Heaven’s fair family;
  That a vile manger his low bed should prove
  Who in a throne of stars thunders above.        40
That He whom the sun serves, should faintly peep
Through clouds of infant flesh: that He the old
Eternal Word would be a child, and weep;
That He who made the fire should feel the cold;
That Heaven’s high Majesty his court should keep        45
In a clay-cottage, by each blast controlled:
  That Glory’s self should serve our griefs and fears:
  And free Eternity submit to years.

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