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Er ist in Bethlehem geboren

Friedrich Rückert

trans. by Catherine Winkworth, 1869

In Bethlehem the Lord was born

Whose birth has brought us life and light,

On Calvary that death of scorn

He died, that broke Death's cruel might:

I wandered from a western strand

And sought through many an eastern land,

Yet found I greater nought than ye,

O Bethlehem and Calvary!

Ye wonders of the ancient world,

How hath your pomp been swept away,

And earthly strength to ruin hurled

By power that knows not of decay!

I saw them scattered far and wide,

The ruined heaps on every side;

But lowly glory still I see

Round Bethlehem and Calvary.

Ye Pyramids are but a tomb

Wherein did toiling mortals build

Death's utter darkness; 'tis his gloom,

Not peace, wherewith your depths are filled.

Ye Sphinxes, to the world of old

Could Life's enigma ne'er unfold;

'Tis solved for ages yet to be

In Bethlehem and Calvary!


O Syria's earthly Paradise,

Fair Schiraz' gardens of the rose,

Ye palmy plains 'neath Indian skies,

Ye shores where soft the spice-wind blows,

Death stalks through all that looks so fair,

I trace his shadow everywhere;

Look up, and Life's true Fountain see

In Bethlehem and Calvary!

Thou Kaaba, black desert-stone,

Against which half the world to-day

Still stumbles, strive to keep thy throne

Lit by Thy Crescent's pallid ray;

The moon before the sun must pale,

That brighter Sign shall yet prevail,

Of Him whose cry of victory

Is Bethlehem and Calvary!

O Thou, who didst not once disdain

The childish form, the Manger poor;

Who once to take from us our pain

All pain didst on the Cross endure;

Pride to Thy Manger cannot bend,

Thy Cross doth haughty minds offend,

But lowly hearts draw close to Thee

In Bethlehem and Calvary!

The Kings approach, to worship there

The Paschal Lamb, the Shepherd race;

And thitherwards the nations fare

As pilgrims to the Holy Place;

The storm of warfare on them breaks,

The World but not the Cross it shakes,

When East and West in strife ye see

For Bethlehem and Calvary.


O not like those, with weaponed hand,

But with the Spirit let us go

To conquer back the Holy Land,

As Christ is conquering still below;

Let beams of light on ev'ry side

Speed as Apostles far and wide,

Till all the Earth draws light from thee,

O Bethlehem, O Calvary!

With pilgrim hat and staff I went

Afar through Orient lands to roam,

My years of pilgrimage are spent,

And this the word I bring you home;

The pilgrim's staff ye need not crave

To seek God's Cradle or His Grave,

But seek within you, there shall be

His Bethlehem and Calvary!

O Heart, what helps it to adore

His Cradle where the sunrise glows?

Or what avail to kneel before

The Grave whence long ago He rose?

That He should find in thee a birth,

That thou shouldst seek to die to earth

And live to Him;--this, this must be

Thy Bethlehem and Calvary!

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