'First what He is inquire'




Behold a silly, tender Babe,

     In freezing winter night,

In homely manger trembling lies;

     Alas! a piteous sight.


The inns are full; no man will yield

     This little pilgrim bed;

But forced he is with silly beasts

     In crib to shroud his head.


Despise Him not for lying there;

     First what He is inquire:

An Orient pearl is often found

     In depth of dirty mire.


Weigh not His crib, His wooden dish,

     Nor beasts that by Him feed;

Weigh not His mother's poor attire,

     Nor Joseph's simple weed.


This stable is a Prince's court,

     The crib His chair of state;

The beasts are parcel of His pomp,

     The wooden dish His plate.


The persons in that poor attire

     His royal liveries wear;

The Prince Himself is come from heaven:

     This pomp is prizëd there.


With joy approach, O Christian wight!

     Do homage to thy King;

And highly praise this humble pomp,

     Which He from heaven doth bring.


                        —Robert Southwell, SJ

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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