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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

The Burning Babe

Robert Southwell (c. 1561–1595)

AS I in hoary winter’s night

Stood shivering in the snow

Surprised was I with sudden heat

Which made my heart to glow;

And lifting up a fearful eye

To view what fire was near,

A pretty babe all burning bright

Did in the air appear;

Who, scorchèd with excessive heat,

Such floods of tears did shed

As though His floods should quench His flames,

Which with His tears were fed:

‘Alas!’ quoth He, ‘but newly born

In fiery heats I fry,

Yet none approach to warm their hearts

Or feel my fire but I!

‘My faultless breast the furnace is;

The fuel, wounding thorns;

Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke;

The ashes, shames and scorns;

The fuel Justice layeth on,

And Mercy blows the coals,

The metal in this furnace wrought

Are men’s defilèd souls:

For which, as now on fire I am

To work them to their good,

So will I melt into a bath,

To wash them in my blood.’

With this He vanish’d out of sight

And swiftly shrunk away,

And straight I callèd unto mind

That it was Christmas Day.