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Henry Charles Beeching, ed. (1859–1919). Lyra Sacra: A Book of Religious Verse. 1903.

By Giles Fletcher (1588?–1623)

The Incarnation

WHAT 1 hath man done, that man shall not undo,
Since God to him is grown so near akin!
Did his foe slay him? he shall slay his foe:
Hath he lost all? he all again shall win:
Is sin his master? he shall master sin:        5
    Too hardy soul, with sin the field to try:
    The only way to conquer, was to fly;
But thus long death hath lived, and now death’s self shall die.
He is a path, if any be misled;
He is a robe, if any naked be;        10
If any chance to hunger, He is bread;
If any be a bondman, He is free;
If any be but weak, how strong is He?
    To dead men life He is, to sick men health:
    To blind men sight, and to the needy wealth;        15
A pleasure without loss, a treasure without stealth.
Who can forget, never to be forgot,
The time that all the world in slumber lies:
When, like the stars, the singing angels shot
To earth, and heav’n awakèd all his eyes,        20
To see another sun at midnight rise
    On earth? was never sight of pareil fame:
    For God before man like Himself did frame,
But God Himself now like a mortal man became.
A child He was, and had not learned to speak,        25
That with His word the world before did make:
His mother’s arms Him bore, He was so weak,
That with one hand the vaults of heav’n could shake.
See how small room my infant Lord doth take,
    Whom all the world is not enough to hold.        30
    Who of His years, or of His age hath told?
Never such age so young, never a child so old.
And yet but newly He was infanted,
And yet already He was sought to die;
Yet scarcely born, already banished;        35
Not able yet to go, and forced to fly:
But scarcely fled away, when by and by,
    The tyrant’s sword with blood is all defil’d,
    And Rachel for her sons, with fury wild,
Cries, O thou cruel king, and O my sweetest child!        40
Egypt His nurse became, where Nilus springs,
Who straight, to entertain the rising sun,
The hasty harvest in his bosom brings;
But now for drought the fields were all undone,
And now with waters all is overrun:        45
    So fast the Cynthian mountains pour’d their snow,
    When once they felt the sun so near them glow,
That Nilus Egypt lost, and to a sea did grow.
The angels caroll’d loud their song of peace,
The cursèd oracles were strucken dumb;        50
To see their Shepherd the poor shepherds press,
To see their king the kingly sophies come;
And them to guide unto his Master’s home,
    A star comes dancing up the orient,
    That springs for joy over the strawy tent,        55
Where gold, to make their prince a crown, they all present.
Note 1. The Rev. Giles Fletcher was vicar of Alderton in Suffolk, where, according to Fuller, he was not valued according to his worth by his “clownish, low-parted parishioners.” He and his brother Phineas were devoted admirers and imitators of Spenser. [back]