The Burning Babe

Robert Southwell 1561 (Horsham St Faith) – 1595



AS I in hoary winter's night
   Stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was 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, scorched with excessive heat,
   Such floods of tears did shed,
As though His floods should quench His flames,
   Which with His tears were bred:
'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 defiled 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 called unto mind
   That it was Christmas Day.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

57 sec read
168

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABCBDEAECFGFHDIDJKLKMNONPQRSATUT
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 1,031
Words 191
Stanzas 1
Stanza Lengths 32

Robert Southwell

Robert Southwell, also Saint Robert Southwell, was an English Roman Catholic priest of the Jesuit Order. He was also a poet and clandestine missionary in post-Reformation England. After being arrested and tortured by Sir Richard Topcliffe, Southwell was tried and convicted of high treason for his links to the Holy See. On 21 February 1595, Southwell was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. In 1970, he was canonised by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. more…

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