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Sweet, harmless lives!--[up]on whose holy leisure

Waits Innocence and pleasure--

Whose leaders to those pastures and clear springs

Were Patriarchs, Saints, and Kings:

How happen'd it that in the dead of night

You, only, saw true light,

While Palestine was fast asleep, and lay

Without one thought of Day?

Was it because those first and blesséd swains

Were pilgrims on those plains


When they received the Promise, for which now

'Twas there first shown to you?

'Tis true He loves that dust whereon they go

That serve Him here below,

And therefore might, for memory of those,

His love there first disclose;

But wretched Salem, once His love, must now

No voice nor vision know:--

Her stately piles with all their height and pride,

Now languishéd and died,

And Bethlem's humble cots above them stept,

While all her seërs slept;

Her cedar, fir, hew'd stones and gold, were all

Polluted through their fall,

And those once sacred mansïons were now

Mere emptiness and show.

This made the Angel call at reeds and thatch:--

Yet where the shepherds watch,

And GOD's own lodging--though He could not lack--

To be a common rack138138rack, manger: see Note,

No costly pride, no soft-clothed luxury

In those thin cells could lie;

Each stirring wind and storm blew through their cots,

Which never harbour'd plots;

Only Content and Love and humble joys

Lived there without all noise;

Perhaps some harmless cares for the next day

Did in their bosoms play,

As where to lead their sheep, what silent nook,

What springs or shades to look:

But that was all; And now with gladsome care

They for the town prepare;

They leave their flock, and in a busy talk

All towards Bethlem walk

To see their souls' great Shepherd, Who was come

To bring all stragglers home;

Where now they find Him out, and, taught before,

That Lamb of GOD adore,--

That Lamb Whose days great kings and prophets wish'd

And long'd to see, but miss'd.

The first light they beheld was bright and gay,

And turn'd their night to day;--

But to this later light they saw in Him,

Their day was dark and dim.

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