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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Syria: Bethlehem

Bethlehem and Golgotha

By Friedrich Rückert (1788–1866)

Translated by N. L. Frothingham

IN Bethlehem He first arose,

From whom we draw our true life’s breath;

And Golgotha at last he chose,

Where his cross broke the power of death.

I wandered from the Western strand,

Through strange scenes of the Morning Land;

But naught so great did I survey

As Bethlehem and Golgotha.

The ancient wonders of the world

Here rose aloft,—the mighty Seven;

How was their transient glory hurled

To earth before the might of Heaven!

In passing, I could see and tell

How all their pride to ruin fell;

There stood in quiet Gloria

But Bethlehem and Golgotha.

Cease, Pyramids of Egypt, cease!

The toil that built you never gave

The faintest thought of Death’s great peace,—

’T was but the darkness of a grave.

Ye Sphinxes, in colossal stone!

The riddle Life an unread one

Ye left;—the answer found its way

Through Bethlehem and Golgotha.

O Rocknabad, earth’s Paradise,

Of all Shiraz the sweetest flower!

Ye Indian sea-coasts, breathing spice,

Where groves of palm in beauty tower;—

I see o’er all your sunny plains

The step of Death leave sable stains.

Look up! There comes a deathless ray

From Bethlehem and Golgotha.

Thou Cba! black stone of the waste,

At which the feet of half our line

Yet stumble. Stand, now, proudly braced

Beneath thy crescent’s waning shine!

The moon before the sun grows dim;

Thou art shattered by the sign of Him,

The conquering Prince. “Victoria!”

Shout Bethlehem and Golgotha.

O Thou, who in a shepherd-stable

An infant willingly hast lain,

And through the cross’s pain wert able

To give the victory over pain!

To pride the manger seems disgrace;

The cross a vile, unworthy place;

But what shall bring this pride down? Say!

’T is Bethlehem and Golgotha.

The Magi kings went forth to see

The Shepherd Stock, the Paschal Lamb;

And to the cross on Calvary

The pilgrimage of nations came.

Amidst the battle’s stormy toss,

All flew to splinters,—but the Cross;

As East and West encamping lay

Round Bethlehem and Golgotha.

O, march we not in martial band,

But with the Spirit’s flag unfurled!

Let us subdue the Holy Land

As Christ himself subdued the world.

Let beams of light on every side

Fly, like Apostles, far and wide,

Till all men catch the beams that play

O’er Bethlehem and Golgotha.

With pilgrim staff and scallop-shell

Through Eastern climes I sought to roam;

This counsel have I found to tell,

Brought from my travels to my home:—

With staff and scallop do not crave

To see Christ’s cradle and his grave.

Turn inward! there in clearest day

View Bethlehem and Golgotha.

O heart! what helps it, that the knee

Upon his natal spot is bended?

What helps it, reverently to see

The grave from which he soon ascended?

Let him within thee find his birth;

And do thou die to things of earth,

And live him;—let this be for aye

Thy Bethlehem and Golgotha.